It was a day when I didn’t have a golf game scheduled. The dispatcher from Northwest Valley Connect called to see if I would volunteer to transport two clients, both of whom needing a round trip to two separate locations between 8 a.m. and about noon.
Northwest Valley Connect is a board of directors-administered nonprofit organization with an office in Sun City. Kathy Chandler is the executive director and one of two paid staff who are trying to bring public funded transportation to the West Valley. Currently, there are volunteer drivers who, after being screened through interview and fingerprint background check, drive people to places they want to go. This agency is truly filling a void in services for West Valley residents’ transportation needs.
I was assigned to drive a Honda 6 passenger vehicle was donated to NVC about a year ago from Surprise Honda. The driving assignment was to go pick up Linda (not her real name) and take her to her beauty shop appointment at 8:30 a.m. I arrived to meet Linda in the alley behind her Sun City condo. She had a walker and appeared to have great difficulty moving about without her walker. After a slow and determined effort, she assumed the shotgun seat in the Honda. On the way to the hairdresser, Linda was effusive in thanking me for coming to take her to this appointment. She said that she didn’t walk too well because she had two knees replaced and next week, she would be going into the hospital to have a hip replacement.
The hair appointment she said was to get a permanent in her hair as she wanted to look presentable at the hospital. I asked how she usually gets to places like the beauty shop when she can’t arrange a ride. She said that she doesn’t call for cabs because the cabbies won’t provide the time and assistance she needs to complete the trip. Linda shared that her relatives do not take her to places she wants to go and that she had been using her motorized wheelchair to get to the beauty shop. I took note that the beauty shop was about four miles away from her residence and required crossing Bell Road to complete the trip. Linda allowed that, yes, the battery on the wheelchair sometimes almost runs down and that everyone she knows tells her crossing Bell Road in the wheelchair is dangerous. Linda was all smiles when we got to the beauty shop. She informed me that she wouldn’t be ready to return home for at least two hours and would asked if I would wait or be back for her in two hours. I was fortunate to have trip number two waiting to be picked up. Trip number two was Charlie, a gentleman I guessed to be in his early ‘80s, who also used a walker.
He, like Linda, expressed thanks for the transportation being provided, but there was something very different about Charlie’s situation. Charlie was to be picked up in time to go to a dialysis clinic approximately 15 minutes away from his home. I was unclear if this was his home or just where he was staying. His appointment was for 9:30 a.m. The dispatch sheet from NVC indicated a 9 a.m. pickup. I arrived at 9:10 a.m. Charlie was seated in an SUV in the driveway of the residence. An unknown woman, the driver of the SUV, greeted me with an irritated announcement that I was late arriving to pick up Charlie. Her demeanor indicated that it was a burden for her to have to take Charlie to his dialysis appointment. After transferring into the NVC vehicle, Charlie was very quiet. To make conversation during our quick ride to the clinic, I asked how long he had lived in Peoria.
For the entire trip to the clinic, Charlie regaled me with the details of his graduating from high school and being sure that electronics was to be his avocation and vocation. He came to Arizona to take specialized training in electronics. I suspicioned that Charlie as young man in the 1950s and ‘60s, probably knew something about radar and guidance systems on planes or maybe even spaceships. I asked what he did for his life’s work and he proudly said that he was the best television repairman there ever was. I believe him. He also said with little emotion, that having to do three hours of dialysis on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of every week didn’t bother him, but for others around him, it was different. I vividly recall the lady who was so distressed while Charlie sat quietly in her SUV. I’m sure Charlie observed what I had observed. When the dialysis session was finished Charlie was tired and more than ready to return home. I assisted Charlie out of the car and watched until someone answered the door to admit him. Charlie was much more patient than I would have been as he had to ring the doorbell twice and all the while weakly clinging to his walker
On the front porch, I was irritated that Charlie had to wait so long for someone to answer the door. I thought about how uncomfortable this experience would be if it had been July and 115 degrees outside. I hoped Charlie would be able to get to dialysis treatments, next week and next month.
I learned that there are people living in the West Valley that need transportation services to meet medical, social, and basic needs. If Charlie does not have access to transportation, he won’t have dialysis treatment. Without the treatment, most likely he will be dead within a week or two once treatment is terminated. If Linda can’t take pride in her appearance, and is isolated, she will quickly loose hope and feel unvalued. Such losses are devastating.
NVC is also making a great effort to advocate to The Arizona Legislature, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and all elected officials to support increased public transportation in Maricopa West valley locations. When it is time for you to hang up your car keys, wouldn’t it be nice to have established public transportation routes to get to the recreation center, doctor appointments, grocery store, drug store and other places? We need to insist that our elected representatives plan for our transportation issues now. While it is important to have roads and bridges, we also need our bus routes, trolley routes and perhaps our driverless technology transportation planned. Providing transportation for Seniors and persons with handicap and disability issues is a valuable and rewarding volunteer opportunity.
Drivers, call center workers, and office volunteers are needed ay North Valley Connect. Call 623-282- 9300 to offer your assistance.
Northwest Valley Connect follows CDC recommended procedures and provides products to sanitize vehicles and has gloves, masks and hand sanitizer in each vehicle.
Editor’s note: David Wilson is a Northwest Valley Connect volunteer.