Community paramedics make special deliveries for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving arrived in ambulances and SUVs for dozens of people in the Twin Cities when Hennepin County community paramedics made special holiday visits to their patients.

Loading up meals on Thanksgiving morning is a minor variation on a typical day for Hennepin County community paramedics. Four of them regularly visit 92 patients who need help but don’t quite qualify for in-home care. 

"Finding the gaps, finding the people that are falling through the cracks," said community paramedic Erik Ollila.

Blood tests, vaccinations, and conversations are usually on the menu.

"Most of health care, I feel, is not 'Let's change the world.' It's simple, little fixes," Ollila said. "Simple little changes can make the biggest difference for people."

On this day, HCMC’s chefs cooked, and the community paramedic crew delivered about 50 full meals to patients. Ollila brought Elizabeth Smith two Thanksgiving plates, so the 87-year-old could have dinner with her best friend Franny.

"She'll be very grateful because she was telling me that when she goes home, she never gets a turkey," Smith said.

She says without this service she might’ve eaten a boiled egg for dinner, but instead, she’s getting turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, and a couple of pieces of pie. Smith doesn’t have any family nearby, and she needs minor medical care every couple of weeks, so she was one of the first patients for Hennepin County’s community paramedics.

She calls it the best thing that’s ever happened to her, and she’s especially grateful on Thanksgiving.

"Today I am very thankful for the fact that these guys would go around and bring meals to people like me," Smith said.