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Police ‘drive-bys’ make birthday celebrations special

If you’ve recently seen a group of police and fire vehicles rolling down your street with lights on and sirens blaring, don’t worry – it’s nothing scary, and it’s for a good cause.

In the past, Derby Police Department has received requests for officers to drive by birthday parties in their vehicles, and they would occasionally do them. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the police department decided now’s the time to kick those drive-bys into gear, Police Chief Robert Lee said.

“When [children’s] birthdays are minimized by not being able to have people come over due to social distancing requirements, it’s a good thing for us to go out and try to make that day a little bit special for them,” Lee said.

The police and fire vehicles line up on one end of the street, then slowly make their way down the street with their lights on. Sometimes they’ll sound their sirens. One vehicle tows a sign that says “happy birthday” with the child’s name on it. An officer drops off a goodie bag or two on the driveway for the birthday child.

The drive-bys aren’t something the department will do forever, Lee said, but they will keep doing them during the ongoing pandemic. Officers participating always maintain proper social distance.

The department isn’t spending extra resources to do these drive-bys, Lee said. All officers participating are on duty.

“They’re exactly where they’re supposed to be – in the community,” Lee said.

One recent drive-by seemed to bring out the whole neighborhood, Lee said.

“We had 30 to 40 neighbors out and cheering as we drove by,” Lee said.

“That’s what policing is all about. It’s at times about catching the bad guys, but there are times when it’s about making a small difference.”

The drive-by celebrations are also done for elderly individuals in adult care facilities who don’t have family nearby, Lee said.

“We use the same approach, and it’s equally as popular for them as it is with the youngsters,” Lee said.

All the credit for the drive-bys goes to the department’s beat officers, especially Lieutenant Jimmy Queen, Lee said. Queen is coordinating all of the drive-bys.

“I’m the one that sets it up, fixes the sign, gets all that stuff ready, and coordinates between our people and the fire department,” Queen said.

He said helping with the drive-bys has been a blast, and that the community has taken to the them well.

“The most excited that I’ve seen was a 90-year-old lady,” Queen said. “She was waving and jumping up and down on the porch.”

Queen said the drive-bys are a change from what you’d usually expect when seeing that many police vehicles at once.

“That many cops together was never a good thing,” he said.

It is now.

COVID-19 and underlying condition suspect in claiming life of Derby resident

Ryan Trowbridge, his siblings and parents Rodney and Barbara gathered for dinner in Wichita on Thursday, March 12. It was the day prior to everyone’s plans of heading down to a family farm near Mena, Ark.

Trowbridge’s parents wanted to escape the impending mandates of the Sedgwick County stay-at-home orders, allowing them to quarantine and isolate in rural Arkansas.

What neither of them knew was it would be the start of their final 24 days together.

Rodney, former owner/operator of Trowbridge Heating and Air and Advanced Communications, passed away in Hot Springs, Ark., from heart failure and
COVID-19 on Monday, April 6.

The latter of the reports from the doctors has left the Trowbridge family baffled, not seeing the trademark symptoms of the newest coronavirus.

Ryan, Rusty and their families joined their parents in Arkansas, sharing the time of quarantine together while they awaited news on potential school and job changes.

On April 2, Rodney began experiencing shallow breathing with a wet cough, but his family didn’t see anything that differentiated from the symptoms that had plagued him the previous 15 years.

“[On April 5], we went into the clinic and they told him he was having congestive heart failure,” Ryan said. “They took him to Hot Springs via ambulance to a cardiac unit. They admitted him to the ICU and he didn’t make it through the night.”

The suddenness of his passing and not understanding that he had been carrying COVID-19 didn’t make the moment any easier. While it hasn’t been determined if the virus or heart failure was the primary reason for his death, the questions still linger on what happened.

Ryan said the Arkansas Department of Health believes he contracted the virus prior to arriving in Mena, but no definitive answer can be found. His parents made stops in Derby, Tulsa, and nearby Mena stores before arriving at their home.

[At the start of the trip], we didn’t think the virus was out of control,” Ryan
said. “We won’t ever know how he picked it up.”

