WE CAN BE HEROES, JUST FOR ONE DAY
Since I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be the Caped Crusader. The Dark Knight. A mysterious superhero, moving through the shadows, saving the world. As I grew older, the fantasy never faded. Stuck in the checkout line, my mind would wander as I dreamt up scenarios where I would save everyone in the supermarket. Driving down a wet road on a fall night, my four door sedan suddenly transformed into the Batmobile. The ever-present threat of the Joker, constantly looming over my imaginary life.
Then unexpectedly, an even more powerful adversary destroyed me. Ben Affleck. Batman was forever ruined for me, and so my superhero days were over.
When we began traveling at the start of this year, North Dakota was one of the few states I hadn’t visited before. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured there would be plenty of flat farmland, stretching as far as the eye can see at times, and that proved true. But its western end was a gorgeous crumpled landscape of badlands, rivers, and sepia vistas. On the opposite side of the state lies Fargo, its largest city. I’ve seen the movie Fargo, but I’m well traveled enough to know that films, no matter how well made and awarded, are usually poor representations of reality. Instead of Marge Gunderson, Jerry Lundegaard, and Carl Showalter, I found a vibrant community full of friendly people, determined to preserve the feel of their small town community, despite its rapidly increasing size.
“We’re from the Upper Midwest. We work hard. We take care of each other,” is how Georgia, the indefatigable Operations Director of HERO matter-of-factly explained it. Serving as my own personal Commissioner Gordon, Georgia was giving me some background on the day ahead. With Fargo proving to be a much less threatening Gotham City, I was going to be a hero, if just for one day.
HERO (Healthcare Equipment Recycling Organization) is a small but ambitious organization, situated on the southern edge of Fargo, almost hidden among the other business that surround it. Hidden like the Bat Cave. Okay, I'm not proud of that one. I'll stop with Batman analogies.
What HERO does somehow seems innovative and obvious at the same time. We all know we should recycle our plastic, glass, metal, and paper products (even if some of you don't--yes, I'm silently judging you every time you throw something recyclable away). But medical supplies? That was something I never considered.
Healthcare in this country is shamefully expensive, and the accessories and devices that go along with it are not spared the high pricing. Meanwhile (because people get better, or sadly pass away, or maybe their needs change) countless items, from hospital beds, to wheelchairs, to compression socks, and even gauze are no longer needed. Despite still being useful, these things are thrown away, adding to our landfills and denying a much needed resource to someone else.
Enter HERO. Here in the far northern reaches of the U.S., a team of people is taking in "all viable excess medical supplies and equipment" and cleaning it, fixing it, and redistributing it.
They do so locally, by maintaining a healthcare accessory store with deeply discounted prices to help those in the Fargo area in need of medical supplies.
They do so globally by providing equipment and supplies to medical missions around the world. Their supplies have reached every continent (except Antarctica) to help those in need. And, as they note, as soon as Antarctica is ready to accept supplies, HERO is ready for Antarctica.
They also do so in an environmentally consience way. In 2015 alone, HERO saved over 172,000 pounds of usable healthcare supplies from ending up in local landfills.
Sorting through donations, loading equipment onto trucks, even rearranging the retail space were my heroic deeds. As is expected in the Upper Midwest, I worked hard, and at least for one day I was part of both a local and global community filled with people that take care of each other.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
- Donate to HERO.
- Find an organization in your area that recycles healthcare equipment. (Google "Healthcare Equipment Recycling [your city or state]" or try this link.
- Once you find an organization near you that recycles medical equipment, volunteer, donate funds, or donate items to them.
- Don't watch any Batman movie starring Ben Affleck.