Road To Recovery program needs volunteer drivers for cancer patients
Fighting breast cancer for the past seven months has been challenging enough for Sarah Crane. Imagine how difficult it would be if the 67-year-old High Point woman didn’t have a means of getting to her medical appointments.
“I have to have transportation,” says Crane, who has been receiving radiation treatments at High Point Regional Health System’s Hayworth Cancer Center. “I have to be able to get to my appointments.”
That’s where the volunteer drivers of Road To Recovery, an American Cancer Society program, come into play.
“Our goal is to ensure patients have transportation to and from medical appointments,” explains Wendy Martin, Road To Recovery’s volunteer coordinator and a member of the cancer center’s oncology care team.
“Lack of transportation is one of the most frequent reasons patients don’t complete treatment. Many of them need daily or weekly treatment visits, and they simply have no way to get to the appointments. Some may not have the financial means, and others may not be able to drive because of their medical condition — or because of side effects from the medications they’re taking — and they don’t have friends or family who can drive them.”
The problem is that more volunteer drivers are needed.
“We average about 1,500 rides a year that are needed,” Martin says, “and right now we’re only filling about 60 percent of that need with our drivers.”
So how do the other 40 percent of ride requests get filled?
When no volunteer drivers are available, Road To Recovery arranges for a taxi to pick up patients and transport them to their appointments and back home again. Of course, that was a challenge this past week, with the influx of High Point Market visitors making cab service more scarce.
Furthermore, taxi service costs money. To pay those costs, Road To Recovery draws funds from the health system’s LoveLine program, which provides financial assistance to cancer patients to help them meet short-term critical needs not covered by other resources. Those funds are typically used to assist with such expenses as medication, medical supplies, housing and nutrition.
“If we’re using LoveLine funds to pay for taxi service, that makes those funds not available for other things,” Martin says. “We may not have the money to get someone’s heat turned on or to meet some other need, and that’s what we want to avoid.”
According to Martin, the program has about 50 registered volunteers, but averages only about 15 active drivers per month.
“That’s why we really need more people,” she says. “We provide all of the training. Volunteers just need to have a good driving record and a vehicle that’s in good driving condition, because safety is a top priority for us.”
Volunteers can drive as much or as little as they like, Martin says. Daily emails are sent to registered volunteers showing the next day’s schedule for when patients need transportation, and volunteers simply sign up online. The volunteers then call the patients directly to let them know what time they’ll be picking them up.
“They may stay and wait for the patient’s treatment to be completed and then take them home, or there may be another driver scheduled to take them home,” Martin says. “They don’t necessarily have to stay for the appointment.”
Volunteers get involved for a number of reasons, but some of them sign up because of a personal experience with cancer.
“I lost a brother to cancer several years ago, so I know what cancer does to you and your family,” says Amanda Magill of High Point, who began volunteering about three years ago. “I feel like I’m helping these people, because I’m giving them one less thing to worry about. They have enough to worry about.”
Another volunteer, Beachy Allen of High Point, saw the need for a program such as Road To Recovery in 2008, when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
“I would see all these patients in the lobby waiting for buses and taxis, and I knew how bad they felt,” Allen recalls. “I started asking, ‘Isn’t there something we can do for these people?’”
Before long, cancer center officials had researched and discovered the American Cancer Center’s Road To Recovery program; the High Point program was implemented in 2009.
“This is such a worthwhile program,” Allen says. “No matter how great the advanced care of medicine has become, you’re not going to get better if you can’t make it to your appointments. This is easily the most satisfying and rewarding volunteer work I’ve ever done.”
Beverly Serafin, another volunteer driver, agrees.
“I’ve met so many interesting people, and they’re all so very sweet and appreciative,” she says. “They just can’t thank you enough, because they need to get to these appointments.”
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Want to help?
The American Cancer Society’s Road To Recovery program needs volunteers to drive local cancer patients to and from their medical appointments.
To sign up or for further information, contact volunteer coordinator Wendy Martin at (336) 802-2704 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about the program can also be found by visiting www.volunteertodrive.org.