Provider medals in generosity

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - Provider David Hartley was only 14 years old when Bill Johnson took the gold medal in downhill skiing at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, but he remembers every minute of it.

"Bill Johnson was my hero as a kid," said Hartley, CEO of Indianapolis-based Home Health Depot. "I had a poster of him on my wall."

This weekend, Hartley will meet Johnson face-to-face when he flies to his home in Welches, Oregon, to fit him for a power wheelchair, set up a hospital bed and install a vehicle lift.

It turns out, while preparing for an Olympic comeback in 2001, Johnson took a bad fall that caused brain trauma and left him severely disabled. Hartley learned of Johnson's plight on a recent TV special. With no insurance and no income--Johnson auctioned off his guest tickets to this year's Vancouver Olympics to pay for health care--he has struggled with his declining mobility.

"At the end (of the TV show) he said he really needed a scooter or power wheelchair to get around," said Hartley. "I thought, 'I can do that.'"

Through several different connections, Hartley was able to have a phone conversation with Johnson's family. That's when he learned just how much help Johnson needed.

"He has nothing but a walker and he's to the point where he's falling five and six times a day," said Hartley. "He's completely lost his independence."

The provider's next step was contacting his sales rep at Invacare to see if the manufacturer would be willing to give him a discount. Instead, Invacare donated the chair and bed.

"It blew me away," said Hartley. "But, (Johnson's story) touched a spark."

Lift-maker Bruno also stepped up by donating a vehicle lift. All told, Johnson will receive about $8,000 worth of donated equipment.

Hartley is already looking ahead to how to help Johnson make his home more accessible.

"We will work with the family and take measurements and advise them of their options," he said. "If we can work to buy the equipment, perhaps the family can pay a local company to do home modifications."