TCCH Saved My Life
If you ask Angelo about TCCH Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Sherise Stark, he smiles and says, “She is awesome. She saved my life.”
Angelo was praying he would arrive home safely after work on a Monday night. He had been feeling ill and coughing blood since Saturday. Angelo thought he had a summer cold and could fight through it. His drive home convinced him otherwise, “I’m driving on 95 and I can feel my life leaving my body. I was so lightheaded. I was fighting to get home and I don’t know how, but I made it home. I was very grateful.”
Admittedly stubborn, realizing he could have caused an accident and with his teenage daughter in mind, Angelo went to the TCCH Sebastian health center Tuesday morning. He and his daughter are long-time patients of TCCH, so he trusted their medical care. “I could have gone anywhere, but I choose to go to TCCH. I knew I was in good hands,” Angelo said.
When Stark watched Angelo walk into the office, struggling to breathe, she immediately acted. He credits her and the Sebastian team for saving his life. Stark described him as, “Visibly working hard to breath, which I found unusual for a man who looked muscularly fit. His oxygen level was 75%; normal range is 94 – 100%.” Stark’s previous work as a hospitalist and treating COVID-19 infections lead her to believe he had the virus. One medical assistant started oxygen and another called 911 for an ambulance. As a single father, Angelo initially did not want to be transferred to the hospital. “I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘You are going to the hospital.’ I explained that his oxygen levels were so low I was surprised he made it to the office. If he had waited a few more hours he would have died. He was beyond pill antibiotics and needed IV medications,” Stark said.
Angelo was diagnosed with the COVID-19 Delta variant and 22% lung damage. He spent 12 days in the hospital, “fighting for my life.” Angelo still suffers fatigue, a lingering effect of COVID, but his lungs have returned to normal.
“Going forward. I don’t make those type of calls any more. I thought I could fight it off and that’s my biggest regret because my daughter could’ve lost her father. My being hard headed — I will never, ever in my life do such a thing every again. It’s not worth it. I am very humble. Very grateful,” Angelo said, promising not to take risks anymore.
Angelo continued to see Stark for follow up appointments to check on the health of his lungs and receive clearance to return to work.
When asked if Angelo will remain TCCH patient for life, he said, “I’m not going anywhere.”
Right Where I'm Supposed to Be
Right Where I'm Supposed to Be
Eric had limited insurance and a blood sugar of 1,200. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said.
Eric turned to the Diabetes Program at TCCH and Colleen Symanski, TCCH CDECS specialist. Together, they created a plan that allowed Eric to lose 47 pounds and manage his blood sugar. “I have two daughters and four grandbabies. They are the reason to be better,” Eric said.
Eric, the owner of Eric’s Automotive Service of Vero Beach, appreciated the useful education Colleen provided. He received a continuous glucose monitor that helped tremendously by teaching him how his body feels in relation to food and exercise. “I can tell when I’ve had too much or not enough. It helps as a guide to learn about your body,” Eric said.
When asked if he recommends TCCH, Eric said, “I tell everybody about TCCH. If you even think you have prediabetes or diabetes you need to check.”
From Front Desk to Dentist - A Wonderful Experience
When Greg experienced what he thought was a tooth ache, he acted quickly. He had a difficult time trying to make a dental appointment with his regular dentist. A friend suggested TCCH.
“I made the appointment and saw Dr. McAndrews at the Oslo location. I could not have been more impressed with him. I was very impressed with his level of interest and the time he took to explain things,” Greg said. It turns out, Greg had an impacted molar that required extraction. Dr. McDaniel prescribed antibiotics and scheduled him for a follow up appointment.
Dr. Omar extracted the molar and Greg experienced the same level of care as with Dr. McAndrews. “He explained everything in such detail before beginning, during the procedure he would make comments about we’re doing this, we’re doing that,” Greg said.
Greg felt that the entire experience from making the appointment, to the front desk to the dentists was very professional and polite. “The comfort level was excellent. I wanted to share this wonderful experience,” Greg said.
I Need Glasses in My Life
Raquel receiving a note from her seven-year-old son’s teacher that he was having trouble reading. She brought him to TCCH for a physical exam where a nurse verified, through a vision screen, that he was indeed having trouble seeing out of both eyes. Our medical team referred Raquel and her son to the TCCH Vision program, which is also at the Fellsmere site. Raquel, through a Spanish-speaking interpreter, said was very happy to learn that TCCH has a vision program because it is close tow. Her son was very excited to get glasses because, “I need glasses in my life. I have trouble reading in class and I do a lot of tests in class.”
