STEINAUER/BURCHARD (SNR) - After a serious illness, injury or surgery, many people have a temporary need for durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, shower seats and so on.
Unfortunately, the cost of such equipment is usually borne by the patient and their family instead of insurance or Medicare.
Rob Voigtlander of Saint Anthony Parish in Steinauer works as an occupational therapist, so he sees how much of a burden this can be for some families.
"Medicare doesn’t cover a lot of this equipment," he revealed. "It will only buy you one walker in a lifetime, and it won’t buy any bath benches or pretty much everything else."
It’s especially difficult to make a sizeable investment in medical equipment when an item is only going to be used for weeks or months.
Over time, Mr. Voigtlander found himself collecting durable medical equipment that patients no longer needed.
"People had given me some equipment, and my employer had given me quite a bit of equipment to try to get to people," he explained.
As a member of the Knights of Columbus Council #10000 (of St. Anthony Parish in Steinauer and Sacred Heart Parish in Burchard), Mr. Voigtlander decided to take the project to his brother Knights.
"The service part of the Knights’ mission is to serve the parish and the community," he said. "We can serve the community with a great opportunity to get medical equipment to the people who need it."
So, he brought up the idea at a council meeting and was met with an enthusiastic response. The Knights began advertising the program in church bulletins, and a local newspaper ran an article about it.
Several families have already benefited from the opportunity to borrow free medical equipment.
"They’re all very grateful," Mr. Voigtlander said. "It was very convenient, and they didn’t have to spend their money. They could spend it on other things they needed."
Currently, the Knights are storing donated equipment in Mr. Voigtlander’s garage and basement. They have around 75 items in stock, including walkers, canes, shower benches, grab bars and more.
As more people hear about the Knights’ efforts, more donations have come in. A fellow St. Anthony parishioner who works at a doctor’s office recently offered to bring the Knights some used wheelchairs.
Some benefactors have donated money as well.
"The hope is that we can buy some items if we are short on things," Mr. Voigtlander said. "Or we can replace items as they get worn."
He’s grateful to the people of St. Anthony and Sacred Heart parishes, and his employer, Physical and Respiratory Therapists, for all their contributions and ongoing support.
"I would like to see it continue to grow," he said. "Maybe some other Knights groups can pick it up in their communities."
Anyone in need of medical equipment in the Steinauer or Burchard area can contact the Knights of Columbus to see if they have the right item available. Patients and donors can also contact Mr. Voigtlander directly at (402) 852-6543.