Health

Friday, Feb 01 2013 06:00 PM

Community's generosity to struggling family brings grandma to tears

BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

In Bakersfield, one good deed often begets another.

A prime example presented itself this week when Caroline and Elwood Elliott set out to fix Pamela Mayfield's truck.

Related Info

Getting help with type 1 diabetes

A Kern County nonprofit is reaching out to families dealing with juvenile diabetes to offer transportation assistance for out-of-town medical appointments.

Kara Barton, executive director for the Central Cal Type One Diabetes Foundation, said the group helps connect families with transportation because there are many families like Pamela Mayfield and her grandson Devin Vallejo who don't always have a reliable way to get to these appointments.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of families here that can't afford to just pick up and go to Fresno," Barton said.

The foundation also offers a monthly support group for families living with type 1 diabetes, teen activities and baskets packed with snacks for newly diagnosed children.

Visit centralcaltypeone.org to contact the group.

Mayfield was a stranger to the Elliotts until the retired couple read about her family's struggles getting treatment for her grandson's diabetes in Sunday's Californian.

Mayfield's grandson, 13-year-old Devin Vallejo, is covered by both Medi-Cal and California Children's Services, a state program for children with certain health conditions, but has to travel all the way to Madera to see a pediatric endocrinologist -- at Children's Hospital Central California.

With the family's pickup truck frequently on the fritz, Mayfield said it was hard to make it to Devin's out-of-town appointments.

"We've missed appointments quite a few times because of transportation," she said in that story.

After the article appeared, the Elliotts called Mayfield's house and offered to pay for the truck's repair.

"I was on the phone with them for about an hour (Monday)," Mayfield said. "We laughed and talked. I just told them, 'You guys are angels.'"

On Tuesday, Mayfield met the Elliots in person at Dick's Automotive and Service on State Road, where they turned the truck over to Dick Berg, a bowling league acquaintance of the Elliots.

"(The Elliotts) just kind of told me that they read an article in the paper about this girl," and wanted to help, Berg said. "I was impressed."

While the Elliotts took Mayfield home and headed for Bible study, Berg discovered a bad throttle position sensor was to blame for the truck's aliments. Within about an hour, the problem was fixed.

"As soon as I started my truck, I knew the difference," Mayfield said. "It didn't jerk, it didn't huff, it didn't do nothing."

The repair would normally cost about $250, but when Berg brought Mayfield the ticket to sign, there was no price on it. Berg picked up the bill himself.

"I couldn't even sign my name (to the ticket) because I was crying so much that I couldn't see," Mayfield said.

Berg said the Elliots were also "kinda shocked" by his move.

"I don't really have an answer for (why I did it), but I just felt like it was the right thing to do," he said Thursday.

Elwood joked that Berg stole his and Caroline's thunder, but said the mechanic's act of kindness wasn't odd for Bakersfield.

"It's not surprising here in this town. It's just the way it is," Elwood said.

The free repair wasn't Berg's first gesture to help out people struggling with diabetes. He has seen the disease's devastation in his own family and has donated to diabetes charities and participated in awareness walks.

"My dad was a diabetic and I know what diabetes does to people and how it ravages their bodies," he said.

The Elliotts also know the toll of living with diabetes. Elwood has had type 2 diabetes for about 10 years.

"It's something you deal with every day, it never goes away," Elwood said.

Diabetes is something Devin and his family will continue to grapple with, but their struggle may be a bit easier with a reliable vehicle and some new friends.

"Right now, I am flabbergasted," Mayfield said. "I'm so blessed that there are people out there that care."

Mayfield said she also received a call from a California Children's Services employee on Monday who said it would try to get Devin in to see a pediatric endocrinologist in Bakersfield.

"I don't know if that's possible," Mayfield said. "I'll believe it when I see it."

Mayfield said last year she tried to get Devin an appointment with a local pediatric endocrinologist who accepted Medi-Cal patients only to learn the doctor didn't accept those covered by California Children's Services.

-- Emily Bazar, senior writer for the CHCF Center for Health Reporting, contributed to this story.

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