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Oklahoma tornadoes: Organizations replace medical equipment for storm survivors

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: July 1, 2013 at 10:22 am •  Published: July 1, 2013

John Roady had just gotten home from Walmart and wanted to bring the groceries inside.

But his wife, Helen, told him there wasn't time. She had been watching the news and knew the storm was too close for that.

And after almost 40 years of marriage, John Roady can admit when his wife is right.

“My father brought me up from the time I was a little kid to respect Mother Nature,” he said.

All that's left of the Roadys' home is the fireplace and foundation. The EF5 tornado that destroyed 1,200 homes in Moore and south Oklahoma City on May 20 took everything the couple had, including their wheelchair and walker.

But recently, that problem was solved when the Roadys were connected with Portlight Strategies, a South Carolina-based nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities in times of natural and man-made disasters.

Portlight is partnering with local and national organizations to replace wheelchairs, scooters, ramps and other medical equipment lost during recent storms, using a $25,000 grant through AmeriCares to pay for equipment and services.

The Roads are among about 200 Oklahomans with mobility issues who are expected to benefit over the next month from the groups' services, according to AmeriCares.

Roady is grateful to have his new walker and wheelchair. He used to be able to change an eighteen-wheeler tire in less than 45 minutes. But as he has aged, his knees have grown less dependable, and he needs help from a walker.

“If it wasn't for our health, I would be out here, doing things,” he said, looking at his home's foundation, speckled with debris.

Leigh Schumacher, an on-site disaster relief manager with Portlight, said over the past few weeks she has helped deliver power chairs, wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs and breathing equipment.

“Everyone is just gracious,” she said. “The people that we're working with aren't looking for a handout at all. They are just looking to take advantage of what has been offered to them, and they're just thrilled.”

People affected by the recent storms who need medical equipment replaced can contact the American Red Cross, who can connect them with Portlight. Residents in Moore can go to the Multi-Agency Resource Center at Westmoore High School and talk with the American Red Cross health services volunteers.

More than a month after the tornado destroyed their house, the Roadys are trying to get their lives back in order. Roady had planned to have knee replacement surgery, but once the storms hit, that surgery got derailed. He's trying to get around best he can with his walker.

For now, the Roadys will stay in a Moore retirement community until their home is rebuilt. They want to return to their neighborhood.

“This is a nice community,” he said. “I hate to think about coming back without my neighbors here.”

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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The people that we're working with aren't looking for a handout at all. They are just looking to take advantage of what has been offered to them, and they're just thrilled.”

Leigh Schumacher,
On-site disaster relief manager for Portlight Strategies


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