“Let’s see…there’s three, six, nine, twelve, fifteen, um…seventeen drives…and I’ve not started [arranging] any of them yet…”
The Cancer DriveLine dispatcher is counting up the number of drives he needs to line up – for the next day!
And actually, because these are round trip, it’s thirty-four drives that he needs to find volunteer drivers for.
The Cancer DriveLine is reliable, free transportation for cancer patients.
When I ask Cancer DriveLine Office Manager Vicky Bates if she is paid to oversee this operation, she stresses that “Nobody’s paid. No. We’re all volunteers. All of us.”
Which is an incredible commitment from these volunteers. Because the need is huge.
“Some of them do more than one ride,” explains Bates.
“They’ll do several, or they will carpool, and pick up several people and take them back and forth, or while they’re waiting for someone, they’ll pick up somebody else and bring them.”
It’s just 7:55 am when we meet with volunteer driver David Thompson, who is returning client Diana Mitchell to her home, after her 7 am treatment.
Mitchell is battling stem cell cancer. She needs weekly blood transfusions, but she has no immunity, so she must be at the hospital lab by 7 am, and out before other patients arrive.
Her oncologist explained the vital importance of keeping to this schedule, but Mitchell is too weak to drive herself.
A friend recommended that she give the Cancer DriveLine a call.
“I called, and they said, ‘we don’t have anybody that will drive at 6 am,but leave it with us…’
“And they called back the same day and said, ‘David Thompson has said he gets up early, and he’ll take you.’ So David Thompson became my lifeline.”
Thompson picks up the story at this point. He explains that his wife had cancer in 1996, and he wanted to give back.
And he’s been doing just that, since 2001.
“I’ve been a volunteer driver for 15 years.
“I’ve probably carried five-thousand…umm…over 55-hundred people…”
Drivers are compensated 41 cents a kilometer, which helps, of course, as Thompson admits “I find i’m filling my car every week!”
And dispatchers try to assign rides close to where the driver lives.
“Saanich Peninsula drivers would live somewhere on the peninsula” explains Office Manager Bates, “and would only drive people from there.”
Yet, as she looks over the current list of volunteer drivers, Bates admits “You’re looking at your list…
“and you think that you’ve got a lot, but then when you get down to it, you only have a dozen, so I say…”ok, guys, you gotta step up today…”
And that’s when Bates, with a warm smile, explains that “we need drivers from everywhere, so if you have some time we’d love to have you. And, we also need dispatchers.”
Just a few hours a week, driving a few patients to or from appointments, would make all the difference to the Cancer DriveLine.
Click here if you’d like to help.