Local Meals on Wheels driver saves Eugene woman's life

John, a Meals on Wheels volunteer driver, and Ferne, a retired teacher. Photo by Ellen Meny.

EUGENE, Ore.- A routine Meals on Wheels delivery turned into a visit that saved a Eugene woman's life.

John Carlile is a longtime Meals on Wheels volunteer, delivering weekly meals to people in Eugene. His clients are older people, or people who can't leave their homes.

Ferne Kellow is one of his clients- Carlile has visited Kellow every Thursday since the early 90s. They talk about everything.

"We talk about the weather, we talk about politics, we talk about whatever, the cats, what's on TV when I walk in," Carlile said.

Like clockwork, Carlile loads up his car with hot food, and drives from Food for Lane County to his Meals on Wheels clients' homes.

Kellow is a retired teacher- sharp, warm and talkative. She's not the type of person to lose her words, but one day, she did- in February of 2017.

"I walked over, and I asked, 'Ferne, would you like your lunch here, or in the kitchen'?" Carlile explained. "Normally, she would've answered which direction, but when she opened her mouth to speak it was gibberish."

"Intuitively, I knew something was wrong, because I had been talking to her every Thursday for years and years and years," Carlile continued. "I said, 'I'm very sorry if I was wrong to call 911, but I was going to call 911 because I felt like she was having a stroke'."

Carlile made the right call- Kellow was having a stroke. Paramedics took her to the hospital, where she began treatment immediately.

"If John hadn't called, and we hadn't had the timing right, it would've been the end of me," Kellow said.

After Kellow was settled in at the hospital, Carlile visited her- and, a few weeks later, he was delighted when she was back on his delivery list. Thanks to Carlile's presence and quick thinking, Kellow made a full recovery.

"That was a wonderful blessing, to know you've been through all that and still come out okay," Kellow said.

Rozlyn Fox with Food for Lane County says that's one of the more unknown benefits of the Meals on Wheels program- weekly check-ups, and developing a sense of what's normal in someone's life.

"Most of our volunteers are the same people who are going out every week, so they understand who these people are and what is normal for them," Fox said.

According to Meals on Wheels America, 90% of senior people who use the program in Oregon say it makes them feel more safe and secure. 92% of them say it enables them to remain living at home.

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