TERRI DULEY ROSS IS THE FOUNDER AND SITE COORDINATOR OF THE NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION PROJECT CARAT PADUCAH (WWW.KATSNET.ORG/projectCARAT), WHICH IS AN EXTENSION OF THE KENTUCKY ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY SERVICES NETWORK. CARAT IS AN ACRONYM FOR COORDINATING AND ASSISTING THE REUSE OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY.
FOLLOWING IS OUR CONVERSATION WITH ROSS ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION AND HER WORK.
Why did you start Project CARAT Paducah?
Ross: As a new amputee, I didn’t know any other amputees and took the opportunity to talk to other amputees at physical therapy and doctor’s appointments. Many of these amputees told me that they were unable to afford durable medical equipment they needed or to pay the insurance copays required to receive a wheelchair, walker, or tub transfer bench.
My longtime friend, who enjoys going to garage and estate sales, told me she regularly saw durable medical equipment at these sales, often for only a few dollars. I told her that people with disabilities who felt like I did at the time would never go to these sales. As a result, we decided to team up and ask for donations of equipment to help new amputees get the equipment they need without any cost to them. Placing an ad in a local free newspaper brought in many donations.
This work was the beginning of what eventually became Project CARAT Paducah, and it soon became evident that we would need a central location with a warehouse to store our equipment. After a meeting with other Project CARAT representatives and Mercy Health (formerly Lourdes Hospital) representatives, Mercy Health agreed to provide our program with office and warehouse space, which they have been doing for almost four years.
Helping amputees, and now any Kentucky resident with a disability, receive durable medical equipment, ostomy supplies, nutritional supplements, and disposable undergarments has proven there is a huge need for this service. We also supply printed magazines and information for amputees to be able to take home and read.
Can you give us a couple of examples of Project CARAT’s assistance?
Ross: I recently heard about a bilateral amputee who had lost his business and was trapped in his home until a family member could come by to help him go outside. I remember not being able to go outside alone before we remodeled our home, and it’s a terrible feeling. At the time, we didn’t have a scooter to help this man, but we prayed for one. Then, after being out of the office for a few days, I returned and found a scooter in our warehouse that someone had donated just like he needed.
With this electric scooter and a ramp, we were able to give him instant freedom. I couldn’t be happier to help restore his dignity when he felt he had lost everything.
Recently, another amputee came in and asked if we could repair his wheelchair, which had no covering left on the arms. He was disappointed to learn he had to wait five years to get a new one, and insurance would not cover repairs. We offered to replace his chair with a gently used chair we had. He came in angry and upset, but after we replaced his chair for a small service fee, he left happy.
What do you get out of working with this organization?
Ross: Seeing the relief on the faces of people who tell us they didn’t know about our services and what a blessing we are to them when we’re able to provide equipment for them or a loved one makes our work worth all the effort. I feel I am doing the best job in the world when I am helping others. Even though I don’t take a salary for my work, when people ask if they can hug me, I know I’m doing what I am meant to do.
Image: Ross assigns tasks for the United Way volunteer day at Project CARAT Paducah. Image courtesy of VUE Magazine.