Betty Plemmons of Asheville had a lifelong dream of riding in a hot air balloon. Thanks to a couple of Western Carolina University students involved with Beyond Clinic Walls, a multidisciplinary group of students working with the elderly, Plemmons and her husband, Glen, managed to realize that dream recently.
Beyond Clinic Walls consists of students from WCU’s Accelerated Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Program at the Biltmore Park instructional site, nursing students at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, pharmacy students at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy and medical students at the UNC School of Medicine Asheville.
The students visit low-income elderly across Western North Carolina on a monthly basis. Their clients are associated with the Mountain Area Health Education Center. Most have complicated medical and/or social needs. The program is in its second year in Asheville.
A group of six students was assigned to the Plemmons in the fall of 2015, including WCU seniors Cassidy McFadden of Elgin, Illinois, and Brienne Shaneyfelt of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. While working within the scope of their practice, the students also focus on forming relationships with the clients. Other goals include investigating medication compliance, assessing environmental risks within the home, and projects to improve the client’s quality-of-life such as building wheelchair ramps, staining decks and installing grab bars.
The consensus of the students was that a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for a couple that sometimes bought gas to get to church instead of medications, would be the best project to tackle this semester.
The students reached out to a local hot air balloon company, Asheville Hot Air Balloons, which donated the ride.
McFadden and Shaneyfelt met the Plemmons at a coffee shop in Candler at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6. From there, they traveled through the early morning fog to a broad meadow. As the balloon made its ascent, the couple happily waved to those below.
“That was the best part of it all, when we got up as high as we could go,” Betty Plemmons told McFadden and Shaneyfelt. “The views were beautiful, the trees, the people; looking down as we went up was wonderful. That was an adventure I would never have gotten to take if it hadn’t been for you girls.”
— Information contributed by Cassidy McFadden and the Accelerated Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing Program