Volunteers help patients get on the road to recovery

LIHU‘E — Even though Roxanne Vidinha is retired, her days are busier than ever. The retired ‘Ele‘ele businesswoman spends her time driving cancer patients from their homes to their medical appointments as part of American Cancer Society’s transportation program, Road to Recovery.

While most cancer patients rely on friends and family to transport them to the doctor appointments, there are some people who are left without a ride, explained Vidinha.

That’s where she and other Road to Recovery volunteers come in.

The program pairs volunteer drivers with cancer patients who need transportation to and from their scheduled medical appointments. The drivers donate their time and use of their personal vehicles to help patients receive the lifesaving treatments they need.

“I utilized this service for my mother,” Vidinha said. “I’m a cancer survivor, and when my mom passed away with cancer eight years ago, I asked ‘How can I give back?’”

A cancer survivor herself, Vidinha was diagnosed with colon cancer six years ago.

“It was so, so devastating,” Vidinha recalls. “I remember the day I got the news.”

Vidinha said she was driving into Lihu‘e when she received a call from her doctor with the news. Ironically, Vidinha was on her way to see a lawyer about creating a will for her and her husband. Today, Vidinha celebrates a year of being cancer free.

Vidinha volunteers to drive patients who live in the South Shore or West Side, and Heidi Reed is a volunteer for the East Side and North Shore. But the program needs more volunteers, Vidinha explained.

“With the price of gas, it’s hard to get people to volunteer,” she said. “I spent $60 to $70 a week on gas, but that’s OK. It makes me feel good. It’s so sad people with cancer who don’t use our service. Sometimes they are more comfortable with family, but we are the next best thing.”

Vidinha picks up a patient at their home, then drives them into Lihu‘e to the Fusion Center at Wilcox Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Whether a patient’s medical appointment lasts one hour or seven, Vidinha stays in town until they are ready to go home.

“You are working with all these people, and you become family,” she said. “People say not to get so close, but how can you not? This is more rewarding than getting paid. You go through their journey with them.”

Road to Recovery is a free service and patients do not need a referral from their doctors.

In order to be eligible to volunteer, drivers must have a valid driver’s license and have a safe, reliable vehicle and proof of auto insurance. Drivers must have a good driving history and be in good health.

Call American Cancer Society Community Manager Susan Oshiro-Taogoshi at 246-0695 or email susan.oshiro@cancer.org to learn how to volunteer or sign up for the program.

•Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.

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