Doug Riddell’s Saanich business has been providing mobility and medical equipment for almost 30 years, but the COVID pandemic hit Vancouver Island Medical Supply hard.
“Beyond words,” Riddell says. “The pandemic, plus family deaths and deaths of friends — it’s just a lot. A lot.”
Business initially dropped 80 to 90 per cent and a barn fire destroyed thousands of dollars worth of equipment, but Riddell says support from loyal customers kept him going.
“It’s overwhelming,” says Riddell. “The outpouring of support from people in the community and when people do that for you and to you, how can you not give back? How can you not want to help?”
Riddell decided to partner with the Victoria Cool Aid Society, providing medical equipment for palliative patients experiencing homelessness and unstable housing in the Capital Region.
“They need lifting up,” he says. “They need somebody that will wrap their arms around them and give them the loving care and support they need.”
“It’s really challenging in any circumstance to be at home living with a serious illness,” adds Robyn Kyle. who works on the Palliative Outreach Resource Team (PORT). “You’re uncomfortable, you’re in pain and when you add those additional layers of someone who’s vulnerable or maybe not living with a ton of resources it’s just even more challenging.”
PORT is a partnership with Cool Aid, Island Health and the University of Victoria to help vulnerable patients access medical care.
“We’ve seen through the pandemic how challenging it is to live in Victoria when you’re living in poverty or living with a substance abuse or mental health concern,” Kyle explains. “There’s a lot of stigma and a lot of people I think are suffering and they’re not even being noticed.”
But thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation and Doug donating thousands of dollars worth of equipment and repairs, the innovative initiative can make an even bigger difference.
“To have a partner in the community who so invested in helping support what we’re doing, it just changes everything and it makes it so much easier to help so many more people,” Kyle says.
For Riddell, it’s about giving back and helping the community he loves.
“As Gandhi said — he put it best — ‘be the change that you want to see in the world’,” Riddell says. “It’s as simple as that.”