BADGER - Patients in a nursing home or assisted living facility often have no way to get to doctor appointments or even go shopping.
That's when Kathy Johanson, of Badger, steps in at Friendship Haven. A 31-year employee of the complex, she drives residents as part of the medical transportation department.
That could be a shopping bus or stops at the doctor, lawyer, bank or even hair appointments.
-Messenger photo by Sandy Mickelson
Kathy Johanson, a transport driver for Friendship Haven, releases the safety straps on a patient’s wheelchair when she brought him back to Tompkins Center after a doctor’s appointment.
"Wherever they need to be and it makes them happy," she said. "Some days it gets a little rat-racy, but we make it, we do it."
This is a free service for anyone in skilled nursing care, she said, but there's a small charge for others.
"The family meets us at the doctor's office, but we take the patient," she said. "Half an hour early."
At Your Service
A weekly look at area residents who have chosen a life of public service
Position:?Medical transportation for Friendship Haven
Hours worked: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday
How to reach her:?573-2121
It can be an iffy situation, if anything would go wrong, but the plan works.
"I love it when a plan comes together," she said. "It just works so well."
The former Kathy Dencklau started work at Friendship Haven right out of high school.
"I worked for five years in the health center as a nurse's aide," she said. "I took five years off to raise my family, but then I went back to Friendship Haven."
So she's really worked there for 36 years, she said, "but they don't count that. When you start over, you start over fresh."
In the last 31 years, Johanson spent 10 years as a certified medical assistant in the Heritage East and West buildings.
"Then the transportation job came up, and I decided to take that," she said. "I needed to get a chauffer's license."
When she looks back on her time at Friendship Haven, she doesn't know exactly what drew her there in the first place.
"I just needed a job, I guess," she said. "It was just out of high school."
Johanson lives in Badger with her husband, Steve, who is co-owner with Brian Fischel of Smoked Ribs and More. They'll be married 38 years in February, and their three children - Stephanie, Andy and Megan - are grown.
"I was born in Badger and will probably die in Badger," Johanson said. "I grew up there and went to school there - up to the sixth grade - met my husband there, got married there and still live there."
Not in the city itself, but close by.
She said she's known her husband since she was too young for kindergarten, but they didn't date seriously during high school. Both attended the Badger Lutheran Church.
"Everybody was friends, so everybody went with everybody," she said. "I think we may have dated a little when we were 14 or 15, but it was after high school we got back together."
As medical transport, Johanson drives to out-of-town appointments, even in winter.
"The scariest part is the winter driving," she said. "I've never been stranded by winter weather, but sometimes the doctor will cancel before we will."
She said she's made trips to Iowa City, Des Moines, Ames, Mason City, Algona, even Rochester, Minn. "Wherever they want to go, I take them."
It doesn't cross her mind to quit.
"I've always just done this," she said. "I get up in the morning, and that's where I go."
Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or email@example.com