PORT ANGELES — A good deed originating in Agnew, bolstered in Port Angeles, packaged in Sequim and delivered in Ohio has given a disabled woman something she has lacked for many years — the freedom of mobility.
Rebecca Stebler — 31, of Shelby, Ohio — was born with spina bifida, a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. She said she has been in the process of obtaining a motorized wheelchair through Medicaid for many years that would allow her to become more self-sufficient and to travel outside her home, which had been impossible for several years.
It was through prayer, Stebler said, that she was able to connect with Robert and Susie Malone of Agnew, who just happened to have the exact wheelchair she needed sitting unused at their home — a Jazzy Select 6 Ultra.
Robert coordinated with many people from around the country to figure out how to get the inoperable, 200-pound chair in working order and shipped to Ohio, he said last week.
The chair was repaired free of charge — using more than $800 in donated parts — by Paul Gillam, Jim’s Pharmacy service department manager, and then shipped by UPS, also free of charge, to Ohio. It arrived last Wednesday to a much delighted Stebler.
“I was just filled with so much joy and gratitude,” Stebler said Friday over the phone from her Ohio home.
“It has done wonders,” she continued. “I am [finally] able to cook [for] myself, reach the cupboard, get cups and get in and out of the bathroom by myself. I can finally put up my door on my bedroom. I had to take off my door because the old wheelchair didn’t fit through my doorway very well without scratching the door.”
It was a long road from Agnew to Shelby, Robert said, adding it began many years ago as another act of kindness bestowed upon Susie.
“My wife broke her leg back in 2007 and it was a terrible break and she was in the hospital in Harborview for a long time with multiple surgeries,” Robert said.
“It came to my attention she was not going to be allowed to come home and convalesce unless certain things were met. She needed a wheelchair and an electric hospital bed.”
Robert was unable to pay for the expensive equipment himself, he said.
“I didn’t have the money. We are on Social Security. Lo and behold, out of the blue a volunteer stepped forward who had both of these things. Her husband had just died and he was the actual user of the hospital bed and the wheelchair. She graciously gave it to me.”
It “was a lifesaver for us,” Robert said.
“My wife was able to come home and convalesce at home. Eventually she got well — her walking was restored.”
The woman who donated the gear, whose name has been lost to time, Robert said, provided the equipment with the caveat the Malones give it to someone else who needed it in the future.
Earlier this year, he became aware of Stebler’s plight via a Christian prayer group on Facebook, he said.
“They are also on a fixed income and they had petitioned Medicare from Ohio for the very wheelchair I had given them and had been waiting on the list for years and years,” he said.
“It didn’t take me long to put two and two together. I realized I didn’t have the wherewithal to get this thing to her.”
That is when he began enlisting the help of others.
“I started to do some research,” Robert said. “I called UPS corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., and after a week I got connected with Alice Turner.”
Turner said UPS could ship the wheelchair free of charge, Robert said.
Turner could not be reached for comment over the weekend.
Before it could be shipped off, the chair needed to be fixed by a professional.
“Both batteries were shot because they were not being used,” Robert said.
“A brand new battery for a wheelchair like that has a life expectancy of a little over a year. It needed two new batteries at a cost of $120 a piece. Plus, it needed control arm wiring which had been damaged.”
That was an additional $600 to fix, Robert said.
“Jim’s Pharmacy ate all that and put it in good working order for the cause,” he said.
“It seemed like a good cause,” Gillam said Saturday.
Once it was completed, Robert said he transported the chair to the UPS Store in Sequim.
UPS corporate “not only paid for the shipping, they paid for the crating cost as well, which was substantial” due to the large size of the wheelchair, Robert said.
Gail Allyson King, Stebler’s mother, said the whole ordeal was divinely inspired.
“When we moved into this house in November of 2014, she was unable to get into my vehicle with her old wheelchair,” King said.
“There was no way to transfer her. It was a moot point.”
That is when the family turned to prayer, King said, and ultimately made contact with Robert, a total stranger.
“God meets the needs of his people through his people,” King said.
“This is not just the effort of one man but many people who decided to take this on as an effort in prayer to kind of lay tracks for the engine to move on.”
Faith “can be very tangible, very real and very practical as is seen with the outcome of this chair for my daughter,” King said.
Robert said he also felt the hand of God throughout the process.
“I can’t tell you how much that is the case,” he said.
“I shake my head because it really was divinely inspired. It went through like it had a tailwind. God was in this.”
Robert said the best part of the whole project was that he could help make a difference in the life of someone so far away.
“It swells your heart to about four or five times the size,” he said. “It makes you feel good.”
Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected]ninsuladailynews.com.