As a non-emergency medical transport service, we see it all; hope in the eyes of those headed for treatment, gratitude from the elderly who are able to make their appointments, love in families who are transported home for recovery, and even the overwhelming grief of families who respectfully prepare for one last hospice transport.  This profession sees a myriad of emotions within a diverse spectrum of life experiences, but it is one transport, one night, that defines AMTís commitment to all who travel with us. 

 The night was not long after the birth of our small, minority-owned business.  I was coming home from dropping off my last transport, wearing the fatigue of long hours and many miles, when I got a call from one of my drivers.  His voice was quick and uncharacteristically anxious.  He needed help beyond what he could convey in short radio bursts.  I knew this call was different.  Immediately, I shrugged off my needs, changed course, and headed directly to him. It wasnít long before I began to feel the changing energy of the night.  Electrifying chills ran through me.  Tonight was more than important; it was everything.  Maybe it was the somber darkness of the Tucson night, maybe it was the crisp air as I opened my window for a burst of refreshment, but probably it was the complete reverence I felt as I reentered the hallowed grounds of the Pascua Yaqui Nation.  This reservation is a quiet kingdom of strength and honor just outside the bustling city lights of Tucson, Arizona.  They are a proud people who have given so much to the preservation of their heritage as well as to the community they share.  I meandered through the unlit, unmarked lanes, feeling the mood and my anxiety grow.

  It was then that I made one last turn and the darkness made way for a scene of lights, cars, and reverent, saddened faces.  There, too, was my AMT vehicle, back doors opened, our driver next to its occupant, in a stretcher, all eyes on him.  I hopped out and felt the sting of desperate anger in the air.  My inspection of the scene clarified why.  Lying very still in the back of my AMT transport was a hospice patient.  He was a well-respected tribal leader, a medicine man, a healer, an honored elder of the Pascua Yaqui Nation.  He was dying.  He had agreed to transport home so that he could die among his people, on his land, surrounded by all things that could connect him spiritually to this next journey he would soon pass into.  This is not what happened.  Instead, paperwork mix-ups had sent him to his daughterís house instead of his own home in Guadalupe, just outside of Phoenix.  His daughter, as well as all the relatives gathered, refused to accept his release anywhere except at his home.  After many phone calls between hospice and the family and hospice and me, we remained at a stalemate.  The hospice worker wasnít authorized to approve transport to any other location, the distance was too far, out of their jurisdiction.  The list went on and on.  

  This is when I knew, definitively, that AMT isnít defined by what it does, but by what it refuses to do.  We refuse to let culture be sacrificed to paperwork.  We refuse to let a noble man depart this life away from his home and his people because of an address error.  We refuse to be bound by  formalities instead of honor.  We refuse to accept that there is nothing we can do.   Instead, we did what was right.  We loaded more oxygen tanks for the longer journey, gathered up the rest of the Tucson family members, told hospice we were taking him home, and began the caravan to Guadalupe.  The drive itself seemed surreal;  this tribal elder, this spiritual man, in a white and red transport vehicle being followed respectfully by a parade of mini-vans for an almost two-hour trek.  It wasnít until we arrived at his home that I realized the full impact of the night

  Mass numbers of family and friends had been waiting for his arrival, had been celebrating his life and memories in anticipation of his return.  Those throngs of people parted for us to maneuver the van in and deftly carry him into his living room, where his grateful wife and a blanket of pictures surrounded his bed.  His people flocked to his side, but they were not mourners.  They were celebrants, tossing memories and lessons learned to each other and sharing all of him with all who would listen.

  We listened too, and I discovered that I had gone to school with people there, had shared my childhood with people there, and had family connections to them too.  They looked at AMT as family and were grateful in a way that only family can be.  Our refusal to accept status quo made a difference that night and has defined what AMT does ever since. 

  We left that night, relishing the currents of energy that lingered, and we knew that our eyes had been opened and that our business had been redefined.  When the call came the next day, I wasnít surprised to hear that he had passed.  He had had only a few hours left, but he had still managed to be a leader to his people, and through this experience taught our company the importance of an individualís right to die at home surrounded by his culture, his customs, his family and friends in his community.

  I felt no grief or regret, only honor and personal gratitude for the experience.  I knew then with absolute certainty what my lifeís work would be. (And that AMT would transform the way non-emergency transportation has been viewed and that our companyís philosophy would be about doing the right thing.) More calls came in from his family members, some of thank you and some for new business for us.  We had made a difference, and that experience made a difference in our business too.  To this day, AMT is defined by what we refuse to accept as status quo.  We make connections, provide dignity to all who ride with us, offer assurance that no one will be forgotten, and give to others as we would our own family. 

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