An Omaha hospital employee calls his job the best he's ever had — working for an escort service.
“I look forward to each day,” said Bob Dearing. “Some days you're so busy you can't even think straight.”
Busy is how Bob likes it.
He estimates that he walks five to seven miles a day, pushing patients in beds or wheelchairs to X-rays, CT scans or other procedures.
A former Air Force survival specialist in southeast Asia, Bob retired 2½ years ago after an always-on-the-go career as a courier and manager for FedEx Express.
But he promptly gained 17 pounds.
“I told my wife I needed to go back to work,” Bob said with a smile. “She said, 'Yes, you do.' ”
So about 14 months ago, he joined the 32-person transportation staff at Methodist Hospital, 84th and Dodge Streets. And in the first four to five months he lost most of the weight he had gained.
He loves his job for much more than the exercise. Bob Dearing find the staff and patients— well, endearing.
“They are some of the most wonderful people in the world. We're like a sounding board for the patients. Sometimes they just want someone to listen to what they are going through. And I'm not bashful about talking.”
Now 60, Bob was born in York, Neb., and raised in Nebraska City, but he moved with his family to Omaha.
In high school he worked 40 hours a week at a Food City store at 120th Street and West Center Road. In 1971, he graduated from Millard High (now Millard South) and joined the Air Force.
He spent 2½ years in southeast Asia, training fliers in how to survive on the ground if they were shot down.
His own training included nine hours treading water in the ocean on the end of a 1,500-foot tether, repairing a life raft.
He taught airmen how to eject from their planes, hide their parachutes after landing and then use their survival vests. Each included a locator beacon, a sidearm, flares and a grease stick to camouflage their skin.
A number of his trainees who survived and were rescued expressed their thanks by sending bottles of whiskey.
“I accumulated a nice collection of Jack Daniel's,” Bob said.
After leaving the Air Force, he traveled the country and then lived in northern California, where he learned glass blowing. He returned to Omaha in 1981.
He and his wife, Nancy, have three children, now ages 26, 20 and 13. Bob spent 21 years with FedEx Express, most of it loading and delivering packages.
“We were constantly on the move,” he said. “Every truck would make over 100 stops a day. It's a very physical job, which is how I was able to stay so skinny.”
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Delivering north of Audubon, Iowa, at dusk one winter, he got stuck in a snowbank on a road that hadn't been plowed. Given his background, he kept a survival kit in the military duffel bag he kept at the back of his truck. It contained candles, a flashlight, protein bars and extra socks and gloves.
He walked a long distance in the dark before seeing the light of a garage — and people who got him to warmth.
Bob retired with a pension, thankful for a job that “paid for my house and is putting my kids through college.”
But a less-active lifestyle took a toll, and Bob, who is 5-foot-8, went from 159 pounds to 176.
Then he heard about a job perfect for retirees and students: escorting patients around hospitals and to their vehicles when discharged.
His supervisor, Jan Killion, said the transportation team works from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., 365 days a year, and has performed more than 400 escorts a day.
Having a separate staff to transport patients allows health professionals to concentrate on their own work, she said.
Bob works 32 hours a week and has three-day weekends. The work suits him just fine, he said, and he enjoys helping patients.
“Nobody want to be here,” he said. “But it's a wonderful place to get out of.”