“Saving One Toe at Time”

During my year of service at Advocate Trinity Hospital, I have learned so much about many of the major chronic health issues that numerous underserved individuals face every day. One huge problem that patients face in this community is that they have a disconnect with resources and doctors, which is why patient navigators are so important. Many times doctors do not understand why patients are not being compliant with medications or why those who are compliant don’t seem to be getting any better. This is when the patient navigator becomes an advocate for that patient. We are able to get to the root of the problem to help patients live their best lives.

One of the many popular programs offered through the community health department at my host site is Project H.E.A.L.T.H, which stands for Healing Effectively After Leaving the Hospital. My role in this program is to sign patients up for Project H.E.A.L.T.H if they have asthma, hypertension, COPD, sickle cell anemia, or diabetes. For the COPD and asthmatic patients, I follow up with them for 3 months after their hospital stay, as well as doing home visits. For the patients with hypertension, diabetes, and sickle cell, I follow up with them for one month to provide any necessary assistance and educate them about their disease.

One of my greatest moments was working with a diabetic patient who almost lost one of her toes. During the one-month follow up, I was able to encourage her to modify her food choices and show her better ways of preparing her food. Because this patient was what we like to call a “frequent flyer” in the emergency room, I also redirected her to urgent care centers and assisted her with finding a podiatrist. Because she had an open wound on her foot, the podiatrist told her that she would possibly need surgery. However, with my prior knowledge and the information I had gained since I have been here at my host site, I was able to encourage her to try intensive care treatments before considering the surgery. With my advice, her wound began to close up and her foot has already gotten a lot better. Because we worked together, we was able to save her pinky toe! Yay for diet adjustment and care treatments!!

This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member LaKeah Coleman.

LaKeah is a Patient Navigator at Advocate Trinity Hospital