Beyond All Expectations – Kimberly’s Journey to HSNT
Whenever Kimberly Rae-Flynn needs to go somewhere, she rides the bus.
It’s a short distance from her ground-floor apartment to the bus stop, but after suffering from a stroke that left her mobility restricted, she uses a rolling walker to get around. Outside her door, there’s no easy-access ramp from her stoop to the road, so any time she comes and goes, Kim has to step carefully, making sure she doesn’t fall. She’s 52 years old, and lives alone.
For most of her trips, she takes Route 7, passing by the Walmart, the WinCo, and the Whataburger. The route ends at the Denton offices of Health Services of North Texas, something she never really noticed before, but one day she did. She had recently switched insurance providers, so health was on her mind.
“The bus went by a couple of times, and this one guy on the bus said he went there,” Kim said. “When I got back on [my insurance], nobody said that they would take it, but then I called up HSNT one morning and they said that they did.”
When Kim came in for her appointment, she figured she knew what to expect. Along with her mobility issues, her stroke gave her vertigo, made her hard-of-hearing, and afflicted her with aphasia, a disorder that affects a person’s ability to process language. All of this had led to unpleasant experiences with past healthcare providers.
“Some doctors say they are considerate of handicapped people and then you get there…You know, I can tell when somebody’s angry or disgusted. I can feel that difference.”
Kim approached the front desk and, before anything else, told the receptionist that she can’t hear well, but despite that, she can read lips. The response she got surprised her.
“[The receptionist] didn’t bother raising her voice,” Kim said. “She just turned around and started speaking normally.”
Kim said that her experience at HSNT, when compared to past providers, was a night-and-day difference.
“They’re more considerate, more understanding. I don’t get that disgusted, ‘roll-your-eyes’ look or that ‘it’s-an-inconvenience’ look. They just take it in stride.”
Edward Gelber, the Physician’s Assistant working at HSNT’s Denton location, was the one to see Kim that day. At one point during the visit, her vertigo started to kick in, and Kim told Mr. Gelber this, saying that she saw four of him. In response, put his hands on his knees, got down to her level, and asked, “How many of me do you see now?”
The vertigo didn’t go away, but four Mr. Gelbers turned into just two, making it easier for Kim to focus.
“He actually listens,” Kim said. “If I say something and it’s unclear to him, he’ll keep asking questions until it is clear. And he won’t prescribe anything unless I absolutely need it, instead of just randomly writing a script and sending me on my way.”
Kim says she’s been consistently surprised by HSNT. For example, Kim is on the Prescription Assistance Program, a service that HSNT offers that provides free or low-cost prescription medication to low-income patients who are uninsured or under-insured. After her previous doctor refused to prescribe the psychiatric medication she needs to manage the after-effects of her stroke, Kim was expecting similar difficulty.
“I thought I would come in and have this long thing about the medication. But Mr. Gelber just said ‘Let me check in on that’, and he came back and said the referral department is working on it. When I called later about my test results, they also told me about my referral, and that was quick! Just a week.”
Even something as simple as a runny nose was something HSNT was able to fix. “I have rhinitis and allergies, and I’ve tried every nose spray on the market…I’d been having that issue for years,” Kim said. “I told [Mr. Gelber] ‘My nose runs like a faucet, my eyes puff up and itch’, and he told me to try [this medication] and now…no problem. I haven’t even had to take an allergy pill.”
Each comment Kim made about HSNT had the same theme running through it: she expected one thing, but instead got something better. Having become accustomed to things like case managers threatening her and doctors refusing to prescribe medication, she thought she knew what to expect. Yet from her conversation with the receptionist to her visits with Mr. Gelber, Kim found surprises at every turn. The reason for that can, perhaps, be found in Kim’s final comment.
“Whenever I go to HSNT,” she said, “I’m treated like one of the family.”