Integrated Primary Care:
John and Ellen's Story
Last year, 300 Virginia Garcia staff members served 34,000 vulnerable community members with high quality, culturally competent and comprehensive primary care in 60 different languages at six locations.
John and Ellen moved to Oregon in 1992. John worked in the restaurant industry and opened a restaurant in Lake Oswego. They lived a full life. When the restaurant closed in 2000, John changed careers and provided force protection for the U.S. Navy and prisoner escorts for the U.S. Marshalls. Ellen worked as an office manager and, in 2001, became the full time care-giver for John’s mother.
While on duty, John was injured. First, a fall led to a punctured lung, pneumonia (with two weeks hospitalization), a broken ankle, broken shoulder bone and more complications. John wasn’t able to return to work and they lost their health insurance. Hospital bills mounted and John began to have anxiety attacks. Because Ellen was a caregiver for John’s mother, they earned a small wage which was between $5.00 and $65.00 more than the federal poverty level line to qualify for medical assistance, such as Oregon Health Plan. Conventional health care coverage was not even an option because of their pre-existing conditions.
Meanwhile, their health continued to decline. John has diabetes and high blood pressure and Ellen is at-risk and suffers from high blood pressure. A lack of insurance meant the loss of their medications, which cost upwards of $900 a month without coverage, more than Ellen’s salary could cover. John’s eyesight began to fail and the couple wondered if he would go blind. Ellen was now a caregiver for two.
It was at this time that the family came to Virginia Garcia. At Virginia Garcia, they were able to access primary health care, vision care, dental care, health education and mental health care on a sliding scale fee schedule they could afford.
Now the couple has lost weight, lowered their cholesterol, decreased their blood pressure and John is getting assistance in controlling his diabetes. John is still in treatment for diabetic retinopathy and the couple improved their dental health. John and Ellen accessed health education classes to learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite their economic challenges, which create barriers to regular exercise and fresh, healthy foods. John is now off of all of his chronic pain medications that he began taking after his accident.
Ellen loves the personal approach to care at Virginia Garcia and is amazed by the provision of such individualized care for people of so many different cultures. Everyone knows their names and they are always treated with respect. They believe that young Virginia Garcia, who died too soon, is an angel looking down upon all of the clinics. They both know that their lives were saved by Virginia Garcia.
*We are so grateful to our patients who chose to share their stories of health and healing with us. To respect their privacy, patient images and names have been changed.