By Shawn Byrne
When walking around 100 percent healthy, most people are likely to not give a second thought as to where Discount Medical Equipment is located.
The second a sprained ankle, torn ligament in a knee or a bad back becomes a part of life, Ruben Lopez’s store at 10 S. Kerkes St. #4 is the place to know.
“You don’t realize where we’re at or who we are until you need us,” Lopez said. “I’ve had some people come and say they’ve been here so many years and didn’t even know we were here.”
Lopez relocated his retail medical equipment store from 980 Tegner St. hoping the Kerkes Street location can supply more foot traffic. The prior location brought customers to the shop by car, and Lopez thought with the amount of folks walking the streets of historic downtown, some added patrons could find their way into the door of the business.
“We felt like we were getting lost out there at that end of town,” the storeowner said. “We count on foot traffic; we count on the public seeing us. We moved here two months ago now and since then we have seen an increase.”
Discount Medical Equipment offers the gamut of healthcare apparatuses, including respiratory equipment, scooters, and lift chairs.
The technology used for respiratory equipment has evolved. While DME continues to carry oxygen tank cylinders, those who need them are turning toward portable concentrators. These machines make their own oxygen.
“Tanks can run out of oxygen, where these portables can run off cars,” Lopez said. “They’re battery operated and the battery packs last 8-9 hours alone.”
That kind of longevity allows residents of Wickenburg to go down to the Phoenix area for appointments without worrying if their tank will empty. The portable concentrators can plug into a car, which allows the machine to remain charged before relying on its 8-9 hour battery life. It’s the same concept in keeping a cellphone battery charged.
“They’re never using that battery up,” Lopez said. “We still do the oxygen cylinders, but the manufacturers have made these, for example, at 2 liters per minute.”
Concentrators can make oxygen at 5 and even 10 lpm if a patient needs that high of a rate.
Lopez began learning the business when he was a boy about 32 years ago. His father, Charles Lopez, was a respiratory therapist when Ruben grew up here attending Wickenburg schools from kindergarten through high school graduation.
“It’s in my blood. I grew up in this business,” he said. “I was my father’s partner going around setting up hospital beds and seeing folks. It’s all I’ve done, really.”
Lopez puts the experience he has gained over the years to good use when it comes to helping those who are in need of medical equipment for the home, even hospital beds.
“Growing up with my father and watching what folks have needed; it allows me when I’m delivering a piece of equipment to see that maybe they don’t know they need this other item,” he said. “I’ve been in this so long I can tell them, ‘There’s this out there that would help you.’”
DME offers a rental program for equipment to help ensure clients and patients get the right fit for their needs. If a patron is unsure they want to purchase a piece of equipment, DME will rent it to the customer to try for 30 days. If the customer decides they want the equipment, one-half of the rental fee will be applied toward the purchase. If they decide they don’t want the equipment, then the customer is only out the one 30-day rental fee.
“This has helped us keep returns down as well,” Lopez said. “I would rather not have someone upset at me thinking I sold them this item to them, then they get it and it’s not what they wanted. This way they can rent it and try it.”
The new location for DME has forced Lopez to have an offsite warehouse after having an onsite warehouse at the Tegner Street location. He assures his customers that the offsite warehouse isn’t far from the current spot and it has everything necessary to replace what is in the retail store.
“I can be there in a couple of minutes and replenish what has been sold,” he said. “The offsite warehouse has a full stock because I don’t want people to have to drive down to the valley or waiting for it to come in from online.”
Lopez moved DME to hopefully give his customers better access to the retail store and get on the road to recovery. He’s there to help and make certain his customers get the help they need with no strings attached.
“I don’t take it personal when people say, ‘It was good seeing you, but I hope I don’t see you again for awhile,’” he said.
DME is open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday-Friday but closed for lunch noon-1 p.m.
For more information, call (928) 684-6120.