Borrowing Medical Basics from VNA Health’s Loan Closet
This Unique Service Is Critical to Those Who Need Crutches, Wheelchairs, and More
By Leslie Dinaberg
‘Every action you take has consequences you can’t foresee. It’s the ripple effect. And when your actions are done with the intention of helping others, the ripples are wonderful to behold.’
‘During the early years, it was a mom-and-pop operation, except there were no pops — we were all women. We provided nursing care from the heart. It was not uncommon for us to get our patients’ mail, take out their garbage, cook, shop, do dishes and even do laundry for our patients.’
—Enid Pritikin, former employee at VNA Health for 34 years
The concept of helping patients get the services, assistance, and equipment they need during an illness or injury is so simple. But as anyone who’s ever navigated our healthcare system can tell you, the reality can be incredibly complex and frustrating.
The Loan Closet — owned and operated by VNA Health (vna.health) and serving Santa Barbara County since 1908 — is the exact opposite of most healthcare hassles. Staffed by David Moorman and Megan Cameron, with support from VNA’s COO Dusty Keegan and administrative assistant Susi Torres-Cruz, this warm and welcoming crew serves more than 4,000 residents each year with free short-term loans of basic medical equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, knee scooters, walkers, shower seats, and more.
While appointments are preferred, Moorman explained, “We welcome walk-ins. You never know when trauma is going to occur. We never turn anyone away. If someone shows up with a broken ankle, we try to help them. We take care of everyone. The benefit of an appointment is that we can make sure we have the equipment that they’re looking for and have it ready for them.”
Getting things ready includes sanitizing and repairing an impressive array of equipment to make sure it’s all in tip-top shape to be ready to loan out. “We really try to make sure that when people get equipment that it’s up to snuff,” said Moorman, who does most of the repairs himself. “They’re not just feeling like they’re coming down here and getting something for free and it’s junky. We actually take time and put a lot of money into our supplies to make sure that the things are refurbished.”
Most commonly borrowed items from the loan closet: commodes, shower seats, and walkers. | Credit: Erick Madrid
Fitting the equipment and training people on how to use it — including sending them home with written instructions — is also an important part of the service, which is completely supported through private donations and contributions. In fact, people don’t always know exactly what they need until they come in, like understanding the difference between wheelchairs and transport chairs. “You can be pushed in either, but wheelchairs are for people that are strong enough to be independently mobile and are much heavier to move in and out of cars,” said Cameron. “It’s 20 pounds versus 50 pounds.”
That means asking the right questions. “There’s not one cookie-cutter answer for everyone, so we try to nail that down and get to the bottom of it,” said Moorman. Added Cameron, “Often we have them try out what’s going to work at home and they can see all the different shower chairs and benches and work with the walker and be able to figure out what really works before they purchase it later on.”
As a free community service, the Loan Closet is open for anyone. “We get Hope Ranch; we get Montecito; we get the Eastside; we get the Westside; we get the entire community,” said Moorman. “We try to take care of everyone to the best of our ability.”
Fun Facts about the Loan Closet
Most commonly borrowed items: commodes, shower seats, and walkers
Most surprisingly useful items: grabbers, sock aids, and leg lifters
Hardest to come by and often requested item: “Bed rails are gold.”
Unusual items: Hoyer Lifts, which help those with mobility challenges get out of bed or the bath without the assistance of another person; and U-Step walking stabilizers, which are designed to prevent falls for neurological conditions like Parkinson’s.
Surprising item that’s always needed: tennis balls, to put on the bottoms of walkers.