Paying It Forward

It was one of those occasions when coincidences weave into something quite extraordinary.

That morning, one of Freedom’s caregivers, Margaret, shared her mother’s story with me. Due to a doctor’s mistake, she told me her mother was scheduled for a leg amputation surgery later that month, and unless her mother had a wheelchair, she was in for a life of miserable existence.

Limb loss has profound physical and psychological ramifications.  For someone in the Western world, however, there are numerous support systems in place to deal with the emotional and physical issues that follow.

For Margaret’s mother in West Africa, losing a leg meant a complete and total isolation from the outside world.  Without means of moving around, bare survival would become nearly impossible. Finding a wheelchair was, therefore, of the utmost importance if that woman wanted to retain her independence.

As a team, we were compelled to help somehow. We were all moved by Margaret’s story, but what could we do?

The next morning, one of my colleagues ran into the daughter of a client who passed away earlier that week. The daughter greeted her with a question she did not expect to hear, “Do you know anyone who wants a wheelchair. We don’t need ours anymore.”

My colleague could not believe her ears and rushed to advise the team of this unbelievable coincidence.

“That is it,” I thought. “Problem solved.” Now all we needed was to find a way to get the wheelchair from North New Jersey to Ghana, West Africa.

It is not every day that I go to my local post office to ship a 40 lb. medical equipment to the other side of the world, so I did not know what I was getting myself into. When I found out how much that delivery would cost, I became disillusioned – to deliver a wheelchair to Ghana from the US would cost about $2,000.

Even if we raised money, it will take a long time. We needed to deliver that wheelchair to Ghana as soon as possible. Margaret’s mother was coming home from the hospital in two days.

As fate would have it, Margaret found out her countryman was flying back to Ghana the next morning and he agreed to deliver the wheelchair to her mother for a fraction of the price it would have cost to ship it. Freedom offered to pay for this man’s kindness, and the wheelchair was waiting in the home of Margaret’s mother in time for her arrival from the hospital.

This story could not have had a better ending. It is a beautiful illustration of how a series of coincidences along with acts of kindness can have such a major impact on someone’s life.

~ Elina Polyakov MSW, LSW