Clarence Gray survived a gunshot wound only to have his recovery threatened by homelessness, lack of food and other hurdles.
Regional One Health’s ONE Health complex care team intervened on his behalf, helping him find a safe place to live and improving his access to medical care.
With the support of the Regional One Health Foundation, ONE Health is a lifeline for patients with complex health and social needs, helping them improve their health and quality of life.
Clarence Gray flat-lined three times in the back of an ambulance on the way to Regional One Health’s Elvis Presley Trauma Center after he was shot in the thigh.
Doctors there saved his life, but Clarence would need over a dozen surgeries to save his leg.
He would need to relearn how to walk.
He would need time to heal a wound that, three years later, still requires care.
Shockingly, Clarence could have been homeless during that journey; sleeping outside exposed to the elements and figuring out day-to-day, moment-to-moment where he’d get his next meal.
“My leg was still an open wound, and I was living in the park. I’m not sure how long I would have survived,” Clarence said. “It would have been really hard. I’d probably still be dealing with the situation with my leg, and it would probably be a lot worse than it is now.”
Clarence Gray says ONE Health helps him keep his health and life on track. “Life is better now. I’m taking things one day at a time, but I feel great,” he said. “ONE Health gave me a new chance.”
Regional One Health’s ONE Health complex care team refused to let that happen.
ONE Health was created with the help of Regional One Health Foundation donors to intervene on behalf of patients with complex medical and social needs in hopes of keeping them out of the emergency room by providing medical care and improving the environment in which they live. Nurses and social workers help patients stay on medication and get to doctor appointments, while also addressing issues like homelessness, hunger and more.
Clarence’s struggle with those issues started one hot summer day in Orange Mound when he was simply trying to do the right thing.
He noticed a man and a woman fighting and saw the man get shot. “I stopped to pull him across the street, and by the time we got across, I realized I’d been shot too,” he said.
Clarence doesn’t remember a lot after that.
“I remember the blood shooting out like a waterfall. I was hot and then I was cold. Later, they told me I flat-lined three times in the back of the ambulance.”
Even after he stabilized, he faced a long road of surgeries, wound care and rehabilitation. He spent over six months as a patient at Regional One Health before he was ready to be discharged.
But if Clarence was physically ready, he wasn’t necessarily ready in other ways that matter.
ONE Health combines the skills of clinical nurses and social workers to help patients meet not only their medical needs, but social needs like housing, food and employment.
ONE Health social worker Coralotta Cromer learned just how ill-prepared Clarence was for life outside the hospital when she asked him about his plans.
He told her he had no idea.
He knew it was unsanitary and unsafe to live outside while his leg still had an open wound, but after half a year of being unable to work, he had no money and no options.
Coralotta immediately started the process of helping Clarence apply for housing. She found him a safe place to live, and arranged for transportation to his follow-up medical appointments.
She followed the ONE Health model of treating each patient as an individual and helping them to identify their biggest needs and priorities, which lets the care team focus in on the issues that make the biggest impact on the patient’s health and wellbeing.
For Clarence, it worked wonders.
He calls Coralotta his “guru” and makes sure to thank her and the rest of his team every chance he gets. He knows his outcome could have been much different, and he’s grateful that a story of survival that started in the back of an ambulance is still playing out within the walls of Regional One Health and under a roof he can call his own.
After working closely with his ONE Health team, he was ultimately able to secure his own housing and insurance and graduate from the complex care program.
“Life is better now. I’m taking things one day at a time, but I feel great,” he said. “ONE Health gave me a new chance.”
To support the ONE Health team as it gives more Memphians second chances, visit regionalonehealth.org/foundation.