Toni Peters Improves Health With Help From Her Guardian Angels

Toni Peters
Toni Peters sits on her porch with her constant companions.

Toni Peters was overwhelmed.

She was sick. The mound of pills she took every morning to make her feel better actually made her lightheaded.

And, the 80-year-old mobile home she owned was falling apart.

As she sat on her front porch deck recently, she remembered the time just before last Christmas when, as she puts it, “I kind of gave up for a minute there.”

Just before Christmas she was hospitalized for a few days. Doctors diagnosed her with high blood pressure and a possible stroke suffered long ago and prescribed several pills to take every morning and night. It was hard to keep track of them all, she says.

Though the pills helped her medical condition they did not make her feel better.

For a woman who is “pretty good at working and taking care of my own, something set me back,” recalled Toni, her eyes filling with tears. Her head turned toward the trailer door as a way to remain composed as she discussed her mounting problems.

There was the trailer. From the outside the off-white, single-wide parked under a large oak tree in eastern Duval County did not look its 80 years. Inside, comfortable furniture, wood wall paneling, neatly arranged mementos and pictures of family concealed decades of wear and tear.

The most significant problem spot was in the bathroom.

“First it was my hot water heater. The pipes flooded out the floor of my bathroom and it got a little wet and rotted out my bathroom [floor],” Toni remembered. She was so afraid the toilet would fall through the floor she warned guests to be careful when using the bathroom.

Making the floor situation worse was a leak in the water line leading from the wall to the toilet. Water from the wall dripped onto the floor.

To stop the leak Toni turned off the water flow and used a nearby bucket of water to flush the toilet when needed.

With both body and home failing, the futility of her life kept her from wanting to get out of bed.

Fortunately, Toni was referred by staff at Baptist Health to a program designed just for people in her situation, the We Care Health and Wellness Program.

Today, sitting on the porch Toni’s face lights up when she talks about the “guardian angels” who arrived at her door to help.

(See Toni tell her story)

Rejoice Asomugha, community health worker and Tina Crooks, RN, two members We Care Jacksonville’s Health and Wellness Program, walked through her door and, according to Toni, “took over, bless their hearts.”

“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t know how to take my medicine. I wouldn’t have no medicine.”

The Health and Wellness Program is a partnership with hospitals, such as Baptist Health, health clinics such as Sulzbacher Beaches Clinic and social service agencies such as BEAM. The Community Health Worker, Rejoice, is made possible by funding from Community First Credit Union’s Community First Cares Foundation.

“Helping provide care and services like this that improve the health and welfare of our most at-risk residents is part of our foundation’s giving mission,” said Roger Rassman, chair of the Community First Cares Foundation board of directors. “We Care is doing amazing work in our community for Toni and the other patients who rely on the community health workers when they have nowhere else to turn.”

Rejoice travels from house to house seeing 10-15 patients a day.

“Typically I see 10 to 15 people a week,” she said. “A lot of them have a chronic disease. That is the main focus of the program…to help people with chronic disease difficulty like those with high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer patients.”

Rehabilitation is the ultimate goal of the program, she said. “We give them a helping hand to get them to a more stable condition.”

“Education and the delivery of appropriate community services are critical parts of the Health and Wellness Program,” said Sue Nussbaum, M.D., MBA, executive director of We Care. “Working with patients in their home allows us to better understand not only their clinical n

eeds, but seeing patients in their living environment gives us the ability to deliver services they may not realize they need or think they can access.”

Because of the efforts of the Health and Wellness team, Toni now has services she never realized she needed, or could afford. Among the services Rejoice and Tina were able to access for Toni were food stamps and a visit from community volunteer, Mark Kornhauser, who fixed her bathroom.

Toni remembers it was a Sunday when Mark and Rejoice arrived at her door ready to work on the toilet. Toni pulled up the towel on the floor next to the toilet and they all noticed they could see the ground through the floor.

“They didn’t know what they was getting into,” she said. Having to fix the floor was a surprise, but they got to work quickly and finished faster than Toni expected, “They fixed it all in one day!”

As important as the medical assistance is, the emotional bond between patient and caregiver means so much to those looking for hope.

“I kind of gave up for a minute there,” Toni mentioned again during the interview on her porch. “I don’t know why I love this old world. Miss Rejoice and Miss Tina…them coming by got me up and wanting to see the Boogie man again, the outside world. And, that’s the main thing.”

The Health and Wellness program itself is a team effort with We Care’s community partners.

“We so appreciate the sponsorship of the Community First Cares Foundation,” said Dr. Nussbaum. “Through their partnership we are able to maintain on-going relationships with our patients leading to improved health and saved lives.”


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