Wade and Ruth Strong were visiting the Black Hills with the hope of fulfilling a bucket list dream — visiting Mount Rushmore. For those that live near the National Memorial, this may not seem like a challenge, but it was far from easy for the Strongs.
“My wife and I are in our late 80s, and we were on a bus trip from Pennsylvania,” said Wade. “We’d been having some issues and visited a few emergency rooms along the way.”
One of those visits was at Monument Health Lead-Deadwood Hospital under the care of Nurse Practitioner, Christine Duerksen.
“After his initial assessment I told him that I would do my best to get him feeling better so he could be on his way,” Christine said. “He looked at me and tears welled up in his eyes, he said, ‘I came here to see Mount Rushmore. It’s on my bucket list. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to see it now.’”
Christine wasn’t willing to let Wade miss out on his dream. Instead, she told him that she would do everything she could to help turn this dream into a reality. And that’s exactly what she and her team did.
“Everyone I work with here, we’re like one. big family,” Christine said. “I come from a small town so when someone needs something, you just do what you can to help. I’m glad we could help.”
Christine and her team called every taxi and tour company they could think of, but kept striking out. That is, until Lead-Deadwood Paramedic, Julie Martin, had the idea to call someone that she knew could help — her son.
“My mom called and she was like ‘do you want to do something?’” Dyllen Martin said. “I told her, ‘well, yeah, but you have to explain it first.’”
Dyllen, a 19-year-old college student, was home for the summer, but hadn’t yet started his summer job with Sturgis Fire and EMS. He listened as his mom explained how an entire team of caregivers was trying to help the Strongs get to Mount Rushmore. Julie asked if he would be willing to act as a tour guide for the day.
“When I first met them they were kind of in shock I guess. They were happy that I was there and they could see Mount Rushmore,” Dyllen said. “He just made our day,” Wade said. “Dyllen took us out for maybe five or six hours.”
“Mount Rushmore met all of my expectations — my bucket list was fulfilled,” said Wade. “When we got there, our bus tour was leaving. I was in a wheelchair and he pushed me up there. I would have never made it without him.”
Dyllen helped the Strongs tour through the memorial, pushing Wade’s wheelchair and helped the couple to the amphitheater to watch an educational video. After that, the adventure and Black Hills tour continued.
“I gave them a couple options after Mount Rushmore,” Dyllen said. “We took the Needles Highway drive through Custer, made a few stops so they could take more pictures and see the wildlife.” It was the trip of a lifetime and now, they have memories to share.
“They had an older phone that didn’t really take pictures, so I took a few and sent them to their grandson,” Dyllen said. “I did print out a few and mailed them as well.”
Thinking back on the eventful day, Wade said, “It was the most wonderful day I ever had.”
Written by Stephany Chalberg
Photo by Dyllen Martin