Tennessean: United Cerebral Palsy provides gear to people with disabilities

December 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm Leave a comment

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By Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN

There was a six-month wait to get a correctly sized wheelchair ordered for Patricia Cullum’s 10-year-old son who has cerebral palsy.

But Cullum, of Brentwood, went to the equipment exchange program at United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee and found a wheelchair that fit Samuel, and it was free.

“He had outgrown the wheelchair, and it was unsafe,” Cullum said. “The one we had from UCP worked perfectly for the six months, and it didn’t cost a dime. Then, we returned it. They help a lot of people.”

United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee helps children and adults with all types of physical disabilities.

The organization’s equipment exchange program provides recycled medical and adaptive equipment to patients who can’t afford it. The organization serves 3,000 people a year.

The demand for medical equipment is unusually high this year because so many people had to leave their equipment behind to escape the flood in May, said Margaret Eighmy, director of the equipment exchange program.

There is a waiting list of 550 patients who need 1,200 pieces of medical equipment, Eighmy said. The program, she said, always needs wheelchairs, shower seats, benches, walkers and bedside commodes.

First come, first served

People apply for the service, and they can get, for instance, a donated wheelchair or other piece of equipment on a temporary basis, Eighmy said. The equipment is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“This helps people who are trying to keep the lights on,” she said. “They have to pay the rent. This makes life easier and safer.”

All the programs at United Cerebral Palsy promote independence of people with disabilities and also help family members and caregivers, Eighmy said.

The program gets refurbished, therapeutic and adaptive medical equipment, which must be in working condition when donated.

Cullum said she’s been using the equipment program since her son was 3. Bathing and toilet aids cost $500 each and insurance will not cover that cost, she said. “It’s a blessing to go in there and find equipment you need at the moment,” she said. “Insurance won’t cover bath support, even though it’s an everyday necessity.”

Bennie Sears, 35, has spina bifida and has used the program since he was 8. Sears was involved in UCP’s programs, including wheelchair basketball and soccer.

Now, Sears volunteers for UCP.

“They’ve helped me a lot,” he said. “I’ve been there all my life. They came out and built a ramp for me.

“They have helped so many people. They are good to everyone. I had to give back.”

On New Year’s Day, UCP will have its seventh annual 5K Run, Walk or Roll Resolution Run at the Hall of Fame Park in downtown Nashville. All proceeds benefit the equipment exchange program.

Patricia Cullum

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Entry filed under: Durable Medical Equipment Exchange, General, News, Programs and Services.

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