HAZARD — In 2013, Perry County hit rock bottom, as far as health statistics are concerned, when the county ranked worst in the state. That same year, Perry County made nationwide news, when the Today show revealed that women living in Perry County have the lowest life expectancy rate of any region in all of America. Naturally, a place where health statistics are this dismal can expect to see an exceeding number of victims to some of the nation’s most common killers—cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Top experts agree; the reasons our people suffer from these afflictions at an accelerated pace is due to a combination of poverty, unhealthy cultural habits, a high rate of smokers, tough “on the job” conditions for a majority of the working class and scores of other minor factors, which join together to create major calamity. Thankfully, there are brilliant minds and compassionate hearts within the community, who have devoted their lives to resolving these issues, and these folks are making a positive impact, not only in the statistics, but also with their neighbors’ quality of life.
Two of the entities that are making a positive difference for people in need are the Kentucky Center for Excellence in Rural Health and Appalachian Regional Healthcare. These partners have teamed up to take on several key health problems facing citizens of the Mountain Region. One of their primary areas of emphasis has been stroke, which is the 5th leading cause of death in America, according to the CDC.
The Kentucky Center for Excellence in Rural Health and ARH offer a program called KC3T, which stands for Kentucky Care Coordination for Community Transition. The idea behind this program is to provide an in depth and effective transition back to a normal life for individuals who have had a stroke. Thus far in its existence, KC3T has proved to be extremely effective, partially because the program has attracted recruits, who know what they are doing and care about the patients, for whom they are doing the job.
Keisha Hudson is the Patient Navigator for the KC3T program. She acts as a counselor for stroke patients, assisting them with their needs transitioning back into their normal lives, whether the needs be physical or emotional.
“They must have somebody that they can trust,” Hudson said of the patients, “They can call me for anything.”
Hudson helps lead a support group for people dealing with stroke. The group meets the fourth Wednesday of every month at 5:00 p.m. in the private dining area of the ARH Hospital. According to an article written by Mallory Powell and recently published by the University of Kentucky, these are the comments of a stroke patient from this region in regards to Hudson’s work.
“Stroke is a hard, hard thing to deal with,” said Lloyd Cornett, a 61 year old stroke survivor from Slemp, “They were telling me things I just didn’t need to hear. They had me downhearted so bad it was just unreal. And then Keisha came into the picture, and I found out there was just no proof to what people were telling me.”
The support group and the KC3T program are not only for the stroke patients alone. Caregiver support is also provided. Caregivers are often the unsung heroes of stroke recovery. Sometimes caregivers need emotional support and guidance when it comes to proper ways to deal with the recovery of a loved one. The KC3T program offers such resources.
Fran Feltner spoke with the Hazard Herald about the Center for Excellence for Rural Health and the KC3T program. Feltner is the director of the Center for Excellence for Rural Health College of Medicine.
“Families have a hard enough time trying to figure out what steps to take next,” Feltner said, “Taking a person home, who has just had a stroke, can within itself be overwhelming. Having a Patient Navigator, who can meet the patients in the hospital when they are first admitted and work with the family, even after the patient has gone home, is extremely important.”
ARH plays a vital role in the KC3T program too. Stephanie Morgan is the Program Director of the ARH Acute Rehab Unit. She also spoke with the Hazard Herald.
“We have worked really hard here to build a wonderful program” Morgan said, “We want people to know that they can come here for top quality care and not have to drive so far or be away from their families because that is really hard for patients. When you’re dealing with stroke, the last thing you need is to worry about travel expenses or your loved one being all alone in the hospital. We have a fantastic facility here, close to home.”
The doctor in charge of the ARH Acute Rehab Unit is Dr. James Hammock. He takes an active role in the KC3T program, often attending support group meetings and providing demonstrations. He is no stranger to patient care. Dr. Hammock came to ARH from Cardinal Hill Hospital in Lexington.
“We kind of stole him” Morgan said of Dr. Hammock with a chuckle, “And I’m glad he is here.”
The KC3T support group meetings are open to everyone. For more information on the program, Keisha Hudson can be contacted at 439-3557, extension 83452 or through email, Keisha.Hudson@uky.edu. More information regarding the UK Center for Rural Health can be found on their website, kyruralhealth.org.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.