CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — Out of the hundreds of cancer patients being treated at the Medical University of South Carolina, many are often too sick or too weak to drive to treatment. It’s the driving force behind the American Cancer Society’s program, Road to Recovery.
The program pairs volunteers with patients in need of transportation, picking them up and driving them home after appointments.
Each patient is given a treatment schedule that best improves the chances for recovery. Drivers are often able to help patients keep that schedule, but here in the Lowcountry the program lacks support.
Last year, 36 patients were in need of 625 rides in Dorchester, Berkeley, and Charleston Counties. Only 319 of those rides were fulfilled.
There are 39 active volunteers in the tri-county area, but only 13 provided rides in 2016. This year that number is only 12.
However, one volunteer goes above and beyond. Barbara Matzelle provided 116 rides last year and has provided 34 rides already this year.
We spoke with Barbara at MUSC after she took a long time rider, William Quarles, to his last radiation treatment.
“Where the impossible is possible,” Quarles said as he walked through the halls of MUSC’s main building. He was on the way to the radiation lab, and what he hopes is the final treatment he ever needs. It’s Quarles second battle with cancer. First, it was in his prostate, then it spread to his lungs.
On this day he wore a smile and held his head up high, knowing he would ring the bell that hangs on the wall outside the treatment center. The bell is a symbol of accomplishment, rung on the last day of treatment.
“You’ve got to have confidence, you’ve got to be sure of yourself,” he told us.
He also admits that he never would have made it this far without the help of Matzelle. She drove him to more than 40 of his treatments, this time and last. She also drove his wife, a breast cancer survivor.
“It’s probably one of the most rewarding jobs that I’ve ever had,” says Matzelle. “Patients stress when they can’t get to their treatments[…]and I said I won’t let a patient miss a treatment if I can help it.”
She certainly wouldn’t let Quarles miss one.
“If it wasn’t for that crew I wouldn’t be screaming champion today believe me,” said Quarles. “Knowing me I would have found some excuse to lay around and say, ‘Aw I’ll get to it later.'”
It was Matzelle’s sacrifice that he says got him to the hospital. He completed his treatments on schedule.
The American Cancer Society now say they need drivers who are also able and willing to make a difference. To get involved you can head over to their website and sign up.