Lending a hand to wounded OOIDA member

Scrolling through Facebook in early January, Colleen McGuinn stopped when she saw a posting from her sister-in-law, Carolyn Bledsoe.

Bledsoe, a professional truck driver with Trailer Transit Inc., had asked her Facebook friends to pray for OOIDA Life Member Jerry Matson.

Jerry, a fellow Trailer Transit driver, was shot Dec. 15 after being told he could not park at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. Parked a few blocks away, Jerry awoke to his truck shaking and was shot as he yelled at the attacker. The 72-year-old trucking veteran was in stable condition but underwent multiple surgeries from infections caused by the shooting.

The suspect remains at large.

Before long, McGuinn passed along word to co-workers at San Francisco's Saint Francis Foundation, which provides supplemental philanthropic support to Saint Francis Hospital. McGuinn, a database manager at the foundation, realized the hurt trucker could be helped by the Saint Francis Hospital and Foundation.

Jerry's infections continued to flare up, which created the need for more surgeries.

"Jerry's wife had been out here for several weeks, and the hospital had only given her $170," McGuinn said. "At one point, she was sleeping in her car. We thought, 'our hospital really takes care of patients, whether they have money or not.'"

By mid-January, Jerry had been moved into a room at Saint Francis and underwent a skin graft procedure at the hospital's nationally recognized burn unit. Though Jerry didn't have a burn, the burn unit is familiar with treating similar wounds.

"He was at a trauma hospital, a county hospital," McGuinn said. "It was really important to get him out of that environment. We were able to kill the infection and address his wounds by putting a skin graft on it. Now he is healing fantastically."

Reached by phone Friday, Jan. 29, Jerry said the hospital and foundation have "gone above and beyond."

"These people are Godsent," Jerry said. "I wasn't looking good when I was over there at the other hospital. Within a matter of days they had me right under control. Now it's just the healing process."

Jerry has been walking small amounts daily, but doesn't figure to start physical rehabilitation exercises until his wounds heal more and his blood pressure improves.

"My blood pressure is so low that it's hard to do much," he said. "Nobody has said a word at all to me about bills. They want me to get well."

Beyond improving Jerry's care, the foundation put Jerry's wife, Janet, up in a hotel near the hospital and has given the family meal vouchers.

Kevin Causey, president of the Saint Francis Foundation, said it didn't take long to decide to help the Matsons.

"We felt heartsick that these poor people were going through this situation and were stuck 1,500 miles from home without a network," Causey said. "We just thought we'd step in."

"To be honest, this is right in our wheelhouse. This is what we do all day, every day."

Founded in 1979, the Saint Francis Foundation's mission is to raise money to help patients at the 110-year-old Saint Francis Memorial Hospital.

While violence in the highly populated Bay Area isn't rare, Jerry said he's seen equal numbers of good people helping others.

"I've been coming around here for years," Jerry said. "There are some of the most wonderful people in the world out here and there are some real jerks. It is what it is."

The Saint Francis Foundation president agreed.

"We're just not that kind of community," Causey told Land Line. "We feel horrible that this happened to somebody like that. We'd like to think that in some way, us stepping in to help him - we hope that this will change the perception of what people think about us as a community.

"We like to think we welcome people from all over the country with open arms," Causey said. "To have someone from the Midwest end up in that situation was heartbreaking for us."

Nearly three weeks after receiving a call from the Saint Francis Foundation, Janet Matson said she is grateful for the organization and the hospital it supports.

"It is so wonderful. They have taken really good care of me and him," Janet told Land Line. "When my son comes for a visit, they even pay for his garage fare. It's just unbelievable."

Janet also praised Trailer Transit, the company that has employed Jerry and his son for years and helped him make an invaluable connection.

"They're a great company," Janet said. "They've been in touch. One of the office girls just called him this morning. The drivers have been checking in, too." LL