Unsung heroines

A patron arrives at the Red Cross Medical Equipment Loan Service, located in the old Big Eddy School. Need bed pan? They've got 'em! How about a walker or cane? They've got those, too! Toni Johnston photo

By Toni Johnston

When I fell and ended up in the hospital for  ninedays, I learned a lot about the medical system.

Maura Dower and Louise Burling chat for a moment as Mowra prepares to clean some equipment. Toni Johnston photo

One of the most amazing facilities to help those being released from the hospital is the Red Cross Medical Equipment Loan Service.  I needed a walker, a raised toilet seat with supporting handles, a reacher, a wheel chair, a motorized bed and a shower grab bar.  Friends called around for me to find these items and we eventually found that the Red Cross would loan nearly all of the items for free.  Louise Burling and Maura Dower volunteer six hours a week at the facility in the old Big Eddy School.  Maura and Louise work 2 hours from 12-2 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

They clean, maintain, repair and keep organized the hundreds of donated items  for people in need.  Available are bed rails, various types of canes, crutches, wheel chairs, bathtub seats and rails, various walkers (without wheels, with two wheels, with four wheels, with seats and with or without baskets)  and even some disposables when available such as  bed sheets and incontinence supplies. Maura and Louise have recently switched to an environmentally friendly cleaner for cleaning all returned equipment.  They take apart toilet seats which includes the legs as well

With a few simple tools Louise Burling can fix almost anything! Toni Johnston photo

as taking the legs off and thoroughly cleaning insides of the tubular supports. They say they are sometimes unpleasantly surprised by what they find inside the tubes!  Louis is the fixer.  She says she can fix anything with four tools:  two sizes of screw driver and two kinds of pliers.  When she can’t repair an item, she will send it to the main office in Kelowna where parts will be salvaged. Anything loaned has to be in good condition. Some items that look impossible to repair are sent over to Ray Borach for his shipment to Africa.  Besides serving Revelstoke, people in Trout Lake, Galena Bay and Nakusp use the loan service.

Louise and Maura also see that Moberly Manor and other seniors’housing are supplied with equipment. They even check on Cooper’s to make sure they have a wheel chair available for people needing to get from the store to their car with groceries. In addition records are maintained of how many items go out per day (what and a to whom with  an average of six),  how much money is donated (about $150 a month), hours open and what is needed from the central supply.  This month 15 walkers went out and more were needed and immediately supplied from Kelowna.

Now, to top off all this excellent service, Louise will meet people  at the school at 970n Begbie Road at any time an emergency arises.  She can be reached at 250-814-7767 . Service is on a need basis after January l until the snow goes as demand falls because most operations for knees and hips take place out of town when the roads are safer for travel to hospitals both for doctors and patients.  The Columbia Basin Trust donated equipment needed by bariatric patients. (I had to ask too- someone who is very heavy or large is a bariatric patient). Maura Dower, past chair for 5 years,  and  Louise Beerling, current chair for 2 years, could use some more volunteers to spell them off.  This is an unpaid job with the Red Cross renting the room and now and then buying new equipment locally if possible.  Some of the high school students do volunteer to fill their volunteer hours for community service.  If you are interested in helping, give Louise a call at 250-814-7767.

You can make a real difference.

Louise Burling poses in front of some of the chairs and other devices at the loan service. Toni Johnston photo