THE FAMILY of a patient who died from cancer has donated £3,000 to the Welsh Ambulance Service.
Gareth Anthony, 48, who grew up in Aberystwyth and later lived in Wattstown, was a keen photographer, swimmer and snorkeler who worked for Social Services in Cardiff.
The father-of-one died last August from cancer at Y Bwthyn Hospice in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital.
Four days before his death, two Welsh Ambulance Service staff members were able to help Gareth’s last wish come true.
Ruth Israel, an Emergency Medical Technician based in Abergavenny, and Ceri Evans, a paramedic based in Gelli, volunteered their time to take Gareth and his family to Rest Bay Beach in Porthcawl as part of the Welsh Ambulance ‘Wish’ Service, a voluntary scheme.
Gareth’s mother, Margaret Anthony, said: “Gareth was a very special man who loved the sea.
“Along with his wife, Emma, they loved to visit the beach.
“Following a conversation with him, Emma spoke with the hospice doctor, expressing how much Gareth would love to get down to the sea again, and amazingly with the help of one of the nurses and the Welsh Ambulance ‘Wish’ Service they helped him visit the beach one last time.
“Because he needed medical support, Ruth and Ceri picked Gareth and Emma up from the hospice, with myself and his brother Richard following in the car.
“He was beyond grateful, especially after he found out that they were volunteers who had given up their time to give him the best day possible.
“We started on Porthcawl seafront in the Piccolo Café, where the staff went above and beyond to accommodate us and the stretcher, before then heading to Rest Bay beach.
“Gareth was able to take in a beach view one last time and it meant the world to him and us.
“We wanted so much to get him down to the beach, but as he was in a normal wheelchair and had medical equipment, including oxygen, we couldn’t get him onto the sand.
“However, he did encourage Emma to paddle in the sea, as Gareth always photographed her when she did so.
“With his daughter Charlotte having additional needs, and his past work with the learning disability charity Mencap, he was always aware of disability access or lack of disability access, and he wanted to help change that.
“As Gareth and Emma left Rest Bay in the ambulance, he became very enthused, telling his wife that he wanted to make sure no-one else would miss experiencing the beach and the opportunity to go in the sea – that it should be accessible for all.
“Back at the Hospice he started talking about fundraising ideas and asked if we could help secure a beach wheelchair for Porthcawl coast.”
“His brother immediately promised to run a marathon for him to help make it happen.
“So, along with raising money for the Welsh Ambulance ‘Wish’ Service to thank the brilliant ladies who helped make the day possible, we started raising money for a beach wheelchair.
“Friends and family started fundraising, and his work colleagues organised a nine-mile walk and a music evening in Rhiwbina Recreation Club.
“In April, Gareth’s brother Richard ran the Welsh Marathon, breaking the Guinness World Record for a runner in a Mexican wrestler outfit.
“In all, we have been able to raise over £7,000 to purchase the beach wheelchair, which is located at Trecco Bay in Porthcawl, and also donate £3,000 of that to the Welsh Ambulance
“This is exactly what Gareth would have wanted, and we are all so proud.”
Recently, Gareth’s family reunited with some of the Welsh Ambulance ‘Wish’ Service colleagues who made his last journey possible, along with Trecco Bay staff, to unveil the beach wheelchair, which will bear a memorial plaque with Gareth’s name.
Ruth, who has worked for the Trust for three years, said: “When we took Gareth and his family to the beach, they were able to enjoy a coffee together, while watching the waves and taking photographs.
“It was incredible to receive the news that the family had raised thousands of pounds to buy a beach wheelchair to allow more people to actually get down onto the sand, and donated money to the Welsh Ambulance ‘Wish’ Service.
“It was a joy being reunited with the family at the handover of the beach wheelchair.
“Receiving that warm, tearful hug from Gareth’s wife Emma highlighted the impact of an apparently simple wish on the family and now, because of their generosity, many more people will have an even more special experience at the beach.
“What a beautiful legacy for our patient Gareth.”
The Welsh Ambulance ‘Wish’ Service is made up of volunteers, who, where possible, enable patients at the end of life to experience a meaningful journey, which may often be their favourite destination for a memory-making experience for them and their loved ones before
Professor Jason Killens, Chief Executive at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “Where and how people die matters, and at the Welsh Ambulance Service, we are very proud of the many and various initiatives we have put in place for palliative patients.
“The Welsh Ambulance ‘Wish’ Service is made up of amazing volunteers who give up their days off to allow people near the end of life, dignity and the knowledge that their final wishes have been met, which is the best comfort and gift we can give them.”
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