Last year, people across the globe supported research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, through the Ice Bucket Challenge. Yet two Chicago men, one of whom is afflicted with the degenerative disease, are offering their support for ALS patients in a different way — gathering donations of reusable medical supplies.
Bob Shea and Ed Kane have been neighbors for years, reports CBS Chicago, but they found they had something more in common years ago after Shea was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome. This rare neurological disease causes muscle weakness and eventually leads to paralysis; one of the biggest risks is that it can take away the ability to breathe.
“I just remember there was Ed standing at my bed, and I remember him saying, ‘Don’t try to talk. It’s okay,'” Shea told reporters.
Kane was recently diagnosed with ALS, which also gradually takes away the ability to communicate, swallow, and breathe.
Both men may be staring death in the face, but they still want to use this opportunity help others with disabilities and debilitating illnesses. They especially wanted to make sure that reusable medical devices could be given to those who need them after someone else is done using them.
The two of them started Devices 4 the Disabled to provide people in need with the durable medical equipment and other devices they need to make life a little easier.
The medical equipment donations come from patients who have passed away and those who simply no longer require them. For someone like Kane, who can no longer walk, the donation of an old cane, walker, or wheelchair can come in handy.
“Finding creative ways to put used medical equipment back in service is great for both people in need and the industry as a whole,” says Bo Brown, CEO, Mobility Healthcare in Lewisville. “Traditionally, medical equipment companies will provide either new equipment or they will rent the equipment to patients for a period of time and then it belongs to the patient. It usually depends on the rules of the insurance company. However, it seems like everyone knows someone with a used power chair or wheelchair sitting in their garage not being used. To do our part, we offer our employees incentives to recycle used equipment. This helps people that would otherwise not have access to the equipment they need. There needs to be more programs like this!”
Kane, for one, is glad that the devices he no longer uses can help others. “When you get it,” he said of a walker, “the whole world opens up to you, you can go out again.”
Although there aren’t any federally-funded programs that donate medical equipment, some states have their own initiatives through Medicaid.
Alaska Dispatch News reports that state lawmakers and officials from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services are trying to make it easier for patients to get reimbursed for reusable medical equipment rather than having to buy new.
In Oregon, one program, called ACCESS, loans out medical devices to those who need them, at no cost and with no time limits. The program, which acts more as a library than a typical medical service, is helping thousands of Oregonians save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, according to KRDV in Medford.