Meals on Wheels Volunteers Deliver A Meal & Save A Life

Barbara Patty

At the established age of 75, Barbara Ciabattoni has endured more than her fair share of life’s obstacles. Within the last year, she lost her husband and underwent chemotherapy as well as triple bypass surgery. Barbara held strong through both; however, her visiting nurse suggested that she register for the Meals on Wheels program. Barbara continued her daily routine with her feline companion, Timmy, and received frequent visits from a Meals on Wheels volunteer, Steve Sugalski.

“I believed the worst was over,” Barbara says in her Exeter home. Instead, life threw her a curveball.

On a cold winter Friday, Steve was making his rounds with Patty Barker, Berks Encore-Birdsboro Center manager, who had filled in for an absent volunteer. The route had gone as normal, yet they had no indication of the situation they would find themselves in next.

After knocking on Barbara’s front door several times with an untimely response, Steve entered the home to find Barbara in a weak state of being. She was dehydrated and could barely lift herself off the couch. Steve called out to Patty for help. Upon inquiry, Patty learned that Barbara had been feeling ill for days and hadn’t reached out to her doctor or family.

“It [the illness] hit me so quickly,” Barbara reiterates. “I could barely get to the door. They saw I was in distress.”

Quickly, Patty called the Reading office to contact Barbara’s son. In the meantime, Patty stayed with the ill woman, giving her company, comfort and peace of mind knowing help was on the way.

In disclosure, “I was so miserable, but Patty was so kind. She took charge and knew what had to be done.”

When her son David arrived, Barbara was transferred to Reading Hospital by ambulance. After two weeks of hospital stay and another two weeks of rehabilitation, Barbara was able to return home. During her recovery, doctors discovered that not only was she dehydrated, she had also developed a staph infection and pneumonia. Though her illness dissipated, she was still very weak and was required to undergo mild physical therapy.

“Weakness is a terrible feeling,” Barbara admits. “Steve and Patty were just wonderful; they saved my life. The [Meals on Wheels] volunteers are truly amazing… They show you that there are a lot more good people in a world where you only hear about the bad.”