Ryan said that all family members who were in Arkansas are taking quarantine measures due to the possibility of coming in contact with the virus.

Rodney’s mark in the Wichita/Derby area was significant, including 32 years at Boeing and his ownership in two local businesses. He was never in the military, but his work as a manager at the Wichita Boeing facility and a brief stay in Guam put his fingerprints in the development of all B-52s during the Vietnam War. It was the same workmanship that made him the neighborhood “Mr. Fix It” in Derby.

“He could fix anything,” Ryan said. “Whether it was his friends or my brothers’ friends, people were always coming over to see if Rod could fix it before they had to pay to get it done. He’d have the tool or he’d have the part to fix it.”

Ryan said the family has been overwhelmed by the well wishes and support of their surrounding community.

“We’re hearing a lot of great stories, but I just wish he’d be alive so we could talk about it,” Ryan said. “There were people saying, ‘if it hadn’t been for your dad, I would have lost my job at Boeing.’ I had a couple of cool stories like that.”

The family is planning to hold a Celebration of Life at a later date after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.

Rock Regional exploring financing options during pandemic

In the wake of the current coronavirus pandemic, Derby’s Rock Regional Hospital is seeking help (including potential loan funding) to continue operations and provide necessary services to the community in response to that threat.

Reportedly, COVID-19 has already impacted the services of the hospital. Kevin Hicks, CEO of Cabe Consulting – the new hospital management team as of April 1 – stated that the current pandemic has led to a 30 percent decline in emergency room admissions at Rock Regional and increased costs associated with the acquisition of personal protective equipment.

“All of that drove us to the point where financing is needed,” Hicks said.

With that need, Hicks planned to come before the Sedgwick County Commission and Derby City Council last week asking for help in securing a five-year, $3 million loan that would provide short-term assistance to the hospital.

During the Sedgwick County Commission’s meeting on April 8, Hicks brought up the request, but a number of commissioners noted trepidation for a number of reasons – including the potential of setting precedent, the county’s own budget concerns and potential furloughs the county may have to take on itself due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In all due respect, I cannot and I would not ever obligate taxpayers’ property tax money, general fund money – which you’re asking me to do – to support your hospital,” said Commissioner David Dennis.

“There’s a chance here that we would support this and it’s not viable. That would be a horrible situation for taxpayers,” said Commissioner Jim Howell.

Sedgwick County commissioners voted 4-1 to deny Rock Regional Hospital’s re-quest to help secure a $3 million loan.

Following the county commission meeting, Hicks was set to present the loan re-quest at a special meeting of the Derby City Council on April 9. However, Hicks shifted gears once it came time for that discussion.

At the Derby City Council meeting, Hicks mainly spoke of the recent transition and new hospital management – including potential plans of how to get through the difficult stretch ahead.

Being a relatively new hospital (officially opening in April 2019), Hicks noted Rock Regional was close to the point of breaking even financially. There were some initial issues that had led to a slow start for the hospital, creating some financial stress, with the COVID-19 situation adding another wrinkle into operations.

“Things were moving along nicely, in all respects, and then the pandemic hit,” Hicks said. “When Sedgwick County put the stay-at-home order in place, things slowed down greatly. It’s put stress on the hospital.”

Hicks did not argue with the necessity of the stay-at-home order, but did state that forced some changes that have pushed back Rock Regional’s expected financial break even date to fall 2020.

Despite those hurdles, Hicks remains confident in the long-term viability of the hospital, noting “the elements of success for Rock Regional Hospital are obvious to me.”

After the action of the county commission, Derby council member Jack Hezlep questioned if the hospital had other funding plans or if that was forcing management to improvise.

Moving forward, Hicks said the hospital has already received funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (as of April 9) and the owner-ship group is seeking an additional $5 million loan through the Small Business Ad-ministration’s COVID-19 support efforts.

Projecting an optimistic return to normal business by June, Hicks said that should help the hospital get by.

“Times are tight right now,” Hicks said, “but we have a plan to fund the cash needs through the next few months.”