Bonnie Causey has driven people on some of the best days of their lives. And on some of the worst.
Not long ago, she picked up a woman who’d just been declared cancer-free.
Another time, a man she was driving learned there was nothing more doctors could do for him. It was time to consider hospice care.
That was a hard day. But, “I was glad he didn’t have to sit there and wait for Dial-A-Ride or something to get him,” Causey said. “I could cry with him.”
The highs and the lows — they come with the territory.
Causey of Kennewick volunteers with American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program.
Through the program, volunteer drivers take patients to doctor visits, chemotherapy and radiation sessions and other treatment-related appointments.
The rides are free to the patients. The drivers provide the vehicle and cover gas.
The Tri-Cities has a handful of volunteer drivers, who are ready to take patients where they need to go.
But the program could use more volunteers — and patients, too. Officials are doing their best to spread the word.
Causey said it’s a meaningful program. “There’s definitely a need for it,” she said.
To volunteer, drivers must be ages 18 to 85, with a license, a good driving record and a reliable vehicle. They must pass a background check.
Rides are available to anyone going through cancer treatment. There’s no income threshold.
Some patients need multiple rides a week, others only need help every once in a while.
People get a lot of emotional support. They’re often forming friendships and connections.
Jerri Wood, American Cancer Society
Some have no family or friends nearby. Others have support, but their loved ones work or have trouble getting around themselves.
Often, when they climb into a Road to Recovery vehicle, they’re getting more than a ride.
“People get a lot of emotional support,” said Jerri Wood, a regional American Cancer Society official, who helps coordinate the program. “They’re often forming friendships and connections.”
The society has Road to Recovery programs all over the country. Causey, who’s retired from banking, drove in Mississippi before moving to the Tri-Cities about 1 1/2 years ago.
She’s made many trips to doctor’s appointments, to chemo and radiation sessions. She follows the patients’ cues.
If they’re cold, the fan goes off. If they’re hot, it goes on. If they want to talk, she’ll talk — about anything and everything. If they’d like to be quiet, that’s OK, too.
“A lot of times, especially if they’re doing chemo and sitting there for several hours, they’re just tired. They can go in feeling OK, and you pick them up and they’re completely wrung out. They just want to sit. I think sometimes just having somebody there is good. We don’t need to have a conversation,” she said.
Drivers don’t have to volunteer a set number of hours; they get to choose the rides they give and set their schedules.
A lot of times, especially if they’re doing chemo and sitting there for several hours, they’re just tired. They can go in feeling OK, and you pick them up and they’re completely wrung out. They just want to sit. I think sometimes just having somebody there is good. We don’t need to have a conversation.
Bonnie Causey, volunteer driver
These days, Causey has one regular patient — Gregoria Maguigad, 54, of Pasco, who’s battling pancreatic cancer.
Maguigad was diagnosed in the spring and is undergoing chemotherapy. Her husband works the graveyard shift, so without Causey, getting to appointments would be tough.
“I am very grateful that God sent Bonnie (into) my life,” Maguigad said the other day, when Causey came to pick her up.
“Bonnie is very, very understanding and a very good person. I’m very glad and I always pray for her. She’s very, very good,” Maguigad said.
Causey signed up as a volunteer because she likes to drive and wanted to give back, she said. But she’s the one who’s been enriched.
By Maguigad. By the others who’ve gotten into her car.
“You remember everyone you’ve taken. To me, they’re very strong people. I admire their strength and their ability to carry on with life, no matter what that brings,” she said.
She encourages patients to look into the service if they need help with transportation. And she encourages people to volunteer.
“You would never regret it,” she said. “It’s very satisfying.”
To sign up for rides or to inquire about volunteering, call 800-227-2345.