“This walker is too short,” decreed Edith, my lovely, athletically sculpted physical therapist, during one of her home care visits after my hospital release following a serious fall. She was guiding me through the intricate metamorphosis from lame to walking.
During today’s therapy session, I realized I had a long way to go, one reason being I had outgrown the square bearer of my awkward struggles for footing. The fairly new squatty structure’s expense dictated getting all the use possible from it. “So – a taller one will work better?”
“Yes. You’re walking now, gradually bearing weight on the injured leg and ankle. The shorter one worked for hopping to keep that limb at zero weight bearing but now you need a couple more inches that this one doesn’t have. It’s been let out to its limit.”
“So do you think the medical equipment company would trade out?”
Edith pondered for a moment, then decisively, “No. Not used equipment. Go down to Spartanburg Shares and they’ll loan you a walker. Tell them Edith sent you.”
“Wh – ” I peered at her, disbelieving. “Loan? No fees?”
I didn’t have any idea what SHARES was about or how they could do this for free.
FREE: A rare find in today’s medical metropolis.
Now, I know a good deal when I hear one, so I took her advice and at ten that Saturday morning, Lee and I entered the unpretentious building nestled in downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina. That day, the staff consisted of director Jerry Toth, who told me right off, “I wish you’d known about us before buying and renting all that other equipment.”
He introduced Lee and me to volunteer Peggy Wilson, and Kristy Wood, who trains volunteers for Spartanburg Shares Medical Loan closet and donates her own time as well. During my subsequent visits I’ve met an assortment of faithful volunteers who rotate days and hours to operate the ministry. I am in awe of their dedication.
That Saturday morning we found ourselves in a recovery-Utopia, a world of generosity and caring. Inside the building lay a mélange of durable medical equipment for loan, including: bed support rails and trays; canes; braces, all types; commodes, all types; crutches; hospital beds; intercom systems; lift chairs; patient lifts; reachers; shower seats; transfer benches; walkers, all types; and wheelchairs. All these were in sterling condition. The Spartanburg Shares website details a complete list of equipment for use. The ministry is endorsed and supported by a number of community partners including churches, health associations, Interim Healthcare (who referred me to them) and a host of others.
Their purpose is to lend durable medical equipment free of charge to any resident of Spartanburg County. For many of Spartanburg’s citizens, the cost of renting or purchasing necessary medical equipment, like those listed above, can be prohibitive, even with insurance coverage. Shares ministry seeks to practice sensible stewardship by making use of the material resources already available in our community and sharing them with our neighbors. There is no income threshold or insurance requirement associated with the equipment loans. They are open three-to-four hours, three days a week.
After selecting a more suitable walker, one that fit, I read instructions that only asked the borrower to return the equipment in the original sterling condition. By now brimming with writer’s curiosity, I learned that open house for Spartanburg Shares was October 2012 and that it was started by Bea Bruce, whose husband had Parkinson’s disease. After a visit to a share-type facility in Hendersonville, NC, she was inspired to start and pattern the Spartanburg project after the one in Hendersonville.
As usually happens when a family is struck by a chronic illness, expensive medical equipment accumulates in the home. When Mr. Bruce passed, his wife decided to donate all of it to her project, Spartanburg Shares. She accomplished the endeavor by surrounding herself with knowledgeable people to form the Spartanburg Shares Board of Directors.
All across the country, similar ministries are springing up. By modeling theirs after Spartanburg Shares and others, they don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.” Kristy Wood, mentioned earlier, works for QS/1, a major company that develops software programs for businesses such as pharmacies, home medical equipment, institutional and government. QS/1 helped Shares get going and developed their company software.
Two weeks after I mastered the walker, I returned to Shares to pick out a cane, to which I had graduated with honors. The staff by now treated me as family and cheered me on when I picked out a sensible blue metal with solid grip instead of a wooden “fancy” one.
“Hey,” I told them as I left, “this one is going to get me where I need to go, and that’s what counts.” And now, less than a week later, I can span my entire dwelling without so much as a glance at the blue staff, retired to a corner of my bedroom.
I no longer need the “old faithfuls” that aided and abetted me during my long months’ struggle back to “normal.” And I already know what to do with them all, except the neck brace that carries my scent and imprint, which no one wants.
Lee’s pickup is readying for a big haul to Spartanburg Shares Medical Loan Closet. And I pray that all over the country many, many more will catch the vision and start their very own community share.