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December 2016

What Happens When You Just Can’t Get There from Here Because You’re Old?

Washington Watch


Pat Howard, living with multiple sclerosis for decades, gets around in a powered wheelchair since she can no longer put any weight on her legs. Last summer, her daughter Cindy was driving her 74-year-old mom back from an adult day care facility 30 minutes from her Santa Clarita, California, home when the car overheated and broke down.


“We were stuck,” Cindy recalled in a recent phone call. “I was freaked out about driving the overheated car and worried about our safety. Our only vehicle was now sitting by the side of the road.”


They called for a tow truck, called friends and anyone they could think of for help. Complicating matters, Cindy’s cell phone battery was nearly dead. Eventually, a friend got them to a nearby church, getting them some water and out of the scorching summer heat. Then they had to maneuver the car forward enough to set up a wheelchair ramp to get Pat out of the car.


A while passed because the auto club, AAA, was unable to locate a vehicle that could fit Pat and her wheelchair. Both Pat and Cindy feared they were stuck. “I felt despair,” she recalled. “Luckily I’m a person of faith so I knew something would work out. But you think, what am I gonna do? She can’t get out. Her wheelchair doesn’t fold and fit in a trunk. She needs it to get around.”


Fortunately, the folks at AAA had a unique option. They contacted Butterfli (correct spelling), a new Los Angeles-based tech start-up company, which provides assisted transportation for the elderly and the disabled for non-emergency situations like doctors’ appointments and hospital visits.


Butterfli sent a special wheelchair-enabled van with a medically-trained driver and was able to get Cindy and Pat home safely. Recalling the relief when the incident was over, an exasperated Cindy said “we were literally stuck with no options. . . . what would I have done if Butterfli wasn’t available?”


Debajyoti Ray, Butterfli’s CEO, sees Pat and Cindy as the kind of folks he set up the company to help.


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Christmas at Grandma's House


Watching the corn-stubbled fields glazed with ice crystals reflecting the full moon pass too quickly, I peered through the frosted windows of my uncle's car. Occasionally, a yard light pierced the darkness, shadowing the barns and sheds in an eerie glow that made my youthful imagination look for spirits. Maybe they were the spirits of Christmas. Maybe they were Santa's helpers. I tried to sit very still and soon fell asleep snuggled against my mother's warm fur coat.


In what seemed a brief moment, we were turning into the driveway at my grandparents' farm. I shivered in the cold, clear air, running to the warmth of my grandmother's embrace. Many times, my brother and I had spent summers on the farm, but we had never experienced winter there before.


The family farm had been inhabited by our ancestors for over 100 years.ts stately white house with pillars holding the beckoning overhead porch framed in white pickets, was always a temptation for my brother and me; we longed to climb out the bedroom windows onto the tempting overhang just to observe the far-flung empty fields.


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