The job of Kiss Feldebur includes daily trips to the seashore, museums, zoos, aquariums, sports venues, churches, and thriving fields, but the 60-year-old Dutchman is not a tour guide.
For more than a decade, he has helped thousands of people with deadly diseases – patients who cannot walk or leave their rooms without assistance – to go see their favorite places before they die.
He has spoken to the BBC about some of the humanitarian “recent journeys”.
Quickly go to the Vatican
Feldbauer says the most memorable trip was in a race against time to get to Rome.
In 2013, a bedridden woman in her 60s told him she wanted to meet the Pope.
And he learned from the papal website when a pope usually comes to greet people. He saw the opportunity and drove it to the Vatican, some 1,600 kilometers from his workplace in Rotterdam.
“I put her on a stretcher in the front row directly (across from St. Peter’s Church),” he says.
There were a few people waiting in a wheelchair, but she was the only one lying on a stretcher. And, as Veldebore predicted, this caught the Pope’s attention.
The Pope came down and spoke to her directly, even patting her shoulder and holding her hand.
“The Pope blessed her and wished her strength. He also wished her success in the hereafter,” says Fieldbore.
This moment provided the much-needed relief the woman needed, and right after that the two set out on the journey home.
The woman died a few days after meeting the Pope.
Fieldbore had responded to many strange requests. He took a patient to some horse stables, and helped him say goodbye to his favorite animal. He also took many other people on trips to bid farewell to their pets.
Going to see the house and its surroundings was also a common desire, and there was often a strong desire among the dying to watch a sporting event, or to visit museums, zoos, and aquariums.
On one occasion, Fieldbore saw a man on a portable mattress patiently try to catch a fish.
But it seems to be the sea that holds a special charm to many, which is a mystery to Feldpur.
Some patients, even those who are relatively fit, have helped make short trips to the sea.
Feldbauer used to be a medic and ambulance driver, and witnessed death close up for many years. He says it doesn’t usually affect him.
He says the vast majority of the people he helps are in their 70s, 80s and 90s, but sometimes called in to serve younger patients, which is something that is difficult to deal with.
“One can understand that old people are dying. But sometimes your heart is broken to see young people die.”
In 2009, Fieldbore received a call from a desperate young man asking for help to take his sick girlfriend home.
“She was dying of cancer. Her boyfriend wanted to take her from the hospital and show her his new apartment, which she had never seen before,” says Fieldbore.
After obtaining permission from the doctors, Fieldbore took the woman to the new home.
“I left her with him for a few hours. After she returned to the hospital, she died within an hour,” he says.
Dealing with death
Fieldbore’s previous career gave him a lot of experience dealing with death, and he found new ways to deal with it.
He realized early on that he could not help change the inevitable, but he could improve things.
“Once you understand this obvious fact, it helps you see things differently,” he says. “We cannot prevent or stop death, and sometimes we have to give in to it.”
Even during the restrictions of the Covid-19 epidemic, Veldpur is busy helping many to make this latest trip.
An innovative idea
Fieldburg did not plan his life this way. A work accident in November 2006 changed the course of his life.
“At that time I was working in a hospital, and I was transporting a terminally ill patient from one hospital to another. He was on a stretcher. This man was expected to live for three months at best,” Feldbauer recalls.
During the trip, he asked the patient where he missed the most. The patient wanted to see the ships and the sea.
Veldebur called the port of Rotterdam, they said he could bring the patient.
“I asked for help from two of my colleagues, and on my day off, I took him to the harbor and placed him near the waves.”
Fieldbore saw a tremendous shift in that sick person’s mood.
“Suddenly he was glowing, smiling. He was full of energy,” says Fieldbore.
Encouraged by the response and joy of the patient, the Fieldbore moved the stretcher so that the patient could see the many ships sailing in and out of the harbor.
The patient was elated and excited. And he said, ‘You, stranger, you did this for me!’
He was ill with cancer. He has reached a state where he cannot walk.
“He loved his life,” recalls Fieldbore.
After he was brought back to the hospital, the patient was much happier. He passed away in April 2007 and lived three months longer than doctors expected.
“This experience made me think, and in April 2007 I set up a foundation with my wife, to help people like him.”
The Ambulance Wish Foundation was born.
For the first two years, he and his wife were able to fulfill requests while on duty as a paramedic. To meet the growing demand, he quit his job and joined his organization as a full-time worker.
“Our foundation will help nearly 15,000 people, to go to the place they love. I have personally brought a few thousand people,” he says.
“A lot of times I’ve seen overwhelming happiness on their faces. This makes me do it over and over again,” he adds.
Fieldbauer now has seven ambulances, and has helped establish similar institutions in 14 countries. It is not a business, and patients are never charged.
“We don’t get money from the government,” says Fieldbauer. “We do get donations.”
In addition to the sick, two more people can travel in the ambulance. But often there is hardly any hadith.
“A lot of people don’t want to talk about death. Women talk to their husbands about it, but men are mostly reluctance to talk about death to their wives.”
Fieldbauer says he occasionally encouraged heart-to-heart communication between couples at the end of life.
“Sometimes I sit with them and start the conversation, and I leave after a while,” he says. “And when I come back I find them usually crying.”
It is not easy to reassure your partner, but it is very important.
Fieldbore sees contradictory situations among people who face the inevitable.
“Some people accept death. Others do not want to give up. Even in the late stage, they think they can fight it.”
Feldbauer says only a few talk about regret at the end of their lives, and most people are happy to remember the best parts of their lives.
Feldbauer is often asked what he will do when his time comes, but he says he is not quite sure what he would like to see.
“It’s hard to say now. One can only decide these things during the last moments. Maybe I want to die surrounded by my kids,” he says.