“I sat there and thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s going to die before I get there.’”
During the recent snowstorms that hit the state and trapped residents, dumping nearly 10 feet of snow, neighbors in a Californian community banded together to help a 79-year-old man reach his wife. She was in a nursing home nearly 30 miles away experiencing a medical emergency.
When he learned that his wife, Ann Rice, 81, was having trouble breathing at her nursing home, Robert Rice, 79, told The New York Times he had no choice but to go be by her side. He had originally planned to remain inside and weather the storm. The Vietnam War warrior had persevered through many situations, but the idea of missing his wife's final moments broke him. “I sat there and thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s going to die before I get there.’”
Snowed-In Calif. Man Gets Help from Strangers to See Dying Wife: 'I Can't Even Get Down to Say Goodbye' https://t.co/QqTTskqI6r— People (@people) March 16, 2023
Doctors worried that Ann, who had a history of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, might pass away as a result of carbon dioxide buildup in her airways, per PEOPLE. He told the NYT that despite working for hours shoveling ice in the bitter cold of the San Bernardino area, he had only been able to create a narrow path up the driveway. "I looked out there and said, 'There's no way I'm getting out,'" Robert told the NYT.
Doctors advised them to cease intervention because she was still receiving blood transfusions every other day and they believed she only had a few weeks to live. He told the newspaper that he turned to Facebook in his desperation while in tears. Robert posted to a local Facebook group, "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 an Army Vietnam veteran and retired LEO. This is very embarrassing for me to even ask for help. Sorry."
Robert Rice had been through war and was used to handling his own problems. Then an intense snowstorm slammed California and 10 feet of snow threatened to keep him from seeing his wife in her final days. https://t.co/LIVH6mex0E— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 16, 2023
To his glee, people started approaching him to help. Some offered to transport him or pay for a hotel near his wife, while some also showed up with shovels. Firefighters also visited to check on him. By March 9, he was finally able to get in his car after a neighbor eventually arrived with a tractor equipped with a front loader bucket to pave his driveway. He drove down to see his wife and held her hand.
He stroked her hair and cheeks as he described his day and how much he missed and adored her. Rice was unsure if his wife was aware of his presence. She at least knew she wasn't alone.
He thanked the locals on the Facebook group later, writing, "To everyone who responded and supported me when I was asking for help. You will never ever know how [grateful] I am for all your responses of offering help and prayers for me and my wife Ann." He then wrote, "The residents of this little mountain town for the 44 years I have lived here have always and I mean always pull together when an emergency strikes. Even people who are not locals offered help. That is so great."
“His Wife Was Dying, but 10 Feet of Snow Stood in His Way” Robert Rice had been through war and was used to handling his own problems. Then an intense snowstorm in Southern California threatened to keep him from seeing his wife in her final days. https://t.co/P2QtwkBnDH pic.twitter.com/acPuUCgIAO— 𝙂𝘼𝘽𝘽𝙔𝙞𝙎𝘼𝘾𝙏𝙞𝙑𝙀 (@GABBYiSACTiVE) March 17, 2023
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images