Spontaneity, that ability to go somewhere at a moment’s notice just because we feel like it, is something most of us take for granted. But for Omnitrans passengers like Therese Allen, it provides a treasured feeling of independence in a world where she relies on caregivers for many of her needs.
“Because of my situation, it’s a little challenging to travel,” says the Loma Linda resident. “I seldom have the opportunity to go out with other people because I’m not often asked. With Omnitrans, I’m able to be spontaneous like everyone else. If I wake up and feel like taking a short trip that day, I can do it. At least once a month, I treat myself to a bus ride to get a haircut or do a little shopping at the mall.”
When she was 14-years-old, Therese suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident which left her completely paralyzed except for limited use of her left hand. The shy daddy’s girl had to adjust to life in a wheelchair and learn to speak up. “If you’re in a wheelchair and need to push an elevator button or pick a pencil off the floor, you better get comfortable talking to strangers fast or you’ll be waiting around a long time,” laughs Therese.
An avid hockey fan, she credits one of her favorite teams with helping her adjust after the accident. “One of my nurses found out that I was a huge Portland Buckaroos fan and arranged for one of the players to visit me. It was amazing. I attended their games every Saturday and Sunday, and they really took me under their wing. They did so much for me. I was a teenager whose life had been turned upside down, and I had no idea where I would fit in. But they completely accepted me for who I am. Sports figures can be such inspiring role models to kids and have a positive impact on their lives. Now when I see teams like the LA Kings go out and visit kids, I hope they know what a world of difference it makes.”
Now 55, Therese has a great sense of humor and feels very comfortable in her own skin. She lives with her very independent cat, Gracie and spends much of her time reading on her Kindle or surfing her computer with help from Dragon dictation software. Photos of her beloved LA Kings hockey team fill her Facebook page and she frequently jokes with the players on Twitter. She enjoys catching up with friends at her monthly book club and watching the antics of the geese in the nearby Loma Linda veteran’s hospital park. Life is good, and little things mean a lot.
“Riding the bus is a nice break in my routine. I often go through long periods of time without much human interaction. So when a driver greets me with a friendly smile and goes beyond just his job, it makes me happy. I’m also very proud when a driver complements me on the way I handle my chair. Riding Omnitrans has been a good experience for me. I like getting out and wish I knew more places to go!”
–Juno Kughler Carlson
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