Snowed-In Calif. Man Gets Help from Strangers to See Dying Wife: 'I Can't Even Get Down to Say Goodbye'
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Recent snowstorms in Southern California left several people dead and others trapped in their homes in the San Bernardino Mountains.
During the severe weather, members of the community banded together to help a 79-year-old man get to his wife, who was experiencing a medical emergency miles away.
According to The New York Times, Running Springs resident Robert Rice, a Vietnam War veteran, was confident he could weather the storms with the supplies he had stocked for him and his Labrador retriever, Ranger.
But things took an unexpected turn when he received news that his wife of 54 years, 81-year-old Ann Rice, was struggling to breathe. She had a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure and had been on a ventilator for three years, per the Times.
The skilled nursing facility where she lived was 27 miles from Robert, and doctors believed she could die as carbon dioxide built up in her lungs.
Robert feared he would be unable to be by her side because of the storm, which had covered most of the area with snow and left many without power.
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"We just kind of came to accept the fact that he wasn't going to be there, and we were trying to prepare him for that," his daughter, Shelly Renison, told the Times. "He was in denial. He kept thinking he'd figure out a way to get himself down here."
Doctors treating Ann were able to buy her more time, but her condition continued to worsen over the passing days — which only proved to Robert that he needed to do all he could to get to her.
He told the Times that he tried to clear some of the driveway himself, but could not keep up with the falling snow. That's when he posted a plea to Facebook.
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"I never thought I would have to do this. Here goes," he wrote, per the Times. "My wife Ann is in a skilled nursing facility down the hill. She does not have long to go. I can't even get down to say goodbye. Is there anyone who can help with my driveway. It's about half done, needs to be wider so I can back my small car up. I'm a Army Vietnam veteran and retired LEO. This is very embarrassing for me to even ask for help. Sorry."
Soon, he received a flurry of phone calls and messages from people willing to give him supplies or offer their time to shovel his driveway. Ultimately, a neighbor with a tractor cleared the path, allowing Robert — after some additional shoveling — to drive to his wife's side.
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Robert eventually reached Ann and spent time with her in the hospital on March 9.
"I was hoping that people wouldn't think I sound corny," he told the Times of writing the social media message. "There were other people who probably needed the help more than me."