Donald Shock

'I'm very grateful for what (NDAD) did'

Donald Shock outside his vehicle in Dickinson in early 2013.
Donald Shock eagerly welcomes each spring’s arrival to Dickinson, N.D. -- and for good reason.

“I don’t try to stand idle,” said Shock, 73. “I’m either going somewhere or trying to enjoy the fresh air.”

It’s a particularly great day for him when he can do both.

Shock lives with both chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart disease. He survived a major heart attack in 2004. He no longer gets enough oxygen naturally to routinely handle everyday tasks. He is on medication and travels with an oxygen tank.

“As I mentioned to the doctor, I’m just like a horse,” Shock said. “I don’t like to get knocked off my feet.”

So, whenever the Dickinson snow’s not too deep and the routes not too icy, though, he’s a man in motion, a regular “Speedy DeeDee” – the unique nickname Don received from a neighbor.

As soon as conditions let him this spring, Shock drove his van to Dickinson’s north-side Prairie Hills Mall. With his van parked, he began a series of side trips – south to Dan’s SuperMarket, north to Evergreen assisted living and basic care residence, farther north to Wal-Mart, then reversing course to Kmart and the adjacent mall. In all, Shock said, he trekked about 12 blocks before he returning to his van and driving home.

Where there’s will, there’s a way. Don has both with a new power wheelchair that he obtained in February through NDAD. Lighter, quicker and a bit more maneuverable, the power chair renewed the spring in Shock’s motorized “step.”

It’s the second time in nine years Shock qualified for NDAD assistance. After his 2004 heart attack, the charitable nonprofit helped get him his first power wheelchair and a van ramp – “a godsend,” he recalls. But after more than eight years and many miles of regular use, the power chair “just wore out,” he said.

“Without that power chair, there are a lot of people – including myself – who would not be able to get around and be independent. . . . It’s not easy to go from a person who was active to all of a sudden, in the snap of a finger, telling yourself, ‘Look, you can’t do it. Sit down,’ ” he said. “It was so hard that when I try to walk to the mailbox, I’m stopping at my car and grabbing for oxygen.”

Shock didn’t think he’d qualify for a second power chair from NDAD, “but I was hoping,” Don said. He contacted the statewide charitable nonprofit again, this time communicating with client associate Stephanie Tornatore in the nonprofit’s Minot office. That was around the first of the year. NDAD’s approval for another new chair in February was a “big surprise.”

“I’m very grateful that they did,” Shock said. “Like I told (Tornatore), if I was there, I would hug her neck and thank her very much.”

The Massachusetts-born, Ohio-raised Shock, arrived in Dickinson 21 years ago in search of work and cleaner air to breathe. Shock was diagnosed with emphysema in the early 1980s following a series of jobs in places such as dusty feed lots and grain elevators. He eventually gave up smoking.

It wasn’t until after that 2004 heart attack, though, that Shock felt he desperately needed help. He’s still somewhat amazed that he received it.

NDAD is “a wonderful organization,” he said. “A lot of people say that they would help, but NDAD is about the only one that I could say so far that was truthful on that. . . . NDAD has not disappointed. I really commend them. I pray that they will keep up the good work….A lot of people out there need it.”

As for his new chair? “It’s helped me out tremendously,” Don said softly, this time with his voice cracking. “Speedy” used a silent pause to regain his composure.  “What more can I say?”

-- Mike Brue

The writer is communications director for NDAD.

NOTE: Originally published in the spring of 2013.