Kevin Carruthers was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis after coming to the Regional One Health emergency department in severe pain. Without health insurance or regular care, he continued to experience flare-ups.

Fortunately, our ONE Health team stepped in to help Kevin access the medical care he needs to stay well.

With proper medication and support, he has avoided new emergency visits and hospital stays and is getting back to enjoying life and planning for the future.

As a young man living and working in Memphis, Kevin Carruthers was used to being able to do the things he wanted to do.

In high school, he played football, making a name for himself as a running back. When asked if he was fast, he replies, “I still am!”

After school, he worked in construction. He remembers a project at Graceland, when none other than Priscilla Presley stopped to say hello as his crew were outside near the gazebo. “She was just as cool and calm as could be. She asked me my name and how I was doing,” he said. “It’s a moment to remember. I’ll never forget it.”

But as he got older, Kevin’s health declined. He developed high blood pressure and dealt with periods of intense abdominal pain he couldn’t get under control.

He had trouble doing strenuous activities, making it difficult to work. No work meant no health insurance, preventing him from seeking care and accessing the medications he needed.

“She’s just a beautiful person. She would go all-out to help you,” Kevin says of social worker Coralotta Cromer. “When I didn’t have anyone else to go to, she was here for me. That’s the best I can say it.”

He ended up in the Regional One Health Emergency Department, where he was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. Whenever the condition flared up, he’d have to go back to the ED: “You can take all the medicine you want, but they can only numb that pain in the hospital,” he said.

Kevin’s situation caught the attention of our ONE Health complex care team, who help patients who don’t have health insurance manage chronic conditions and address social determinants of health like housing, food and transportation.

Kevin was connected with social worker Coralotta Cromer, who could tell he was caught in a vicious cycle. “He’d be discharged, but there was no follow-up care,” she said. “When his medicine ran out, he’d get sick again, and he’d end up coming back.”

Coralotta stepped in to stop that cycle. She connected him with a primary care provider and access to medication, and also arranged transportation so he could get to his appointments. She quickly found Kevin to be an eager partner in improving his health.

“He kept asking, ‘Are you serious?’” she laughed. “He’s an easygoing guy, and he took me for my word. I think he was excited to have a chance to take care of himself and get better.”

That’s exactly how ONE Health works best. “We want to assist our patients but also prepare them to transition to doing these things on their own,” Coralotta explained. “Any life lesson we can teach, that’s what we want to do. We try to give the patient accountability.”

For Kevin, his trust in Coralotta made that possible.

“She’s just a beautiful person. She would go all-out to help you,” he said. “She’s always there for me, even at times when I couldn’t go to my family. When I didn’t have anyone else to go to, she was here for me. That’s the best I can say it.”

A key goal of ONE Health is to help patients avoid emergency department visits and hospital stays. That’s how it worked for Kevin, who hasn’t been to ER or admitted to the hospital since he started with ONE Health in 2019.

Now that he’s taking the medications he needs, Kevin is getting his strength back. He hasn’t had to visit the ER or stay in the hospital since 2019, and his ONE Health team has helped him apply for Social Security Disability benefits. He still has bouts of weakness and pain, but he’s at a point where he can enjoy some of his favorite pastimes.

While he may not go back to playing football, he still likes watching. The Chicago Bears are his team, a product of a winter spent with his grandfather in Chicago when the Bears were at the top of the NFL, entertaining fans both on the field and off with their famous “Super Bowl Shuffle.”

Kevin would also like to travel – “I’ve never left the United States in my life. I’d love to go to Jamaica,” he said – but most of all, he just wants to enjoy a good, quiet life. “I just want to live peacefully and in harmony,” he said. “Just to have a nice home and enjoy life, and stay healthy.”

Coralotta is confident he’ll get there. “Being a social worker, you come across a lot of different people, and not everyone is accepting right away. When you find someone like Kevin who is willing to do whatever it takes to get better, it’s a win,” she said. “When you find someone who is ready to make a change, you feel very blessed and honored to help them.”

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