Chuy Salazar isn’t a doctor, but he plays a vital role in the care and comfort of many of the patients at Rio Grande Radiation Center . He’s a bright spot in their otherwise challenging days of radiation treatments.
Every day as he works, Chuy is reminded of the power of laughter and friendship — two of the best parts of his job. As he pulls up to the curb in front of each patient’s home, he takes on a personal challenge:
“For me it’s a challenge to make them feel good while they are in my vehicle — to try to help them escape whatever is troubling them and to get them to RGU on a good note and ready for their treatment.”
Chuy drives patients to RGU from all over the area, throughout El Paso, Horizon City, Socorro, and Las Cruces. When their treatment is finished, he drives them back home so they can rest.
More than getting from point A to point
Rio Grande’s transportation service is free for radiation patients who request it.
Some of Chuy’s clients don’t have other transportation options or feel too tired to drive safely after their treatments. “It’s for anyone. We don’t ask any questions, and it doesn’t matter if they are 40 years old or 70 years old. It’s for anyone who needs it,” says Chuy.
Just hearing the word cancer is devastating, and Chuy has found that people appreciate having a friendly face take them to and from their treatments. He tries to stay tuned in to how his clients are doing throughout their courses of treatment. When one of his passengers seems lonely or depressed, he makes the most of their time driving together.
“They will often tell me their stories and how they felt, and I try to give them words of hope and encouragement,” he says.
Anyone can be family at RGU
A lifelong resident of the El Paso area, Chuy is pleased to be able to give back to the community as a driver for RGU. “I really like El Paso. I like the people. My family is here — I am very family oriented,” he says. “That’s why I hang around my city and the place where I was born.”
Chuy finds that same familial bond with the patients he transports, often seeing them every day for months. It’s a bittersweet day for him when they complete their treatments. “It’s a little sad because you aren’t going to see them again except for follow-up appointments,” he says.
Requesting Rio Grande Radiation’s transportation service
The Rio Grande transportation service is free and currently available for radiation patients only — not for general clinic patients without a special request from a physician.
To schedule a ride, radiation patients simply need to call the radiation therapist at RGU. The therapist will work to coordinate transportation your appointment.
The transportation schedule includes a morning run and afternoon run. The morning arrives at RGU at 8:15 a.m. The treatments last about 15 minutes each, and after all of the passengers are done, Chuy drives the patients back home.
The RGU van isn’t currently wheelchair accessible. Patients who need wheelchair accessibility currently use Sun Metro, and RGU reimburses them for it.
If you have special circumstances, call the caring radiation therapists at RGU, and they will do their best to make sure you get the services you need.