HOMEPAGE www.danieljvance.com

By Daniel J. Vance

Danny Joe Jones of Enterprise, Mississippi, was driving down a dead-end road on his USPS mail route this July when he heard a faint, muffled sound.

“It was 95 degrees,” said Jones in a telephone interview. “I had the windows rolled up, and the radio and air conditioning on, but I could still hear out the one window where I deliver mail.”

He braked, yelled at the strange sound, and listened for a reply. None came. He kept going toward the dead-end and turned around.

“And as I was coming back, I hollered again,” he said. “Then I put some mail into a mail box and as I started pulling away something inside me said to stop.”

So he did. He turned off his vehicle to investigate. In seconds he found an elderly man face down in a nearby ditch. Jones checked the 79-year-old man's pulse and carried him to cool shade. This man, a homeowner on Jones' mail route, had been in searing-hot sun more than an hour. His speech was rambling, and his skin hot and clammy. Jones, and in few minutes a neighbor, cooled the man down with water until an ambulance arrived.

The man had Parkinson disease, which is a slowly progressing, chronic neurological condition affecting brain cells that causes a reduction in a brain chemical, dopamine. Symptoms usually include limb stiffness, gait or balance problems, slowness of movement, and tremors on one side of the body.

As for the elderly man, he had fallen into the ditch.

“Occasionally we (letter carriers) see people in need,” said Jones. “For instance, just yesterday I helped a 93-year-old woman back into her home. I learn people's habits and watch out for them.”

Jones has personally known several people with disabilities, which seems to make him more in tune to their needs. His grandfather had Alzheimer's disease, and his best friend was paralyzed from the chest down in an automobile accident. Not many years ago Jones even petitioned a business to build a ramp for his friend and others.

“Also, an elderly lady died on my route last year,” said Jones. “I've often wondered if she too had been calling out when I was driving by. Then this last July the good Lord gave me a second chance. If I hadn't stopped, this man might not have lived.”

For more, see www.danieljvance.com [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com]