TCCH is an incredible resource for the Fellsmere location providing medical, dental, vision and pharmaceutical services within the same building. This is a small town with a large Spanish-speaking population, including seasonal migrant workers. The majority of the staff at this location speak Spanish and many live in the surrounding area. The Fellsmere population embraces TCCH as a vital medical source because of the care provided and, equally important, the cultural awareness and ability to communicate without a language barrier.
The Importance of Affordable, Accessible Eye Care
Cheri Thomas is one of the unlucky few who are too young for Medicaid and makes too much money for the Affordable Care Act so accessible healthcare is key for her lifestyle. She utilizes the sliding fee discount to afford her medical care. Cheri receives regular eye exams and recently moved from her past eye doctor when she learned TCCH offered vision services. “I switched to TCCH because I come here for my medical and dental care. It’s easier to do everything in one place and everyone is so nice here,” she said.
Cheri is an avid reader and is adamant that her eyes stay healthy. She scheduled an eye exam to make sure her cataracts had not advanced. Cheri was also receiving a test for macular degeneration because her previous doctor noticed a wrinkle in her eye; this wrinkle was causing her the most worry. Fellsmere is her favorite TCCH location, “You have no idea how beneficial it is to have this facility. You don’t wait forever to get an appointment. It’s just pleasant and that means a lot.”
Vero Beach Couple Passes Along Kindness in the Form of Healthcare
Just think… if the only people that got the [COVID-19 vaccination] were the only ones who could afford it. TCCH was offering it to everyone. – Judy Spahn
Kindness is a key component in Judy and Bruce Wolck’s life. Both spent their careers educating children and when retirement called, they chose the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas. The couple and 20 of their close friends enjoyed six months out of the year in this island paradise. When Bruce experienced chest pains in his home away from home, he called his niece and nephew, Dennis and Donna King, who lived in Vero Beach for help. Bruce received, “a couple of stents,” and recovered with the Kings. Then, life continued as normal, living in upper Michigan for part of the year, and the Bahamas for the second half.
In 2019, Dorian devastated the Bahamas along with Bruce and Judy’s piece of paradise. “Life is not fair,” Judy said. This category 5 storm lasted from August 24 through September 10. Luckily, Bruce and Judy were at home in Michigan so they remained safe. Unfortunately, winter was approaching upper Michigan. Bruce and Judy had to leave their northern home, which is not winterized and sits on a private road without snow removal service; their second home was destroyed. The King’s again came to their aid, and helped them secure housing in Vista Gardens. Bruce and Judy kindly shared their new tropical location with other Bahamian friends who lost homes. Ultimately, 20 friends joined them in Vista Royal. Life started anew. They supported local arts, they bird watched in the stick marsh and celebrated birthdays with their friends. “The huge [benefit] is having our friends here in Vero. Except during COVID,” Judy said.
Wanting to protect themselves and others, the couple started searching for a COVID-19 vaccine. Judy recruited friends from Michigan, Texas, Massachusetts and Florida to help secure a vaccine through multiple web sites within Indian River County. “We were worried about whether or not we could get the shots. It took a long time. We tried this agency, that agency, finally, we called TCCH,” Bruce said. The couple heard about TCCH through word of mouth from their neighborhood.
“I called at 9 and they gave us a 10:30 appointment. The same day. I was in heaven,” Judy said. Judy and Bruce then graciously provided TCCH information to their friends. “Just about every one of our Bahamian people was able to link up with TCCH and get their shots. Isn’t that remarkable,” Bruce added.
Judy and Bruce were extremely cautious in who they visited and took appropriate precautions during the pandemic. Now, fully vaccinated, they are still careful but “We feel a great sense of relief. To the extend we attended a string concert,” Bruce said. They also plan to visit family in the near future.
And, because life is not always fair, Bruce and Judy decided to extend the kindness they have received throughout their lives and give back. They donated to the TCCH Foundation to provide healthcare for all during a pandemic when not everyone is able to receive basic health care.
Ways you can help.
• Visit https://www.tcchinc.org/
• Mail a check payable to: TCCH Foundation, 1555 Indian River Blvd., Suite B-210, Vero Beach, FL 32960
• Text GIVE in the subject line to 772-238-3658.
