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Volunteers get patients to doctors Drivers take seniors, others to appointments


Friday was Lorna Mullineaux's last day of chemotherapy. And to get to her treatment, the 82-year-old east Columbia woman relied on a new-found friend.

Ottilie Grim, a volunteer driver for the Owen Brown Transportation Committee for Seniors and Physically-Challenged program, arrived shortly after 1 p.m. to drive Mrs. Mullineaux to the Central Maryland Oncology Center in Columbia's Village of Hickory Ridge.

The free trip was just one of many that Mrs. Grim and 27 other volunteer drivers make so seniors and the physically challenged can make their medical appointments.

Though the Urban Renewal Transportation Authority operates a similar service, Owen Brown's transportation program is the only one run by one of Columbia's 10 villages. And so far it's been useful, with drivers having logged more than 227 trips this year.

"I think they're all wonderful," Mrs. Mullineaux said, sitting in the front seat of Mrs. Grim's Oldsmobile station wagon.

About 10 percent of Columbia's 82,000 residents are senior citizens, but there's little public transportation in the new town. So for some seniors, the service sometimes becomes the only option -- particularly if they don't have families here or their relatives are too busy to drive them.

The program is particularly apt for Owen Brown, where large numbers of seniors live in the year-old Carriage Run housing complex for the elderly and the older Owen Brown Place.

Mrs. Mullineaux said that, if not for the volunteers, she would have to rely upon a friend who doesn't have much time because of an illness in her own family. She does not have family in the area.

Mrs. Mullineaux was diagnosed with kidney cancer and had surgery to remove a tumor more than 10 years ago. But "I kept telling the doctor there was something wrong because I couldn't get well," she said. Last month, she had a bone scan and the doctors found more cancer.

She had to undergo three consecutive weeks of chemotherapy. "It's pretty hard on you to go everyday at the same time," said Mrs. Mullineaux.

Though her treatment can be painful, she said, she's been touched by the support of drivers who have became friends as well.

The ride service began in the spring 1979 when Owen Brown started offering comprehensive services to seniors, including transportation and shopping, said Ruth Bohse, the village manager. When the number of volunteers fell, the village decided to just keep the one service that seemed to help the most.

Owen Brown seniors who need transportation can contact the village office and request a ride. The five staffers then call the volunteers in search of a driver. Usually, arrangements are made for a second volunteer to pick up seniors and take them home to avoid long waits.

Drivers use their own vehicles, said Antoinette Eckstrom, a staffer. "It's truly a service," she said.

Last Friday on her day off, Mrs. Grim picked up Mrs. Mullineaux for the second time. She helped Mrs. Mullineaux, who walks with a silver cane, into her station wagon.

"Today's your last treatment isn't it?" Mrs. Grim asked.

"Yes," Mrs. Mullineaux responded. "I had 16."

"I know you'll be glad when it's over today," Mrs. Grim continued.

When they arrived at the oncology center, Mrs. Mullineaux walked through the automatic sliding doors. Mrs. Grim sat in the empty waiting room. "She's a spunky lady," she said of Mrs. Mullineaux. "She really is."

About 15 minutes later, Mrs. Mullineaux appeared.

During the ride back, the women talked about the new entrance at the community college, the weather and her health. At one point, Mrs. Grim turned to Mrs. Mullineaux and joked: "You said Thank you [to the doctor] and I hope I never have to see you again, right?"

"No, I didn't say that," Mrs. Mullineaux said.

Mrs. Mullineaux was home just before 2 p.m.

"Take care of yourself, now," Mrs. Grim told her.

"Yes, I will," Mrs. Mullineaux said after thanking her driver.

Anyone who wants to volunteer should call the Owen Brown Community Center at (410)-381-0202.

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