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Rider Story: Adventures with Nana

When a child at a friend’s party found a gun and accidentally fired it, the bullet severed Debbie Noel’s spine and left her partially paralyzed. For over 20 years, Debbie continued to work, raise two children, and even drive an adapted car. But about five years ago, she had to give up driving because she could no longer balance herself and drive. She needed to stay in her wheelchair when riding in a vehicle. 

Debbie’s daughter lived in Colorado. She is a nurse, wife, and mother. Debbie was facing multiple surgeries and wanted to live closer to family. Her granddaughter Serafina was about two years old when Debbie moved to Longmont.

Debbie soon connected with Via Mobility Services. “They were wonderful about helping me get to doctor appointments and other meetings. The driver would come to my door, guide me down my ramp and help me get on the Via bus with the assistance of a lift.”

The arrival of the Via bus, Debbie said, “became a family event. My granddaughter would be so excited to see the big white bus pull up in front of the house. No matter what the weather, she would come outside and watch me ride up the lift and get buckled into the bus.”

“I love you, Nana,” Serafina would say. “Come home soon, Nana. I will miss you.”

When she got older, Debbie said that “Serafina started to ask if she could go with me. That was a difficult question. If I were still a driver in my car, we could have put her in her safety seat and driven away. Now, I could not readily offer her a ride.”

As Debbie recovered from her surgeries and became stronger, she said, “I was more confident about going somewhere – just me and my granddaughter – riding on a Via bus.”

On their first trip, Debbie’s daughter helped get Serafina buckled into her car seat on the bus and then followed them in her car to a restaurant where the three of them had lunch. That was followed by more trips that Debbie and Serafina took alone.

“A favorite excursion,” Debbie said, “was when I took Serafina to the Longmont Museum. We spent a day exploring the exhibits. We bought souvenirs at the gift shop and we ate our packed lunch in the museum courtyard. It felt like such a normal loving day – just the two of us out for an adventure. She is now seven years old and her favorite thing to do with me is to ride Via to go to lunch. Such a big girl – two ladies having tea in a restaurant.”

Now Debbie has a grandson, Carson, who is almost three.

“He is fascinated with the bus,” Debbie said. “And the drivers have become his buddies.” One day soon, Carson will be able to join his Nana on adventures.

“Thank you, Via,” Debbie said, “for creating a world where, with all my challenges, I can still do things with my grandchildren and travel with safety. I LOVE Via.”

If someone you love uses Via’s services, please give a Valentine’s Day donation in their honor. We’ll let them know you care. And if you love your Via driver, tell us about it and we’ll pass it on. You can send your stories to Zoe DeVito at zdevito@viacolorado.org.

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