GIVING A RIDE PROVIDES A LIFT
By LORETTA FULTON
Not long after the word “coronavirus” started popping up in the news, Brian Massey called social workers at Hendrick Medical Center to see if he could help.
Some people are just like that–looking to help, not looking to hunker down. Massey, founder of Houses for Healing, is one of those. Over the past few years, he has created a community of tiny houses on North Hickory Street for people from area communities to stay in while undergoing daily cancer treatments at one of Abilene’s medical facilities.
The patient and family members get to stay in a fully furnished house free of charge. Local and area churches sign up to provide groceries, transportation, and anything else needed.
So, it was no surprise that Massey called Hendrick to see if he could help. He called the mayor, too.
“I offered to help in whatever way I could,” Massey said.
What he got may not have been what he had in mind, but he didn’t flinch. For the past six weeks or so, Massey has been picking up people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus at a hospital or at the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District and giving them a ride to their home or wherever they are staying.
No coronavirus patients will be staying at Houses for Healing. Those are strictly for people undergoing cancer treatments in Abilene. Many of those that Massey picks up are homeless and are living temporarily in a hotel.
“They’ve been hit really hard,” Massey said of low-income Abilenians.
Right off the bat, Massey was asked to transport a six-month-old baby, diagnosed with pneumonia, and her parents to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. The father had lost his job and the couple didn’t have a vehicle. Nurses at Hendrick took up a collection to pay for a ride to Fort Worth.
“They called me,” Massey said,” and I took them to Fort Worth.”
The baby tested negative for coronavirus. Houses for Healing paid for an Lyft ride home. His ministry also is being aided by a $5,000 grant from the Shelton Foundation.
Originally, Massey had to self-quarantine for six days after each trip to pick up someone. He stayed in one of the empty rent houses he manages.
“That became inconvenient,” he said, “because I had to stay away from my family.”
Then, James Sargent, owner of Auto Aide, provided four Tyvek suits that make Massey look like an astronaut from an old movie. After each ride, Massey disinfects the inside of his pickup with Lysol and sanitizes his suit with a 50/50 bleach solution. Or, a family member does.
“They just sort of spray me down,” Massey said.
The suits are meant for one-time use, but can be used several times if they are sanitized. When Massey goes to pick someone up, he dresses in the suit and mask before leaving home. He turns up the heat in the pickup to aid in killing the virus and opens the back window for circulation. Stopping at a light can be an adventure. Imagine spotting a masked man in an all-white suit in the pickup in the next lane.
“I get very strange looks when I’m sitting at a stoplight,” Massey said. “I just sort of wave and look ahead.”
Massey doesn’t expect others to do what he’s doing, but he hopes his actions will inspire others to step up during the pandemic. To him, service is a calling.
“If we walked in the fullness of our calling,” he said, “this would be a different world.”