Conn. father gets ambulance ride to son's graduation
When he mentioned his desire to attend his son's graduation during a hospital transport, and EMT who lost her father talked to her supervisor and got the ball rolling
By John Pirro
BETHEL, Conn. — No parent wants to miss the big events in his or her child's life.
But after a burst aortic aneurysm left Frank Foster paralyzed and confined to a hospital bed three years ago, it seemed the only way the 53-year-old former bartender would see his son, Paul, receive his degree from Bethel High School on Monday would be on video.
That was until Rachel Buchele and Matthew Tuttle, emergency medical technicians with the Ambulance Service of Manchester, and their company got involved.
"I lost my dad suddenly (when he was) 55," said the recently married Buchele, "and there were a lot of things I wished he was there for, including my wedding."
So when Foster mentioned his desire to attend the graduation as he was transported last October from the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain to a doctor's appointment, Buchele stepped in.
"I talked to my supervisor and got the ball rolling," she said.
An hour before commencement ceremonies began for the 226 members of the Class of 2014, an ambulance carrying Foster rolled up to the door of the O'Neill Center at Western Connecticut State University, where his family and friends were waiting to greet him.
"It's good to have him here," Paul Foster said. "There are a lot of people who are important in my life, and my father is definitely one of them."
Paul was at school in his freshman year when his father, who worked at The Spot in Bethel, got out of bed one morning and fell to the floor.
A blood clot in his leg had moved up to his heart, triggering a stroke that left him paralyzed from the chest down, Foster's wife, Darlene Rodgers-Hall, said.
Eventually, the family learned Foster's condition was permanent, and for much of the past three years the only time he left the hospital was for doctors' appointments.
Because of his condition and his need for oxygen, either hospital or ambulance personnel must be with him on those occasions, Buchele said.
When she and Tuttle got to the hospital about 3:30 p.m., Foster said he didn't want to be wheeled into the auditorium on the hospital bed, so another vehicle was dispatched to carry his motorized wheelchair.
ASM donated the cost of the transportation, said David Skoczulek, the company's business and community relations director.
"I want to thank them," Foster said. "They did all the work. I'm just along for the ride."
Paul Foster plans to take a semester off, then begin studying for a hospitality degree at Naugatuck Valley Community College, leaving his father to begin thinking about that graduation.
"If he graduates college, I'll be there, even if they have to dig me up," Frank Foster said.
©2014 The News-Times (Danbury, Conn.)