Jonathan Heeter - Gifts COVID-19 Stimulus Check to TCCH Foundation
Jonathan Heeter received his COVID-19 stimulus check with a bit of hesitancy. Luckily, the pandemic did not affect his job as Head of International at Warner Music China so the check was a bit of a bonus. His work has allowed him to travel the world for the last twenty years and experience other cultures and governments. “I am disappointed in how the health care system works in the United States compared with other developed countries. The more affluent you are the better health care you have,” Heeter said. He doesn’t agree with this unequal access to health care.
Heeter points to data proving the better health care you receive in maternity and early childhood, the better your health outcomes are throughout life. With this in mind, he specifically and generously donated his COVID-19 stimulus check to the Treasure Coast Community Health (TCCH) Foundation. For Heeter, the decision to donate to TCCH was easy because of the quality of health care provided compared to other local medical providers and service to all socioeconomic levels. “I wanted to give people access to health care and positively impact health outcomes on a local level,” Heeter said.
Your Donation Makes a Local Impact. If your household is doing okay during the COVID-19 pandemic and your stimulus check truly is a bonus, consider donating all or part of the payment to the TCCH Foundation’s general operating fund. One hundred percent of your gift stays in Indian River County. One hundred percent of your gift will help provide flu shots to children, mammograms and cervical exams to women in poverty, dental cleanings and dentures to cancer patients, and mental health services to all age groups.
TCCH will not turn anyone away from medical care based on the ability to pay. However, many of our friends and neighbors are in need of vital medical care. Your gift allows TCCH to continue serving as many people as possible during this time of cutbacks and layoffs.
Remember, TCCH is a 501(c)(3) and donations are tax deductible.
Kenneth and Susan Teague - COVID-19 Vaccine Recipients Hope for Return to More Normal Life
Kenneth and Susan Teague’s story is not unique to most Americans age 65 and older in search of a COVID-19 vaccination.
Kenneth traveled the world as an Air Force security forces specialist, retiring at Patrick Air Force base. After retirement, Kenneth found a second career with Child Protective Services as a child protective investigator, where he met and then married, Susan. Kenneth investigated abuse reports and if necessary, Susan worked with the families to keep the children safe. “I didn’t enjoy the work but I got great satisfaction out of the work and really helped people,” Kenneth said.
Though his work with the Air Force and Child Protective Services, Kenneth has been busy protecting people his entire life, so when COVID hit, he and Susan’s life changed dramatically.
“We’ve pretty much been hermits since April,” Kenneth said of their current social situation. He and Susan rarely venture out of the house, missing family holidays, reunions, and funerals. On occasion, they see close friends under the scrutiny of distance and masks. When the time arrived to get their first COVID-19 vaccination on February 4 from Treasure Coast Community Health (TCCH), they did not hesitate.
“I want to live. I don’t know how else to say it,” Kenneth said, explaining why he and Susan were desperate to get their first vaccination. “We didn’t know what to expect but the [vaccination] system was very well organized. We got through, start to finish, within one hour and that included the 15-minute [observation] time. That was amazing to me,” Kenneth said. The couple experienced minor side effects other than a little arm pain at the injection site and a slight headache; the next day both were back to normal. “It was absolutely no different or worse than a routine flu shot,” Kenneth said.
While they await their second shot, Kenneth is looking forward to a more ordinary future, “We’re still going to use masks and social distance and be more cautious around crowds, but we’re looking forward to more of a somewhat normal life.”
Kenneth offers this advice to those still searching for a vaccine slot, “I found out when I was working that the best say to get things done is through networking.” Use community groups on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in addition to sharing information with your friends and neighbors.
Ken Zielinski – TCCH Pharmacist
Ken Zielinski, PharmD, has a wide and varied pharmaceutical career but it’s the personal connections with his patients that makes Treasure Coast Community Health (TCCH) his favorite. “It’s here we actually help people. We can get people free medication, we have time to talk them, they aren’t just a number in a fast-paced environment,” Zielinski said.
TCCH patients have the unique ability to visit their provider and then, without leaving the building, consult with a pharmacist and pick up prescription medications at the Oslo and Fellsmere locations. “Our patients have immediate contact without even leaving their parking space. If there’s any issue or question we have immediate access to the provider, which is nice,” explains Zielinski.
