Program needs volunteers to drive cancer patients to appointments

(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
Updated: May. 2, 2019 at 7:10 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Darrell Damare is cruising through Baton Rouge, but he’s not driving around town for fun... or is he?

“We kind of got started doing it actually on our own,” Damare said.

To make things easier for a family member going through chemotherapy, Damare and his wife became her drivers.

“She was coming every couple of weeks to Baton Rouge for a chemo treatment," Damare said.

One car ride seven years ago changed Damare’s life. While driving a loved one home, he heard a commercial about a need for volunteers with the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program. That’s when complete strangers battling cancer turned into family drove her for the first time.

Jammed between people going to work or school, Damare spent his Thursday morning on the way to pick up his only patient for the day, Sandra Johnson.

“We kind of have a little bit in common,” he said. “We’re both from New Orleans.”

They’ve only met just once before, but you’d never know it. Damare says he took Johnson to an appointment for the first time two weeks ago. Johnson has been using the program for the last few months. She says it has become a lifesaver. She joins 500 patients who requested rides to appointments in 2018.

“Three hundred rides were met, but it’s those other patients that didn’t get to treatment that causes the real problem,” said Senior Manager of Mission Delivery Clara Carruth.

Carruth says any patient with cancer-related appointments can get a free ride. She says in 2018, 200 patients in East Baton Rouge Parish didn’t get a ride to their appointment because they are lacking in volunteers. Carruth says they only needed between 10 to 15 more drivers for the Baton Rouge area.

Johnson says since she was diagnosed in 2018, she worried how she would get to her doctor’s appointments.

“I was kind of anxious. Right now, it’s weekly. Every Thursday I go for treatment,” she said.

For that reason, Johnson says it’s comforting to have that listening ear on the way to intense treatment.

“I get a comfortable feeling like I’m one of your family members you’re taking around," Johnson said.

Carruth says volunteers are important because if patients “miss their treatment and things get delayed, sometimes that can actually cause them more problems.”

With less than ten minutes in the car to chat, Johnson has the boost she needs to get through the day.

“It’s not because I want this,” Johnson said. “It just happened to me, so I have to accept it.”

To volunteer with the Road to Recovery Program, click here.

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