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Volunteer's quick thinking saves client's life accent

February 20, 2024 | By

When Jean O'Neill stopped at client Wesley Garvin's home on the east side of Des Moines to deliver a hot, healthy lunch shortly before Christmas, she noticed something strange: Wesley wasn't there to greet her, but his beloved dog, Angel, was running back and forth in the front yard, as if to flag her down.

"His car wasn't in the driveway and Angel was out, which was so odd, but I thought, well, maybe he had somewhere to go and he'll be right back," Jean says, recalling she left the meal on a flower pot near the front porch, then began driving to her next stop.

"But then, out of the corner of my eye, as I drove away, I suddenly saw Wesley in the front yard, waving papers to flag me down," she says. "I had no idea what was going on, but I turned back around and headed back to his house."

Jean, a WesleyLife Meals on Wheels volunteer delivery driver for more than three years, knew something was wrong when she saw Wesley try to walk down his front stairs. He was wrapped in a blanket and looked unwell.

Wesley Garvin injury"My heart sank," Jean says. "I was afraid he was going to fall down those stairs. I quickly opened the gate and caught him as he started to crumple."

Jean helped Wesley back into the house and, to her dismay, noticed that he was feverish. His skin and eyes had a yellow cast, and he seemed disoriented.

"I told him I needed to call 911, and he resisted," Jean says. "He told me he had seen his doctor the day before and the doctor had wanted to send him to the emergency room, but he had refused to go because he didn't want to leave Angel. He had gotten a ride home and had left his car at the doctor's office." 

Wesley Garvin injury 2As Jean continued to try to persuade Wesley to allow her to call emergency responders, he became more incoherent and began vomiting blood. Jean knew time was of the essence and rummaged through Wesley's phone to find his doctor's phone number. She called and explained what was happening, and the physician's office contacted 911.

"I waited with Wesley until the ambulance and fire truck arrived; he ended up with a whole house of first responders," Jean says. "I told him I would help him find someone to look after Angel; I couldn't take her because I have my own dog. That offer to help allowed him to calm down a bit, and I left to finish my route."

Jean, who did help locate care for Angel, heard from Wesley a short time later; he continued to text her to let her know surgery had gone well, and that doctors had removed an acutely infected gall bladder. After a two-week stay, he returned home to Angel, and he knew he had Jean to thank.

"I think someone was looking out for him because if I hadn't seen him come out of the house with those papers, the situation could have had a terrible ending," Jean says. "I am so glad I was able to be in the right place at the right time for him." 

WesleyLife Meals on Wheels drivers are specially trained to perform well-being checks on Meals on Wheels clients, many of whom live alone, to help ensure clients are well. Historically, those checks have saved at least one life a year, often more.

If you would like to volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels, please visit us at, or call  (515) 699-3243. We would love to welcome you to the team!


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