AMR brings woman home to family on Christmas Day
AMR’s “Home for the Holidays” program takes nursing-home patients to their families’ homes and back, at no charge
By Jim Gaines
POWELL, Tenn. — Last Christmas, Vesta Norman was still living at home near Powell, surrounded by family. But 10 months ago she had to move into Beverly Park Place Health and Rehab just off Tazewell Pike in Knoxville.
For Christmas Day, though, Norman was back with family, thanks to AMR ambulance service.
She sat in her sister-in-law Martha Branam’s living room — two doors down from her former home — watching Hallmark’s “A Very Happy Yule Log” on TV with close relatives.
"It's just good to be back. This just makes the second time in a year to be home,” said Norman, 83. “Having the family gathered together too makes it extra special."
Around 20 people — grandchildren, nieces and nephews and immediate family — were expected, her son Bo Norman said.
Branam was cooking for the crowd.
"I’ve done it since my mom passed away,” Branam said. “She lived to be 100 and she still did a lot of cooking for us. But it's kind of up to me right now.”
AMR’s “Home for the Holidays” program takes nursing-home patients to their families’ homes and back, at no charge. AMR provides the service nationwide, but Rural/Metro Corp. already did it in the Knoxville area before AMR bought the company in 2015, said Anastasia Huddleston, shift supervisor and paramedic for AMR.
“Today we transported four patients” locally, she said. Vesta Norman was one, driven 14 miles to a house on a winding road outside Powell.
Huddleston said the company reaches out to nursing homes and rehab facilities to see if any families and patients are interested. If so, they arrange times for pickup and dropoff.
Whether patients are eligible depends on their condition, Huddleston said; most of those taken home for the holiday just aren’t able to get in and out of family cars.
"We heard about it through Beverly Park Place,” Bo Norman said. Another ambulance service brought Vesta Norman home for Thanksgiving, he said.
She left Beverly Park Place around 9 a.m., and expected to stay with her family until about 7 p.m..
"Please put in there that we said a big thank-you to (AMR) for doing this for us on Christmas,” Bo Norman said, seconded by his mother.
Vesta Norman said she thanked the ambulance personnel for being available Christmas Day, but they told her they just enjoyed working with people.
Huddleston said the service is provided by those employees regularly scheduled to work Christmas, but AMR also takes volunteers. The company offers rides on Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said.
Vesta Norman’s family members said they hope it’ll be an option for future holidays. Her niece Sonya Whicker said they hope she can be brought back for the next big family gathering, at Easter.
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