The staff here at Little Brothers has seen our fair share of suffering over the years, frail older folks struggling to make ends meet, facing ever-increasing losses of movement, memory, and health. In our medical transportation program, the news at the doctor’s office can sometimes be devastating–the weak heart beating even more feebly, the cancer once in remission now rearing up and riddling the body, the diabetes once in check now threatening a leg, or worse, blindness. Often the most we can hope for is that our efforts to accompany a homebound elder to the doctor’s brings a little comfort, some assurance that they are not alone, possibly reprieve from pain.
But once in a while we are blessed to know that our efforts do matter, that going the extra mile on behalf of one of our elderly friends can make the difference literally between darkness and light, between sight and straining to see in the shadows.
At 63, Lizzie was nearly blinded by cataracts. She is also the primary caregiver for her 83 year old mother, who is in poor health after suffering a stroke and a heart attack. She has a daughter who can drive, but then there would be no one to look after her mother. Like many big-hearted caregivers, she found herself between a rock and a hard place, needing treatment but unable to leave her mother alone. Her town, like most areas in the U.P., lacks public transit, and her income makes it hard to hire help for her mother and impossible to pay for private taxis. She needed to consult with a specialist in Marquette first and then needed two follow-up surgeries where her doctor travels for regional appointments, one in Ishpeming (over 100 miles away) and one in Baraga (over 40 miles away). She needed to complete both surgeries in one month in order to qualify for one insurance co-pay.
Fortunately, Little Brothers was able to help. Jim Degeneford, our medical transportation coordinator, worked hard to find drivers for all three trips on short notice who would be willing to go the distance.
“I can see like a young woman again,” she told Jim. “Not since I’ve been a teenager could I see this good. I can’t say enough about my two kind drivers, and I can’t say enough about Little Brothers. You guys are delightful.”
She reported to Jim that she is already starting to drive again with prescription lenses, and that her vision just keeps improving. As she continues to heal, she anticipates being able to drive again without any glasses at all. “So often all we can do is provide a little comfort,” said Jim, “and it’s frustrating because we want to help. A situation like Lizzie’s though is immensely rewarding, as what we did really improved the quality of her life-not just a token improvement, but now she can see!”
Thank you to all our staff and terrific volunteers who are willing to make long treks over icy roads, hanging around waiting rooms and offering a shoulder to lean on when the appointment is over. Because of you and the donors behind the scenes who help keep the fleet running, elders like Lizzie can greet the day with a little more clarity, looking forward to many spectacular sunrises to come.