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The difference between ‘health care’ and caring

August 7, 2019
By Clayton Luz - Lee Health , Lehigh Acres Citizen

When Jean Hobbs and her family members bought their home in Lehigh Acres in June 2018, the real estate mantra "location, location, location" was hardly on anyone's mind. Everyone was more concerned about having enough room to live comfortably together under one roof: four bedrooms, three baths, and 2-car garage on almost half an acre with room to spare was plenty for Jean, her husband James, their son, daughter, daughter-in-law, nephew, and four grandkids.

The Hobbs family settled into their Colonial ranch home unaware that Lee Community Healthcare would open its newest office right down the road, literally. In November, the Lehigh location made news as the first Lee Community Healthcare office that cares for the entire family - from babies to adolescents, older adults, and pregnant women. The facility, located on Lee Road, is three miles from the Hobbs' home.

Although Jean didn't know it at the time, the new office would become her second home. That's because in December Jean was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, a type of cancer that begins in the uterus.

Article Photos

Lehigh resident Jean Hobbs (center) calls Shari Lagodzinski, PA, and Joie Mozena, RN, her medical family.


The diagnosis put Jean's life in fast forward. Her cancer required surgery, the main treatment for most women with endometrial cancer, but not chemotherapy or radiation treatments. The procedure was scheduled for February at Lee Memorial Hospital. But first, Jean had to establish health care services with a primary care doctor to address some underlying health issues.

"I hadn't been to a primary care doctor in years," Jean says. "I still had numbness in my leg from a bad car accident in April. Elective surgery on my back would have helped it, but my blood pressure was too high to risk it. Because of the high blood pressure, my leg would swell. It hurt. I had a hard time getting around."

Physician assistant Shari Lagodzinski, PA, says it's common for people in medically underserved areas to go without regular health care. "It's among the reasons why Lee Community Healthcare opened in Lehigh," says Shari, who practices there. "We provide primary health care services to uninsured or underinsured community members and area residents like Jean who have health insurance but who lack access to affordable, high-quality care."

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Lee Health strives to provide exceptional patient experience by providing the right care at the right time at the right place. For Jean, she found that and more when she made Shari, and the clinical and support staff her primary care providers. She found a second family.

"My experience has been wonderful because they truly care," Jean said. "The support is genuine. It's unlike any doctor's office I've ever been to."

When Jean first saw Shari, time was of the essence. The date of her cancer surgery was fast approaching. "Shari immediately diagnosed what was going on with me," Jean says. "I found out that I was a type 2 diabetic, and that I needed to get on insulin to get my sugars down before I could have the surgery."

Shari says Jean had other health conditions, including the high blood pressure that made legs swell. "Jean was so motivated to get things done to address her health challenges," Shari says. "She really advocated for herself. I had to remind her, 'one step at a time.'"

Because of the cancer diagnosis, Jean's resolutions for the New Year were more like wishes, including one that she would dance with her son's spring wedding. "I told Shari, my son's getting married in April and I wanted to be there," Jean recalls. "I wanted him to hold me and do that mother-son dance."

Joie Mozena, R.N., care coordinator, also pitched in during Jean's initial visit with Shari. "We wanted to get Jean in right away for the cancer surgery, but we had to get her diabetes under control so her body would heal better after the procedure. That meant putting Jean on insulin, monitoring her blood sugar levels, and cleaning up her diet. We had a week or so to get all this going."

Jean was more than up to the challenge. She began a regime of "The cancer diagnosis really pushed me," she says. "Joie was so informative about the different things I could try to get my sugars down. She'd call me a few times a week to check my sugars and talk about them with me."

Testament to Jean's determination to prepare herself for surgery, she stopped drinking milk, at Joie's suggestion. "I love milk," Jean admits. "I'll drink it over anything else in the world. Before my diagnosis, I drank eight glasses of milk every day."

Jean also met with registered dietitian Lisa Roth to talk about ways to eat healthier. Jean appreciates the variety of health care services she can receive during one visit under one roof. Before Lee Community Healthcare opened, Jean saw a doctor only in an emergency, at whatever location she could easily get to. For example, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer only because she'd gone to the emergency room at Lee Memorial to have a recurrent bout of vaginal bleeding checked out.

Joie calls Jean "one of the hardest-working patients" with whom she's worked. "Jean was adamant that she wasn't going to leave her children, grandkids, and she wanted to be there to help raise her nephew."

Jean's insulin regimen at the time included pills morning and evening, plus an injection at night. "They stabilized me. They got me where I needed to be for that surgery and it was quick."

She was impressed by the teamwork of the Lehigh clinical and support staff. "There were so many factors just to get everyone all on one page," she says. "It was difficult to do all that in such a short time, but they did it. You have to appreciate their knowledge. They put me where I am today."

Where is Jean today? She reports the cancer surgery was a success and she's no longer taking injectable insulin. Her A1C level is almost half of what it was in January, at 6.7. She still talks with Joie once a month about her sugars. Sometimes one will call the other to chat. She found a heart doctor to address her cardio issues, too, through a referral from Shari. Jean's blood pressure has improved, reducing the swelling in her leg.

"They're taking care of me," Jean says. "The love I feel here is really amazing."

It's a team effort, Shari says. "Having a 1:1 relationship with a provider office and staff like ours can maximize your health care," she says. "We want community members to know we do this. We're here for them."

Jean Hobbs knows, without a doubt.

Since Lee Community Healthcare opened its first offices in 2011, thousands of have avoided emergency departments for their routine care and have better managed their health conditions to avoid hospital visits and admissions. Other locations include Fort Myers, North Fort Myers, Cape Coral, East Fort Myers, and South Fort Myers.



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