Embracing a Healthy Culture in Central

Cathy Kopinsy, medical students and Central residents; 2019-82e0caaa

By Dawn Glasco

Angel Godfrey, known as Miss Angel, has been volunteering for years, and after raising her children she is now a caregiver for her grandchildren. She checks on others daily, helps them overcome obstacles, runs errands for neighbors, and makes donations whenever she can.  She serves on the neighborhood council, canvasses the community to share information about resources, and takes regular get-aways to the casino. “I enjoy helping people,” she said. “You can make a difference in someone’s life by reaching out to them.” Every year, Miss Angel volunteers at community events. During our last neighborhood gathering, we danced to the music, children jumped around in bouncy houses as laughter and chatter filled the room, while we sheltered away from the heatwave that blanketed outdoors. Miss Angel paused for a check-in and sat down for a health screening.

Prior to that day, I had not given much thought about the potential of a health screening during a festivity. So, I recently reached out to Cathy Copinsky of St. Vincent Charity to learn more. “We began providing blood pressure/blood sugar(glucose) screenings in 1995. Many people aren’t aware of the possible severity of their health problem or may not even be aware they have a health condition. You’ve heard that high blood pressure is the “Silent Killer.” Often their life circumstances may prevent them from seeking medical care. So, it is important that we go out to where they are, in familiar surroundings like their church, apartment building or community center, somewhere convenient and a place they feel is a safe space for them.

That day, Miss Angel returned from her screening in less than five minutes, stating that she needed a ride to the emergency room because her systolic blood pressure level was 212. She looked fine. In that moment, I could see that remarkable things happen when people come together to support each  other and contribute to the greater good of the community. I drove Miss Angel to the ER. I realized that during the rush of life, when things get busy and taking care of others is a priority, it is also a signal that self-care is the pause and the check-in that gives us the ability to do more.

Cathy went on to say, “We have been able to intervene in countless circumstances.  So often, it’s a case where someone is feeling fine, and hasn’t been taking their blood pressure medication or their insulin. The higher reading is a nice reminder to them of how important taking their medication is to keep them from potential hospitalization.”  Miss Angel was hospitalized for a couple of days. Nonetheless, she is a champion. I will forever be inspired by her courage to pause and to check-in. She helped me see that a gathering of any sort is more than an event. It is a place where interventions can happen, where lives can be changed and potentially saved.

During summer you can find Cathy and her helpers providing health screenings, interrupting the statistical relationship between zip codes and life spans, and shedding light on the real champions in our communities, the ones like Miss Angel who take time to pause and check-in.

“Currently (pre-COVID) we provide consistent health screenings at nine sites. Some sites we are screening once or twice a month, others quarterly. The most important part of our screenings is that we go to the sites consistently.  Being with them so often helps us to build a caring relationship with residents and community members, which allows us to do a little health education, to watch over their screening numbers, and to catch things that might be a “little off” before they become serious.”

“Do you plan to provide health screenings this summer?” I asked. “Absolutely we are planning to continue the screenings at the level allowed with any future restrictions,” she said.

I appreciate the people of Central. They’ve taught me that even when the alarm has not sounded, and I cannot determine if I’ve reached my limits, taking time to pause and check-in can provide the nurturing I need to live a fuller life. Lately, I’ve been pausing a bit more. I make it a regular practice to join a meditation session, drink a healthy smoothie, crate art, help others, exercise, talk with family and friends, and the list goes on. I’m looking forward to dancing at our next community event, while the music is playing and children are jumping around in bouncy houses, as laughter and chatter fill the atmosphere, as we shelter away from the heatwave that blankets the outdoors. I will scan across the crowd to find Cathy Kopinsky and a champion like Miss Angel who will always remind me of the value and potential of health screenings.