Local pair organizing hope, help for the
physically challenged, caregivers
By DAVE MYERS
Southwest Kansas Catholic
John Trombley struggles daily due to a problem knee and shrapnel in his back, the latter of which he received while serving in Vietnam.
Sara Smith is a caregiver to her husband, Rawlin, who is suffering the latent effects of Agent Orange, a chemical weapon to which he was exposed—also while serving in Vietnam.
But this isn’t about Trombley and Smith.
This is about all veterans—and anyone else—who are living with disabilities and could use a helping hand, a bit of instruction or advice, maybe someone to talk to.
It started with Bob Hamilton, the Visually Impaired Service Coordinator at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita. His idea is to provide greater support for the physically challenged veterans and public throughout Western Kansas.
Hamilton shared his idea with Bishop John Brungardt, who notified Father Bob Schremmer, who contacted Smith.
“And Sara contacted me,” Trombley said. The pair are uniquely qualified to bring Hamilton’s dream to Southwest Kansas, both because of their personal experiences, and because they each house a heart- and faith-filled desire to help others.
While they have a special place in their hearts for disabled veterans (for whom, thanks to their experience and the support of Hamilton, they will be able to offer special attention) their goal is to serve all those with disabilities, and all those who care for them.
“We want to bring information and solutions to the challenges that persons with disabilities face,” Smith explained. “People are dying in the recesses of their home because they don’t know there is help out there.”
As “purveyors of information”, the group will offer helpful advice about (among many other things): Medicare and how to apply for it; how to use health care appliances properly; where to get help for simple, every-day challenges; what benefits are out there that can help financially; where you can go for help that doesn’t include driving across the state.
“We have experts in southwest Kansas,” Trombley said, experts that the two hope will offer some of their time and expertise to extend Hamilton’s mission to southwest Kansas so that no person facing physical challenges has to travel for answers, including disabled veterans who must travel to the Veterans Affairs facility in Wichita.
“If it’s a question of mobility in Sublette, we go to Sublette,” Trombley explained, “We don’t want them to come to us, but for us to go to them. We encourage sharing solutions between caregivers, the people with disabilities and the professionals.”
“We want more things from the Veterans Administration out here,” Smith added. “For us to get Rawlin to Wichita for treatment was a big deal. If we can save someone from that …. A 24-hour caregiver doesn’t have the energy to go to Wichita.”
The pair also wants to strengthen the emotional support between caregivers and people with disabilities, by sharing experiences, challenges and solutions, including care options.
“If you find something that works, share it!” Smith said. This summer, Rawlin [Smith’s husband] wanted to exercise in the lazy river at a water park but couldn’t because of his oxygen tank. Rather than feel sorry for himself, he got the creative juices flowing. He invented a special raft made to support his oxygen tank in the water.
“He figured out that he should share that knowledge,” Smith said, proudly.
“Sometimes these people are pitied,” she said, referring to people facing physical challenges. “They are not helpless or incapacitated. They are smart, inventive and creative. They are to be respected.”
The organization is still in its early stages. Eventually it will begin offering workshops throughout the diocese. Those wishing to volunteer their time to help Smith and Trombley may call the Catholic office at 620-227-1519. In the meantime, Smith and Trombley would like to gage the interest for such an organization. They are asking interested individuals to fill out the needs assessment survey included on this page, and to submit it to the office of the Southwest Kansas Catholic to: Disability Issues, 910 Central, P.O. Box 137, Dodge City, KS 67801.
“We have gotten to know a number of veteran couples who have gone through treatment programs,” Smith said. “We have to stand beside each other. There are people who can do it alone, but relationships make it so much easier.”
Return survey to:
Disability Issues, 910 Central,
P.O. Box 137, Dodge City, KS 67801.
Be sure and include your name, address and phone number:
NEEDS ASSESSMENT SURVEY
- Check the disabilities you have or may deal with in the future.
□ Hearing loss
□ Speech Communication Issues
□ Emphysema Lung/Breathing Issue
- Are you currently a caregiver for someone with a disability? □ YES □ NO
- Below is a list of activities that can be difficult, depending on your circumstances. Check the box for any that is difficult for you now, or might become difficult in the future.
□ Meal Preparation
□ Managing Money
□ Light Housework
□ Transferring in and out of bed or chair
□ Using Telephone
□ Managing Medication
□ Heavy Housework
- Below is a list of issues/conditions/concerns, which could affect an individual’s quality of life. Check the box which is or may become a problem for you:
□ Household Chores
□ Legal Affairs
□ Obtaining information about services
□ Taking care of another person: □ Child under 18 years of age □ Adult
□ Receiving services/benefits
□ Health Care
□ Money to live on
□ Other ___________
- Would you like to attend a workshop about disability issues? □ Yes □ No
- What other topics about disabilities would you like to see addressed at a workshop?