‘Little blue building’ changed her life
Eleven years ago, Stephanie Sewell was an uninsured childcare worker living in one of Jacksonville’s poorest public housing complexes. She weighed close to 300 pounds, ate a lot of starch and fried foods and basically wasn’t setting a very good example for her husband and four children.
To make matters worse, Stephanie hadn’t seen a doctor in years.
“I was just hoping and praying that everything was OK,” the 49-year-old Jacksonville native recalled. “You don’t want to go to the doctor because you don’t want to hear what may be wrong. It’s a scary thing when you are working and all your money is going to bills. The last thing you think about is your health.”
Then one morning Stephanie couldn’t get out of bed due to a back injury. A trip to the ER confirmed a herniated disk. At the very least, she needed to be checked out by a specialist. At the worst, she needed surgery. But without insurance, neither option was available to her.
Fortunately, Stephanie’s husband came across a flyer for Volunteers in Medicine, a non-profit medical clinic in downtown Jacksonville that provides free outpatient primary and specialty medical services to uninsured, low-income workers in Duval County. The free clinic, which receives funding from Baptist Health, relies heavily on volunteer medical staff.
“I don’t even know if I would be alive right now if it wasn’t for this place,” said Stephanie. “I didn’t know that I was walking around for years with high blood pressure and at risk for a stroke. After they treated my back injury, they started working on my thyroid problem. That’s when I found out I was a diabetic.”
When Stephanie first came to the blue two-story building on the corner of East Duval and South Main streets, her blood pressure and blood sugar were off the charts. She received free medication for both conditions and also had a partial hysterectomy performed at Baptist Medical Center South. The clinic also provided her with free mental health counseling after her oldest son took his life two years ago.
“I ran in here hysterical and right away they began to treat me,” said Stephanie. “I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even talk
about it with my husband. But this little blue building is my sanctuary.”
Added Stephanie: “I’m so thankful for everyone who volunteers or puts money into this place. It’s changed my whole world. It’s such a blessing to have your health. It truly is answered prayers.”