Starting Over At 71
In an instant, everything can change. For Cathy Hope, it was a car crash. After the accident, Hope suffered a TBI, which later developed into a neurological condition that cost her the ability to drive. Living in rural New Mexico at the time, Hope relied on friends and neighbors to drive her 45 minutes to an hour each way to her doctors’ appointments. Specialists were 2 and a half to three hours away, which made seeing them almost impossible.
Life at 7700 feet above sea level became unsustainable. Hope knew she had to make a change but struggled to let go of her community. She made the decision to move to Athens in early April of 2022 to be closer to her niece, and to access better health care.
“It was a really difficult life change. I mean, I’m 71, and I’m starting all over again with my community of three decades gone. It’s a huge change, and it is really hard to make friends and build connections because I can’t drive to meet people or take myself where I need to go because of my neurological condition,” said Hope.
Initially, Hope tried ACCA’s transportation service for financial reasons, but she quickly found more.
“When I moved here, I called one of the medical transport companies and a round trip, which was basically a 15-minute ride, was over a hundred dollars. A hundred dollars for one-round trip! When I found ACCA’s transportation service, I was blown away. Here was an organization that had a program that fit my needs, and I got four free rides a month (because I qualified for their lower income subsidy). It was, and is, fabulous! Nothing compared to ACCA,” said Hope.
“The transportation service has also helped me find a community, because you’re around people. By now, the drivers all know me, and we talk about different things like gardening. They care. We keep up with each other and it’s nice to be known.”
Though she has only lived in Athens a few months, Hope’s desire for connection has been increasingly fulfilled through ACCA’s transportation service.
“They (the drivers) are like neighbors of mine. We’ve built that community neighborhood feeling, and it’s so special. You know, you sometimes ride with many of the same people, and you all say hello and talk about your weekends or whatever. I feel that I am a part of a community of people now,” said Hope.
Hope never planned to leave New Mexico or need help. But once she did, ACCA became a safe haven for her.
“What happened to me and why I needed to use this service was because of a car accident that was not my fault. And aging happens to all of us. Every single person, at some point, is going to have some issues with getting around. You can see that coming and prepare. But sometimes those issues happen very quickly, and you need to find a solution immediately. Suddenly, you need an enormous amount of help because you had a car accident like me or a fall or whatever. So, when you find a group of people who are doing good work at a reasonable cost like ACCA, I can’t praise them highly enough,” said Hope.
ACCA’s transportation service offers more than rides. The driver’s personal care for each passenger spoke volumes to Hope.
“They’re just really lovely people. Everyone who I’ve met takes their job seriously. It is a calling for them. You don’t do nonprofit work like this unless there is a sense of calling involved. I’ve watched the drivers with much more seriously compromised people, and they are just incredibly kind, patient and caring. There is never a sense that they are looking down on anyone. They are just amazing and so professional and genuine. You can’t fake that kind of attitude,” said Hope.
When asked what she is most thankful for about ACCA’s transportation service, Hope said, “That it exists. Seriously. They are helping people help themselves and enabling people to take care of themselves. That is huge. I went from being one of the healthiest seniors you’d ever meet to my life being completely different and needing a lot of assistance. Suddenly, you’re no longer able to do certain things for yourself and you need help. So an organization that makes something so easily available, something that you desperately need, of course you’re going to support it.”
Want to learn more about ACCA’s Transportation Service and how you can support their mission? Visit https://www.accaging.org/services/health-wellness/transportation/