Without regular health care, Michael Nelson suffered a string of medical emergencies related to hypertension and diabetes. It made it difficult to care for his mom and spend time with his granddaughter.

After Michael connected with our ONE Health complex care program, which helps patients meet medical and social needs, he got a second chance.

His health conditions are now well-managed, and Michael is grateful for the opportunity to be there for his mom and watch his granddaughter, who is his pride and joy, grow up and start school.

The past few years haven’t been easy for Michael Nelson, but he is grateful for the guiding lights that got him through:

His mom, who he cares for day and night. His granddaughter, who is his pride and joy. And Cristina Wilson, his case manager in Regional One Health’s ONE Health complex care program, who helped him regain his health and quality of life.

“All the stuff I went through…I made it. I kept going, and here I am today,” Michael said. “But if it wasn’t for Miss Cristina and this program, I don’t think I’d be here. I thank God for them.”

ONE Health helps qualifying patients access medical care and address social determinants of health like housing, transportation, food and more. By providing consistent care and holistic support, it helps patients avoid emergency department visits and hospitalization.

Regional One Health Foundation helped establish ONE Health in 2018 with support from The Assisi Foundation and other donors. Since then, the program has used donor support and community partnerships to improve the lives of over 700 vulnerable patients and Regional One Health has seen reduced hospital admissions, emergency visits, and length of stay.

Michael Nelson said ONE Health helped him regain his health and quality of life. “I kept going, and here I am today,” Michael said. “But if it wasn’t for this program, I don’t think I’d be here. I thank God for them.”

For Michael, health wasn’t a concern until he approached his 60s. “The only thing I went to the doctor for was flu and things like that,” he said. “All I’ve known since high school was work. I was a crane operator for 20 years, and I loved it.”

But without insurance, he didn’t seek preventative care, resulting in a string of health setbacks. “I didn’t even know what a stroke was, and all of a sudden I woke up in the hospital,” he said. “As soon as I got that under control, my diabetes kicked in.”

Cristina visited him in the emergency department in January 2021 and enrolled him in ONE Health. She started by focusing on his immediate needs – access to lifesaving medications and diabetic supplies and appointments for ongoing care.

“Early on, I call patients once or twice a week. Michael needed to see a lot of specialists, so I would text him the week before an appointment, call him the day before, and call a couple days after to make sure he understood his plan of care,” she said.

Along the way, they built a relationship that helped Cristina support him even more.

“It’s important to build trust. When Michael opened up about his mom and her health issues, I was able to offer him more resources. He was trying to basically do full care. He needed help.”

She arranged for assistance with his mom’s care and connected them to food benefits and mobile pantries. She made sure Michael had transportation and helped him apply for disability benefits.

“Health care is not an easy system to navigate,” she noted. “We keep knocking on doors until we get the right person. The goal is to first get patients out of crisis and into a stable situation, then to help them take charge of their own care.”

ONE Health registered nurses and social workers help patients meet both medical and social needs. By doing so, they give patients a chance to stabilize their health and address issues like hunger, lack of housing, and lack of transportation.

With Cristina’s support, that’s exactly what Michael has done, and it is giving him the chance to enjoy those guiding lights of his life.

“I’m able to walk, get around, cook. I can take care of my mama. I watch my granddaughter while her mom goes to school,” he said. “I love that baby. I’ve watched her from a newborn, and now she’s starting school. I tell her, ‘As long as I’m here, you’re gonna be all right.’”

Cristina plans to help him keep that promise. “Michael has always been willing to work with me – he’s a strong family many who would do anything for the people he loves,” she said.

As it turns out, that list includes Cristina. “I’d do anything for Miss Cristina, I don’t care what it is,” Michael said. “I’d give everything to her if I had a lot.”

For Cristina, seeing Michael enjoy life is all she needs.

“The smile on a patient’s face is my reward,” she said. “We have an opportunity to help patients in all the areas that result in good health, and that’s very rewarding. I think this is the future of medicine. It’s a cost-effective way to deliver care, and it’s a humanistic style of care.”

You can help our ONE Health team make a difference for patients like Michael. Visit regionalonehealthfoundation.org to learn more!