By Jim Branum
ReMEDy has many success stories. After all, the goal of the program is to loan used durable medical equipment to people who are unable to otherwise purchase what they need. So you can understand that we feel like it is Christmas every day we go to work and get to see the faces of the people we are able to serve.
The story of C.M. is one such success story. It begins with Carolyn, a member of one of our Birmingham Baptist Association Churches (BBA), who worked at a metal manufacturing company in the western area of the city. She would see C.M. every day that it was not raining. He would pass by her place of business pulling a rolling, plastic trash can tied by ropes to the back of his wheelchair. C.M. made his living by making a daily trip picking up aluminum cans and taking them--using his wheelchair--to a local recycling center. His daily journey started from where he lived, which was a 10-by-20 storage building he rented located in the back yard of his landlord's house, and continued out through the streets of Birmingham, passing businesses that would save cans for him. He would then return home going down different streets collecting cans beside the road.
C.M. had lost both legs some 50 years earlier in an accident, but he seemed to me to be one of the happiest people I have known. In the yard outside his storage building home were old wheelchair parts that C.M. would use to repair his manual chair when it broke down from everyday use. He also had an old, worn-out, power chair that no longer worked.
One day, while stopping at Carolyn's business, C.M. asked her if the men at her company would try and fix the power chair for him. They agreed to try. For the next 6 months they had it at the business, working on it. But they never could get the old power chair to work.
So eventually Carolyn called her church. She was referred to the BBA to ask if there was any help for C.M. through the different BBA ministries. That is when she called and spoke with me at ReMEDy.
I called C.M. and asked if he would agree to replace his old power chair for a loaner--a beautiful working power chair through the ReMEDy program. He agreed. And so I used my truck and trailer, got the old chair out of the way, and delivered C.M. his new chair (after providing him with safety and operational training).
I wish I could share the look on his face! It was as if Christmas had arrived as C.M. transferred over from his old, worn-out, pieced-together manual wheelchair into the working power chair loaned to him for as long as he'd need it.
Jim Branum is the director of ReMEDy, a durable medical equipment reuse program operated by the Birmingham Baptist Association in partnership with STAR, Alabama's Assistive Technology Act Program.