I started work early last Thursday, thanks to an extra assignment. As a driver for adults with developmental disabilities, on this particular day I was to pick up a wheelchair-bound person at his temporary residence in a nursing home and transport him to a nearby hospital for early morning surgery.
Another staff person was to meet me at the day program center where I work in Elyria, Ohio. She would lead me to the nursing home, and to the hospital.
It was cold outside. I started my van at 6 a.m. to warm it up.
Almost immediately, it started snowing. Hard. I had to run the windshield wipers so I could see.
This was the first week of April, after Easter. So much for an early spring.
Ten minutes later my co-worker arrived. She drove her personal vehicle and I followed in my wheelchair-accessible van.
We got on eastbound Interstate 90. Traffic was heavy – and going 25 mph. The highway was slick. Several vehicles, mostly pickups, had buried themselves down the embankment on the side of the highway. This winter storm came quickly, without warning.
I trudged along at 25-30 mph, two hands on the wheel, wipers activated for the blowing snow. The news station I listen to in the morning reported numerous wrecks throughout the area. Traffic stopped completely on one interstate, and slowed to a crawl on several others – including the one I was on.
I kept my eyes forward, on my co-worker’s vehicle up ahead. She had told me which exit to take, so we caravanned off the highway and eventually reached the nursing home just over the Bay Village line.
She went inside and retrieved our patient. I loaded him into my van.
We got back on I-90. Traffic was moving a little faster now, thankfully, but snow continued to fall. We got off a few exits later and before long arrived at Fairview Hospital on Cleveland’s west side.
His surgery was scheduled for 7 a.m. We arrived about 7:10 a.m. It’s the best we could do.
Here comes the sun
Normally I start my shift at the day program and head east. Since this was Thursday, my first stop was in Columbia Station. Then, I pick up an individual in Strongsville.
Since I knew the day before about this extra run to the hospital, I told the Columbia Station individual’s mom that I’d be late this day. Good thing. I’m usually at their house about 7:15 a.m.
Instead, I changed my morning route a little. Starting from Fairview as the sun was supposed to come up, I jumped on southbound Interstate 71. Northbound I-71 heading into Cleveland was stopped for several miles, due to a couple of those weather-related wrecks I heard about on the radio. Southbound, we moved fairly well – not at highway speeds because it was still snowing, but at least we were moving.
I got off at the appropriate exit and arrived at my Strongsville destination on time. I took a deep breath and gave a prayer of thanks.
From there, I drove west to Columbia Station, arriving at about 8 a.m. They were very understanding, and appreciated my heads-up that I’d be late.
Oh, yes. Since I was south of Cleveland by now, the sun was shining and the roads were clear. The snow didn’t reach this area at all. With this storm, only the northern regions by Lake Erie were affected.
Were they ever.
I finished my route uneventfully and arrived at the day program center relatively on time, grateful for a safe drive.
A special outing
That day, we had an outing scheduled in Brunswick, about a 40-minite drive away. Since Brunswick is south of Strongsville, the weather was fine in that direction.
I took two individuals – one in a wheelchair, one ambulatory – to Scene 75, which offers arcade-style games that our individuals could enjoy. We had planned to take more individuals but our bus was in the shop, so we didn’t have the transportation for a big group.
The three of us arrived at 11 a.m. when Scene 75 opened. We ate lunch first, like we often do at our outings, then spent the rest of our time enjoying the games. Both individuals had a good time, playing games each enjoyed. Money was put on a game card for each of them, and when the cards were used up, we cashed in the tickets they won for a few prizes, then drove back to the center.
Because our bus was unavailable, I had to make an extra run to take several of our folks to their home before making my regular afternoon run.
I ended the day about 5 p.m., which is typical for me. A busy 11-hour day (I don’t often stay all day; four days a week I get several hours off midday so I don’t go over 40 hours), with a crazy first hour on the highways.
Of those 11 hours, I spent a total of less than one at the day program center. All of it was on the road or at Scene 75.
Some days are like that.
The next day, the snow was long gone and all was back to normal. When I returned to the day program in the afternoon, something happened that makes this job worth doing. The ambulatory individual I took to Scene 75 put down the tablet he enjoys when at the day program, walked over to where I was standing, gave me a big smile, then gave me a side hug.
I’d never seen him do that before, with me or any other staff person. He is non-verbal, but I felt he was thanking me for a good time the day before.
After the hug, he returned to his seat and picked up his tablet, continuing on with his day.
My heart was full. The fact that only three of us went on that outing meant that I could give almost undivided attention to both individuals. I think they appreciated that.
That’s what our day program is all about. Connecting with the community. Connecting with each other. Sometimes it’s hard. Plans don’t always go smoothly.
But when they do, even on a day that gets off to a crazy start, it makes this job special.
Got to go. I’ll get lunch here at home, then head back to the center shortly thereafter for my afternoon run.
We’ll see what today holds.