PAPILLION — Community reaction to the Papillion Volunteer Fire Department’s innovative new program for loan mobility and medical devices has been intense, according to the project organizer.
The Mobility Library’s mission – “to lend wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, etc., free of charge, when needed, when a medical condition dictates their use” – has created a wildfire online ever since PVFD’s Russ Zeeb talked about it on Facebook earlier. this month.
Zeeb said equipment donations have already been coming in and out the door of the Papillion Volunteer Fire Department Museum at 1001 Limerick Road at a rapid pace.
In the 45 minutes the Papillion Times toured the museum, the program received a walk-in from Papillion’s Angela Sumter along with a set of crutches and a bath handle.
Minutes later, Gracie Coon of Elkhorn drove up to borrow a wheelchair from her 12-year-old cousin Levi, who at the time was undergoing leg surgery in Omaha.
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Coon had called Zeeb in desperation. She left not only with a wheelchair but also a bath chair at Zeeb’s insistence.
“We just want to make sure we’re helping people,” he said.
The former deputy sheriff and volunteer firefighter spent a lot of time with calls, emails and messages from area residents, as well as collecting donated supplies.
In addition to ambulatory devices, the group will lend any other provided medical equipment that a recovering patient of any age might use.
“I don’t mean the sky is the limit, but the sky is the limit,” Zeeb said.
The mobility library was conceived during a recent cafe klatch in Hy-Vee, he said, when the topic turned to a friend’s mother and her need for a wheelchair after an operation. With post-pandemic supply chain disruption, medical devices are as scarce as other goods.
“You can’t stop at a gas station and get a wheelchair,” Zeeb said.
They can also be expensive. A low-end wheelchair starts at around $200 and walkers around $35 and up. Those with Medicare Part B must pay 20% of the cost if they fully meet all requirements and have met their annual deductible, according to the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Zeeb and his group realized that there were no local charities distributing outpatient supplies in the area, so they decided that their volunteers could step in and fill the void.
“There’s just no room available,” he said. “If someone breaks a leg or something, they need it now.”
The Papillion Volunteer Fire Department Museum, staffed by retired volunteer firefighters, has been a strong community organization for decades. The group provides automated external defibrillators as needed and hosts the Sarpy County Public Safety Tribute Ceremony to support first responders and commemorate the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Donations of new or used items can be made by calling Zeeb at 402-681-0929 to arrange pickup or drop-off. There are no restrictions on who can borrow the available materials.
“Most people are willing to help others,” Zeeb said. “That’s what makes Papillion special.”