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CareVan program shuttles patients in Pittsburg area

Pittsburg-area patients who can’t drive themselves to a doctor or therapy appointment know they can turn to the Via Christi CareVan for help.

CareVans serve a 30-mile radius around Pittsburg, providing Kansans who are elderly, have physical challenges or are in need of transportation with free scheduled rides to and from Via Christi facilities for non-emergency hospital, doctor and therapy visits.

“This is a vital service to so many, “ says CareVan manager Robbi Pazzie. “It helps them keep their independence and their health by getting them to the care they need. We even take some patients home from the hospital, when their family or friends aren’t able to do so.

“Transportation is something we who have it take for granted, but our patients certainly don’t,” she adds. “To them this is a real blessing.”

Based at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg, the service was launched in 1992, and now has five available vans — two mini vans and three 13-passenger lift vans to pick up its patients as needed for their weekday appointments. Call 620-232-0388 to schedule a CareVan appointment.

For patients like Ellen Foshag, 68, who is almost totally blind, it helps her keep her independence. The van delivers her twice a week from her Pittsburg home to the Via Christi Wellness Center, where she works out regularly.

“It means I don’t have to ask friends or family to give me a ride when I need one. I can just schedule a ride with the CareVan,” she says.

During more than five years as a regular rider, she’s struck up friendships with her drivers, including Jerry Brady, who has driven the van for more than 20 years.

“Jerry looks after me pretty well,” says Ellen. “He’s one in a million!”

“He always walks me to the door or watches to make sure I’m headed in the right direction,” she adds with a smile. “He and all the drivers are great: very dedicated, very professional and  reliable.”

To Jerry, that kind of service is all part of the job. He enjoys chatting with his passengers and takes seriously his responsibility to keep them safe.

“I have quite a few regulars, so I get to know them pretty well,” he says. “That’s what I enjoy about this job, and why I’ve been doing it for so long.”

About Judy Conkling

Judy Conkling is a Wichita writer and editor with a deep interest in all things related to healthy living.