Marlene Holmes, left, a senior staff nurse from Grady Memorial Hospital, manually double checks the blood pressure of Forest Park resident Nancy King Saturday at the Ninth Annual 13th Congressional District Health Fair in Jonesboro. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)
JONESBORO — Roselyn McLaren had never been to one of Congressman David Scott’s health fairs before, but she was glad she came to the one held Saturday.
McLaren, of Jonesboro, waited in a long line to have her blood glucose levels checked by representatives of Southern Regional Medical Center. The tests were popular with health fair attendees and there were long lines at the hospital’s table all day.
When it was McLaren’s turn to be tested, she went to a seat at the table, sat down and extended her arm. Phlebotomist Marie Faustin then prepared the tip of McLaren’s index finger and took a sample of blood from it.
The results surprised McLaren.
“It was good that I came because I now know my cholesterol is way over the base line,” said McLaren. “I would say the best value I’ve gotten out of coming here has been getting tested and knowing what’s high and what’s low. I wouldn’t have known that otherwise because I can’t afford insurance to go see a doctor.”
Many people had similar experiences at the Ninth Annual 13th Congressional District Health Fair. Thousands of people came to Mundy’s Mill High School for the fair and attendees underwent a number of health screenings, including blood glucose, blood pressure, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, vision and dental check-ups.
For people who can’t afford insurance or a doctor’s visit, the health fair ends up serving as their de facto annual check-up, said Scott, whose district includes portions of Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton and Henry counties.
As Scott walked through the crowds at the fair, several people came up to him and thanked him for having it.
“They come every year, and this is the only place some of them come to get checked because they don’t have insurance,” said Scott. “They don’t have a back-up, but they know, every year, Congressman Scott’s got that health fair at Mundy’s Mill High School and they come.
“I think with the regularity of them coming, and the attention we’re giving to them, that it is helping the community,” he continued.
At least about a half dozen people had to urged to go to a hospital immediately after participating health officials noticed irregularities.
Southern Regional spokesman Justin Cooper said it sometimes took a little convincing to get people to heed the advice, though. In one case, he said, a woman had to get him to convince a friend of hers to get in line to have her blood pressure checked. The friend was concerned about the woman’s health, which is why she wanted her to get the screening.
“I sat her down in front of a nurse, who took her blood pressure numerous times to convince her that it was elevated,” said Cooper. “It took some convincing. I think her blood pressure was in the high 100s, I’m guessing probably the top number was over 180 and the bottom one was over 100.”
The friend eventually convinced the woman to go to the hospital immediately.
By the end of the day, Southern Regional staff had sent three people to the hospital, Grady officials sent at least one person and Morehouse College of Health officials were seen escorting one woman, who appeared to be in a weakened state, out of the high school.
Forest Park resident Nancy King got a scare when a Grady Memorial Hospital nurse gave her an automated blood pressure screening and it came back saying the 62-year old grandmother’s systolic blood pressure was 187.
“When it came back saying that, I said ‘Oh no, that can’t be right,’” said King. “Ain’t no way my blood pressure is that high.”
King said her family has a history of high blood pressure, but she has always been the person whose pressure was normal. Marlene Holmes, a senior staff nurse from Grady, rechecked her blood pressure manually, and it came back as a healthy 120/60.
Holmes said it is better to be sure about what precisely is going on with a person’s health, rather than going on a single evaluation. That is why they did the backup checks on people like King, she said.
“Whenever there is a question, we have to validate as nurses because we are constantly assessing our patients,” said Holmes.
And Holmes said gathering information about a person’s health and educating on potential risks is one of the reasons health fairs, like the one Scott holds, are important for the community.
“The importance of an event like this is just making our community aware that while you may not have the money to go to a doctor, but we are here to screen you and show you that prevention is the key to having a healthier life,’ said Holmes.