Uber driver befriends 88-year-old passenger and quits her job to become his caregiver
A chance meeting between an Uber driver and an 88-year-old man with dementia has completely changed both of their lives for the better.
In March 2020, Paul Webb of Columbus, Ohio called for an Uber to take him to the Verizon store to fix his broken cell phone. Luckily for Webb, he was picked up by Jenni Tekletsion, 52, in her Toyota RAV 4 for the short trip.
“When he called for a ride—when he just talked to me by phone—I knew this guy, I’m going to take care of him,” she told ABC6.
“She was very personable, easy to talk to,” Webb told The Washington Post.
Two decades ago, Tekletsion emigrated to the United States from Ethiopia. She drives an Uber on the weekends to send money back to orphanages in her country of birth. At the same time, she had a job as a banker for a financial institution while simultaneously working on her doctorate in business administration.
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A few minutes into the ride, Tekletsion began to feel bad for Webb. “I could tell how lonely he was,” she said. “I had a feeling that he needed help. I told him I live nearby his house, so I said, ‘From now on, when you need a ride, just call me.’”
The next day, Webb took her up on the offer for a ride to a nearby gas station to get some milk.
Over the next few weeks, he continued to call Tekletsion and she also would stop by his house to check on him. “I started coming here every single day after work to take him out to eat,” she told The Washington Post.
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For a year, the two shared a meal together every day, alternating between who would pick up the check. Tekletsion also drove him wherever he needed to go, whether it was the supermarket or a doctor’s appointment.
As their relationship grew, Webb’s health began to decline and in April of this year, Tekletsion decided to quit her job to become his full-time caregiver. The pay was half of what she was used to making, but the benefit of helping her friend more than made up for the difference. Her husband works three jobs so she had the financial flexibility to make it happen.
However, at first, she had to convince Webb’s two children, Keith and Melanie, who were skeptical of their relationship.
“The hardest part was to build trust with his children,” Tekletsion told The Washington Post. “I explained to them who I am and where I come from, and that I don’t need anything from Paul, but I want to take care of him and help him in his daily life.”
But she soon won his children over with her pure dedication.
“Consistency. She was real. She did what she said she was going to do, and she did it in a way that was genuine,” Keith told ABC6. “She’s the same. In a world that’s ever-changing, rarely will you find someone who does not change. She’s the same. To this day, it’s mind-blowing.”
Tekletsion and Webb’s friendship is a wonderful example of what can happen when people who need help are able to find big-hearted people who are ready to give. And to think it all began with a simple rideshare.
“How lucky am I to get to spend my days with Paul?” she said. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
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