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HomeNewsArchivesCareForce 2008 Brings Health Assessments to 642

CareForce 2008 Brings Health Assessments to 642

Oct. 23, 2008 – Though it was not the aim of the day, folks of a certain age at CareForce 2008 at the Frenchtown Community Center joked that this was a social highlight of the year.
The feeling in the center Thursday was upbeat – folks greeting one another, comparing notes on what they'd been doing since last year, how the economy was affecting them, who they'd seen already at the health fair, and – oh yes – their health.
At final count, 642 residents had flocked to the center, lining up well before the 7:30 a.m. opening. They were poked for blood sugar and cholesterol counts, poked for pneumonia and flu shots, probed for diabetes checks, bound with a sleeve for blood pressure checks, and they all came out smiling, proudly toting an environmentally friendly green shopping bag, compliments of the V.I. Medical Institute.
Care Force is a collaboration between the V.I. Medical Institute (VIMI), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), Hovensa, the Department of Human Services, the V.I. National Guard and the V.I. Air National Guard. CareForce began on the mainland in 1996 as a way for the Indiana National Guard to fulfill its obligations for annual military training.
In 2000, under Dr. Cora Christian's guidance, VIMI began facilitating and coordinating private, military and government sponsors to bring medical-examination services to the territory every year. Hovensa supplies all the vaccines and medication for the territory.
About 80 volunteers — National Guard in combat fatigues, AARP in black vests, Schneider Hospital nurses in hospital green -– lined up an array of tables, each labeled with its function: blood pressure, flu shots, pneumonia shots, diabetes advice, and for the second year, pharmacists on duty.
Pharmacists from Kmart, Drug Farm and Chelsea Drug Store helped folks sort out their medications. Kmart pharmacist Crystal Nihorris said she had seen about 24 people by early afternoon. "They brought medications as well as vitamins and herbal remedies," she said. "We make certain there are no interactions between anything they are taking."
Two National Guard doctors were on duty to check any test results the volunteer nurses found out of the normal range. Col. Roy Hinman, VING territorial surgeon and VING Major Robert Thompson, a St. Croix doctor, were kept busy. Thompson had just helped a woman who was experiencing a sudden attack of vertigo.
"What we do," said Hinman, “is handle anything that's not routine, urgent or emergent care. For instance, we just saw a man whose blood sugar was 300; it shouldn't be over 200, so we referred him to a specialist. That's emergent care." Should the person not have insurance, he said, they are referred to a clinic.
Leaving the center at about 1 p.m., retired teacher Holly Ferguson said, "I've been coming for about five years, and it's so very well organized. I was through in no time at all," a thought echoed by volunteers and other participants.
Donald Van Crannenan, a feisty ninety-year old walking with a smile as opposed to a cane, said this year went "real well, very fast."
Jill Doran, CEO of VIMI, who has been at this project for seven years, also was pleased with this year's operation. "This really is the most successful we've had," she said, noting the venue was indeed a "social spot." "It's good to see people who were not here before," she said. "That way we know we are getting the message out. We had about five percent of the seniors in 2000 for the flu shots, and now it's up to 42 percent. They are realizing it's not something to be afraid of."
Earlier this week Christian said, "Getting the flu shot is like putting shutters on your house in hurricane season. The shutters don't stop a hurricane, but they protect your home." Christian was at Care Force at St. Ursula's Senior Center on St. John Thursday.
The project went well on St. Croix earlier in the week. "We saw about 1,700 people," Doran said, "notwithstanding the recent storm."
CareForce project manager Monsita Diaz was busy Thursday on KP duty.
"We've got to feed our volunteers," she said with a smile, as a long line of hungry workers eyed the ample luncheon dished out by the side of the building.
A group of green-clad student nurses was perched on chairs outside the center, enjoying a brief lunch break. Schneider Hospital nursing instructor Jill Anderson said, "Eighteen of my class of 19 volunteered for the day. It's excellent training for them."

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