Madeleine Young has been a dispatcher with Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society for the past three years. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Dispatcher calls appreciated by cancer patients

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society suspended service, but still reaching out to clients

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society may be sidelined due to the COVID pandemic, but that hasn’t stop some of the team from demonstrating the caring and compassion for which they’ve become synonymous.

Out of concern for the welfare of its clients, VCDS dispatchers such as Madeleine Young have been reaching out to every patient – if for nothing more than to say “hello.”

The volunteer organization temporarily suspended service March 17, on the advice of the BC Cancer Agency.

The decision was made over concerns that drivers and patients would have been at risk, said co-founder and vice president George Garrett.

“Most drivers are age 60 and older. Most patients are elderly. Some have a compromised immune systems while under treatment for cancer,” he explained.

But, while transportation service is suspended, concern for patients continues.

During the past few weeks, dispatchers at VCDS have been reaching out to every patient to say hi and to find out how they were coping in this time of isolation.

“For many who are living alone, we found patients needed help with many things such as shopping, picking up prescriptions, and getting to a bank. Many turned to family, friends, and neighbours for rides to treatment. A few took advantage of taxi vouchers issued by the BC Cancer Agency,” said Young, a retired medical secretary who’s been dispatching for the past three years.

Living alone herself, Young said she knows what it’s like to miss the human interaction – especially the regular contact she’s used to with her team of 34 drivers working the Langley, Aldergrove, and Abbotsford area.

Patients are “delighted” to be receiving calls from dispatchers, said Young, who has received many kind words from the clients.

One said: “Your service was like a Godsend to me. I have always been impressed with your drivers.”

Another patient said, “I wanted to thank the last driver I had before your service was suspended. The driver came right into the hospital with me and sat by my side while I was waiting for treatment.”

“We may not be able to provide patients with transportation for now, but they are never far from our hearts,” Garrett said, commended the volunteer dispatchers for going that extra mile and connecting with people.

The entirely volunteer-run society typically drives patients who otherwise have no access to private transportation to and from treatment appointments, providing both essential support and peace-of-mind.

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society is a free service that lessens the burdens of cancer patients in the Lower Mainland, including Langley, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and Mission.

Since inception in February 2016, the organization has 198 drivers and dispatchers who have volunteered 93,128 hours, offered 58,886 patient trips, and driven 1.73 million kilometres.

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