A Free Ride on the Road to Recovery

Volunteer drivers needed for cancer patients

Dick Tuttle is helping Irma Dehuelves on her “Road to Recovery” from breast cancer. 

This is the third time Tuttle has picked up Dehuelves at her home in South Miami Heights to drive her to radiation treatments at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He is a volunteer with the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery program, providing free transportation to patients like Irma.

“I need the service because I have no insurance, no transportation. It's the only way I can take care of myself,” said Dehuelves.

Tuttle has logged more than 3,000 miles on his personal car, but he doesn't see himself as just a driver. 

“On the road to receiving hands-on treatment by the medical professionals," he said, "you're also part of the process of dealing with that."

Tuttle is a retired prison chaplain who makes good use of the long drive, talking to Dehuelves about her upcoming mammogram.

“This patient that I had who was going through chemo," he recalled, "we used to talk about living in the moment. I'm trying not to think about it, but it's really hard.”
Tuttle is part of the support system making sure cancer patients get the treatments they need. A surrogate of sorts for loved ones unable to help.

"I’ve had a patient call her daughter to talk to me just to say thank you because [she] can't be there," he said.

For Dehuelves, home to hospital is more than 20 miles each way.

"The public transportation system is not adequate enough for patients to come from one point to another. Especially if a patient is really really sick, waiting for a bus is going to take a lifetime,”  explained American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Mara Chavannes. 

Making it to all her daily radiation treatments increases the odds that Dehuelves's cancer will be controlled. Lack of transportation is one of the main reasons patients miss their appointments.
Tuttle is one of 32 volunteer drivers. At least 100 are needed. To find out about participating in the Road to Recovery, contact the American Cancer Society at 1800-ACS-2345.
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