Like other pharmacies, TCCH has mail order services and a mobile refill app, the ability to administer immunizations, and can provide medication management and synchronization. “The programs we offer are not unique to TCCH but how we handle and distribute the programs is definitely unique. We go a little bit over and above. I’ll do all that [paper work] and take it out of their hands,” says Zielinski.
TCCH uses Patient Assistance Programs that allow patients to go directly to the manufacturer and actually get medications for free and sent directly to their home. TCCH also utilizes outreach programs, such as Direct Relief and Americares, to obtain free products, even over the counter medications, for qualifying patients at no charge. The pharmacy also price matches all other competing pharmacies’ free and reduced programs.
Zielinski’s step-father was a doctor and a big influence on his career choice. “He got me interested in the medical side of things and I wanted to stay in medical but not as a doctor. What’s the next best thing? I said, ‘pharmacy’,” Zielinski explained. What Zielinski thought was the next best thing, ultimately became the best thing for him.
TCCH has full-service pharmacies with a comprehensive list of prescription medications, in addition to nutritional products, in the Fellsmere and Oslo locations. Call 772-257-8224 for pharmacy assistance.
Stephanie - Conquering A Fear of Dentistry
Roughly, 75 percent of people fear the dentist. Approximately 10 percent have a strong enough fear that they never go to the dentist until an emergency forces the visit. This distress comes from the sound of the drill, a bad experience, getting a shot in the mouth, gagging or choking — the list goes on.
Stephanie’s fear started at age 11 when a dentist wanted to break her jaw to fix an under bite or face a lifetime of what he described as looking like a gorilla. She left the office crying.
Stephanie went to the dentist two more times by the age of 30. She was fighting cavities despite exceptional oral health. The dentist filled the cavities without discussion or explanation. Stephanie left the practice feeling guilty and confused about the condition of her teeth.
TCCH family practice physician, Larry Greenspoon, MD, suggested Stephanie make an appointment with Mark Gaponiuk, DMD at the Fellsmere location. “From the moment I sat down in Dr. Gap’s chair he was very warm and accepting and explained everything I needed done. The rapport he had with me, and his mannerisms, it was very calming. I was not nervous about anything,” Stephanie said.
Not only did Stephanie gain a new love of dentistry she also found answers about her cavities. A TCCH dental hygienist explained how a recent diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome and Lupus was affecting her dental health. Stephanie said, “It [eased] my mind knowing that I was doing what I was supposed to do. It’s just not anything that I can control.” The hygienist also provided her with a list of products specifically designed for people with Sjogren’s.
Simple acts of kindness and taking time to educate Stephanie removed her fear of dentistry. She adds, “I tell everybody to come here. Every one of my friends knows that I absolutely love Treasure Coast Community Health.”
By the way, Stephanie never fixed her very slight under bite.
Helen - Pharmacy Need
Helen, age 63, is one of approximately 29 million non-elderly Americans falling through the cracks in the United States health care system.
Her husband’s employer covered Helen until he passed away. She then found herself too young for Medicare, and not earning enough money to qualify for the Affordable Care Act. Helen’s chance for Medicaid coverage disappear when Florida did not expand eligibility earlier this year. Her current income is just enough to cover living expenses, which does not include paying for private health insurance.
Four years ago, physicians at TCCH’s Fellsmere location diagnosed Helen with uncontrolled diabetes. This complication of the disease causes unstable blood glucose levels that swing from very high to very low, impacting quality of life and possible hospitalization. Helen, already on a limited fixed income, found herself in need of medicine she could not afford.
When Helen spoke to the TCCH Fellsmere pharmacy team about her situation, they helped her fill out paperwork to receive free insulin through a federal Patient Assistance Program. She also receives free insulin supplies through TCCH. “If I had to pay for the insulin, I would probably go without. I don’t think I’d be around if it wasn’t for this program,” Helen said. The pharmacy team also contacts Helen when her prescriptions need refilled, “They are so nice and easy to work with. They know the medications and call about refills instead of me remembering.”
The Fellsmere location’s on-site pharmacy creates a one-stop center for health care needs. Furthermore, all TCCH locations are on the GoLine bus route. Helen sometimes gets a ride from a friend, but she usually takes the bus, “It’s really good. I don’t have to depend on people to drive me. All I say is, ‘I want to go to TCCH’ and they take me.”
Helen is just one of the many reasons TCCH strives to deliver exceptional care and support services while eliminating health care disparities.