A Pacific Power company representative allegedly suggested to a 64-year-old Portland man with memory problems that he "go to the emergency room" after the company cut off the man's electricity—which powers his life-sustaining oxygen system—earlier this month.
Ed Odeane—who weighs close to 400 pounds, has an enlarged heart and needs a home-powered oxygen system to breathe—was left to rely on his 24-hour emergency tank after a Pacific Power rep stopped by his SW Main apartment on June 4, and then cut the power.
Odeane, who admits owing more than $600 on his bill, says it slipped his mind to tell the power man about his oxygen, but that during their front-door conversation, his nasal breathing tubes were clearly visible.
"I should have had the sense to tell them, I suppose," he says. "I'm not much for blaming others for my problems."
Nevertheless, Odeane's caseworker, Brian Fuller of housing nonprofit Friendly House, says his immediate attempts to get Odeane reconnected ran into a wall of bureaucracy.
"Because [Odeane] did not have a medical exception on his record, they refused to reconnect him until the bill had been paid," says Fuller. "And I said, 'Can't we just make sure he can breathe first, and then deal with this?'"
That's when Fuller says he was told Odeane could go to the emergency room.
"It's one of those things where the rules are the rules, but we couldn't get to the person who could make the decision to reconnect the power," Fuller continues.
Eventually, Pacific Power reconnected Odeane after Fuller pledged to work with him to ensure payment. Odeane will now complete a medical exception form to make sure his power isn't cut off again in future.
"It sounds like a fairly unusual case, and I would be surprised if a representative had said that," says Pacific Power spokeswoman Jan Mitchell. "But the company has done quite a bit to get [Odeane] to a point where he can pay, and we do need to have payment on the electricity we provide."