Above and beyond
What seemed to be a problem without a solution proved to be a solvable situation with some teamwork drummed up between unlikely and seemingly unconnected collaborators.
The upshot of that solution left one Woodburn mother and caregiver beyond grateful.
Hillary Gutierrez explained recently that for more than a year she had been trying to obtain official identification through the local Department of Motor Vehicles for her physically challenged son, 16-year-old Hyrum Chase Gutierrez. The process seemed formidable with multiple obstacles, not the least of which is that Chase is requisitely supine.
"When he is transported anywhere, he is ambulance transported, and he cannot be taken off the stretcher; it is very difficult to move him because he has osteopenia, which is a bone issue, and he can break very easily. His underlining diagnosis is charge syndrome; it's a gene missing, and it can be very complex," Hillary explained.
Added to that is the requirement of a photo for DMV identification, and the department's stationary camera is fixed so it only takes photos of a person sitting.
While Chase needed the ID as a requirement for certain special treatment for his pain, Hillary sought solutions, and none seemed to be forthcoming.
"The physicians at Doernbecher Children's Hospital tried to help," she said — to no avail. "I was at the end of my rope."
That's when she called Woodburn Ambulance and asked if they could make a "charity run." WA returned her call with an affirmative.
"We have been taking care of Hillary's son for years and feel a real bond with them," Woodburn Ambulance Service Chief Operating Officer Shawn Baird said.
Several seasoned paramedics with decades of service between them at WA were summoned to the task — Toni Grimes, 35 years; Lara Forste, 27 years; Kate Crain, 18 years. So, the challenge from that end looked promising.
Toni said she immediately brainstormed with her WA cohorts, looking for solutions. Many ideas were tossed around, but to make this work, they ultimately needed to team up with DMV personnel. She went to Woodburn DMV branch to investigate.
"I would like to throw kudos to Stephanie Cross," Toni enthused. "She is the customer service manager there (Woodburn DMV). I talked to Stephanie about how we could do this, and she was very engaged, and very positive that we could work something out.
"That day she talked to the Salem (DMV) headquarters about getting a technician to come to Woodburn, remove the camera and position it so that we could get Chase photographed."
Another weighty thought for Hillary was Chase's heightened vulnerability during a pandemic climate. She is intensely cautious with her own activity, knowing what a COVID-19 contraction could have grave consequences for her son.
"We have to double mask here. And shield. If I were to bring something home from the grocery store, it could kill him," Hillary stressed.
That also meant that Chase would not be able to visit the DMV during regular hours. But Stephanie engaged that problem as well, getting special training for some DMV employees specifically for this visit. Then on a prearranged day she opened up an hour early so that one patient, brought in by Woodburn Ambulance, could be served.
It was an unusual scenario, for sure.
"We don't normally take people to the DMV," Toni quipped. "But we've known Chase pretty much all of his life."
The paramedics said this was the first time they transported Chase for something that wasn't a medical situation, so they welcomed the opportunity.
Lara added that since the DMV service was necessary for certain treatment, hopefully this trip will serve to avoid a more serious one down the road.
"We looked at it as preemptive; there are issues that might happen if he doesn't get the treatment he needs," she said. "Because then we might be seeing him in more of a crisis situation."
"This wasn't necessarily a medical transport; this was to take care of his pain," Toni added. "He needed that ID for certain treatment, so this was to facilitate medical treatment. If we can do that proactively, that keeps a bad thing from happening later."
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