When Dell Crawford first came to Regional One Health for help, he was in so much pain he could barely walk, making it impossible to work.

Dell says the fact that he was connected with the ONE Health complex care team is a blessing that has helped him reclaim his life.

Now, he’s getting the care he needs so he can go back to work and the things he loves, like taking long walks with his dog and spending time outdoors.

Dell Crawford is the kind of guy who makes you want to pull up a chair and have a nice, long conversation. With his outgoing personality, ready smile and laidback demeanor, Dell can make you feel like you don’t have a care in the world.

But if you do have that conversation, you will learn things haven’t been easy for Dell in recent years.

He’ll tell you that just months ago, he could barely walk. That his ankles and knees were so painfully swollen it was hard to even get out of bed. That he was in and out of the emergency room yet struggled to get follow-up care because he didn’t have health insurance.

Dell’s life was anything but carefree. His health was so bad that he couldn’t work, and when he couldn’t work, he couldn’t eat or pay his bills.

Dell is receiving the ongoing medical care he needs to work and enjoy life. “If I hadn’t met these people, I don’t know where I’d be,” he says. “They changed my life.”

But keep talking to Dell, and he will also tell you how his story has a happy ending thanks to Regional One Health’s ONE Health complex care initiative. “If I hadn’t met these people, I don’t know where I’d be. I love these people,” Dell says. “They changed my life.”

ONE Health was created with the support of Regional One Health Foundation donors to find a better way to address the complex health and social needs of patients with frequent emergency department visits and inpatient stays.

Regional One Health leaders had recognized the old way of doing things wasn’t working for these patients. Emergency physicians were treating their acute needs, but if a patient couldn’t access follow-up care and was returning to unsafe living conditions like a lack of food or housing, they never truly got better – meaning they’d end up right back in the emergency room.

It’s a vicious cycle that had become Dell’s life.

“I was in the ER every other month. I had gout and arthritis so bad my knees were swollen like watermelons. I had hypertension, but since I didn’t have insurance I couldn’t get my blood pressure medication, and I went so long without taking it that it damaged my kidney. I didn’t even know I had kidney disease until I came here.”

“I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Dell pays it forward by volunteering to help with ONE Health projects, like packing food boxes to provide to patients in times of need.

That’s when ONE Health social worker Coralotta Cromer gave him an answer.

She visited Dell in the emergency department and asked him questions about what he needed most, then got to work setting up doctor appointments, getting his medications, even providing a food basket when he fell short one month.

Ever since Coralotta intervened on his behalf, Dell has stayed on his medication for hypertension and arthritis. He’s had his ankles, knees and hips checked, and his kidney disease is well-managed. If something comes up, he sees a doctor before it becomes an emergency.

Dell says the difference has been like night and day. “Before, I couldn’t get in to see a doctor for four months, five months. Now I see the doctor the next day. Before, I couldn’t walk or get up and down stairs. Now, I’m walking, talking, laughing, everything.”

With regular medical care and access to his prescriptions, he’s stayed out of the emergency room and has even been able to go back to work. He can go outside, wash his car, walk his dog – all the simple pleasures of life that people too often take for granted.

That includes sitting down for a good, long conversation.

Dell said he loves to share his experience with ONE Health because he wants other people who struggle with health issues to know there is hope.

“These ladies here are angels. They’re like little sisters to me,” he said. “If I would have known about this place earlier, I would have been here a long time ago. But God works in mysterious ways. He may not come when you want him to, but he’s always right on time.”

To support our ONE Health team as they make a real difference for patients like Dell, visit the Regional One Health Foundation at www.regionalonehealth.org/foundation.