Home-bound man struggling to find transportation to doctors

NOW: Home-bound man struggling to find transportation to doctors


WALKERTON, Ind. - A Walkerton man is feeling hopeless after his fruitless search to find transportation to his doctor appointments leaves him stuck. He’s sharing his story only with ABC 57 News in the hopes of spurring a solution.

As of 2015, the Census Bureau reports that St. Joseph County is home to nearly 26,000 people under the age of 64 who are classified as disabled.

For those physically unable to drive themselves to their appointments, they could be in big trouble if they live off the beaten path.

Unfortunately, 55-year-old Dale Wildhart fits that bill.

I feel hopeless--hopeless because I never depended on nobody but myself, and now I have to depend on our government, and it’s not working,” said Wildhart.

Dale Wildhart’s struggle all began on November 22, 1981, when the then 19-year-old got hit by a car.

“The car hit me at 80 miles per hour because he was speeding and threw me 150 foot in the air, and I landed prone,” he said.

The crash left him with permanent spinal cord injuries—and to come to terms with the fact that he would never walk again.

Fast forward 30 years, Dale contracted MRSA, a sometimes incurable infection.

“He told me my only alternatives were to die a slow death or to get my legs amputated,” said Dale.

He chose to live, but now he’s facing challenges beyond the wheelchair.

For the past few years, he’s had no way to get to his doctors’ appointments.

“There’s no one that’s local enough that wants to come down to Walkerton to perform the services that I need,” said Wildhart.

For the most part, his appointments are in the South Bend area.

Most of the non-emergency ambulance companies he called looking for help told him he’s either too far or they don’t have the right equipment.

“The last time I was able to see a physician is the one I was able to get to by my power chair…I literally rode up in my power chair. We’re talking about a 10 minute jaunt. It goes seven miles an hour, so then there’s really no sidewalk. I had to go down the street,” said Dale.

“I wish I could just call like I used to be able to call, schedule for the ride two days in advance an d not have to worry about it and not lose sleep over it,” he said.

REAL Services in Marshall County helps to coordinate Dale’s care, and they said in an email:

“There are less than there has been in previous years providing the service and especially with rural communities and even harder to find for people with many complex medical needs. It is entirely up to a provider to decide if they will provide transportation.”

While Dale looks on his own, he’s two years behind seeing some of his doctors.

“How am I going to see a doctor if I get to a point and don’t have to go to the emergency room and go through all that when it can be preventative…I’ve already lost my legs. There’s nothing else to lose,” he said.

For now, he’s trying to take care of himself in the hopes that someone will soon be able to answer his question:

“How do I solve something I have no control of?”

Dale said he has been in contact with someone from Senator Donnelly’s office, who has assured him that she will do her best to work with Medicare to find programs to aid him.

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