What Do Meth And Front Wheel Walkers Have in Common?

When I first started practicing as an Occupational Therapist in 1999, I would evaluate my patient, or I would provide therapy for an ongoing patient in the hospital, and if they needed a piece of adaptive equipment, I would give them a 2 page list of where they could obtain the item.

As the years have gone by, the 2 page list became shorter, to just 1 page a few years ago. Since I recommended that my patients go to these “loan closets” for items, I would make it a point to visit them all once a year, and I would write a small check as donation and a thank you for helping the hundreds, if not thousands of patients that come knocking and pleading for assistance.

The loan closets for adaptive equipment are set up that if a person who does not have the financial means to buy a wheelchair, front wheeled walker, cane,bed-side-commode, shower chair and/or other items, they can get one on loan for several months. Nothing more than identification card is needed to get an item. The requirement is that it brought back within 3 months or sometimes up to 6 months and then it sanitized for the next person in dire straits.

Working in an acute hospitals, especially level 1 trauma hospitals, the disabilities that I see are life changing and sometimes permanent. I completely understand that a family might not WANT to give back the adaptive equipment due to they really do need it, and not just for 4 months, but perhaps for life. But that is not how the loan closets work, unfortunately.

Lately, however, the list has shrunk. The list has almost evaporated. There are only a handful left in the city. At last count there were only 5 for this large city I live and work in. As the 4th largest city in the country, we should have many many more loan closets.

Yesterday, while working with a 36 year old female patient who had been in a automobile crash, I recommended that she go to one of the loan closets in the valley for the items I suggested: a shower chair and a bedside commode, since she has several lower extremity fractures. Right then, one of the family members started laughing and said, “Oh yeah, we have pretended to have a hurt leg and went there and got some stuff free and my cousin sold it on Craig’s List! Ha Ha ha!”.

I do not like to ever assume anything, but when the other family member said, “meth’s expensive dude!!!!” All I could do was look down and take a breath.

We therapists, nurses and case managers in hospitals have known this has been going on for a while, but I never thought somebody would ever say it in front of me. I know times are hard. My heart breaks for the patients who truly suffer without the needed safe adaptive equipment. I can not tell you how many patients I have worked with who do not even have indoor plumbing and must walk to an outhouse. Our hospitals have a very large rural community we service. And to try and navigate outdoor terrain with fractured limbs is beyond painful to know that this what they will have to do. A cheap bedside commode could save them from infection, falling out doors, even indoors. I can not change things. But I can make it known.

Please consider donating to your local loan closet.