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TSD Health Fair bonds and bridges

HealthFair-1Gregory Douglas and Kevin Hopson did not know each other before each took a finger and placed it in the hands of a third "stranger" at The New Tri-State Defender 2012 Health Fair on Saturday (June 16).

The third party was Okoia Uket, a second-year student at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center's College of Pharmacy. She's from Brooklyn, N.Y. Settings such as TSD's Annual Community Health Fair and Fun Day – held this year at Douglass High School in conjunction with the Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival – help her practice in her area of interest and build up on local knowledge.

Douglas, noting that he and Hopson had just met, said he was there to "see what was going on with his system." These days, he is a frontline booster for getting as much information – preferably far in advance – about your health status as possible.

It's not just a passing thought. Over a year ago, Douglas drove himself to an emergency room, complaining of stomach pains. He'd had them for some time before seeking treatment.

HealthFair-2After assessing the results of initial tests, the doctors returned, asking Douglas if he indeed had driven to the hospital. They could not believe it. The results showed Douglas had diabetes, and that his glucose levels were dangerously high.

Douglas was stunned.

Much has changed since then. He's lost 60-plus pounds and substantively changed his diet, leaning heavily on grilled and baked foods, eliminating some historical favorites completely and counting starches on the fly.

And just as importantly, he has been on a health, self-education campaign, learning all he can, from wherever he can.

Douglas was self-employed when he first got his diagnosis. Since then, he has taken on employment to help meet bills that escalated with his condition.

But don't think Douglas is sad or depressed. He's not. He's learned that diabetes can be controlled. And he's learned to seek help where he can find it (health fairs) and use all that he can.

HealthFair-3Asell Fitchpatric and Glenith Bedford were at the Health Fair with service in mind. They are with UnitedHealthcare, and bother were determined to bridge the gap between health services available and the people who need those services.

"In many instances there are people who don't know that there are things out there that can help them," Bedford said.

Don't waste any time thinking that Bedford drew the short straw at the office and wound up designated to give up a Saturday to work a health fair.

"No, not at all. It's a privilege in many ways," said Bedford, "You have to always be on the other side of the table. It was not so long ago that my mother was alive and well. She was 85 when she passed. Of course, the burden fell on me, as well as my sisters, to make sure things were taken care of.

"It would have been a big help if we'd known at the time things like this were available to make us aware of what we could do for her."

(The 2012 Community Health Fair and Family Fun Day was the fourth annual event for The New Tri-State Defender, with primary sponsorship this year by Methodist Healthcare.)

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