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Rock for Love 5 / Story Spotlight No. 2

Today's story by Jeff Hulett spotlights young Katie Lipsey, another Church Health Center patient. It's hard not to read this and get a little emotional. / Help the Church Health Center help people like Katie by supporting Rock for Love. Music continues tonight and into the weekend with a free 5:30pm show at the Cooper-Young Gazebo and 9 pm at the Hi-Tone where Jeff and his band Glorie will perform. Can't make it to the music? You can also visit the silent auction to bid here. Do it, will ya?


What do you remember most about being a kid? Most people think about playing outside with friends, eating ice cream and thinking life is easy.

For Church Health Center patient Katie Lipsey, she doesn’t remember life being easy at all. Instead, she remembers the pain of watching her parents get divorced, losing her father to renal-cell cancer and being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which did not run in her family. All this before her 10th birthday.

“After the shock of my parents’ divorce and losing my father to cancer, I found myself with this new medical problem I had to learn about and live with,” Katie said. “It’s not something a 9-year-old should have to go through, but those are the cards I was dealt.”

How do you tell a child they can’t enjoy candy on Halloween, or cake and ice cream at a birthday party? Worse still was Katie having to explain her disease to her classmates, who teased her endlessly.

“It wasn’t easy explaining why I had to have frequent shots, eat snacks often and sit out of P.E. class if I wasn’t feeling well,” said Katie. “Kids can be cruel when you’re different, so it was no surprise when my friends were hesitant to play with me for fear of catching my diabetes.”

Katie’s hardships didn’t stop there. She lost her mother in 2005 to a very preventable staff infection following heart-valve replacement surgery.

Over the years, she learned to manage her health and educate herself and others about every aspect of her diabetes. Katie, now 26, credits a lot of her diabetes education and training to Church Health Center volunteer diabetes educator B.J. Cline. In fact, Katie is even considering going into diabetes education as a career.

Living with diabetes is difficult, but there are tools that help make dealing with it easier. Insulin pumps are expensive, but they help manage blood glucose levels and deliver what is referred to as a bolus dose of rapid-acting insulin to help the body process a meal or snack.

Katie received the first of several insulin pumps at age 15 and grew to rely on them to help her maintain her diabetes. To her, having an insulin pump meant having freedom. “I hated taking needle shots, so to be able to leave them at home instead of sticking myself in public was a blessing, not to mention the freedom to eat and bolus at will was something I always wanted,” said Katie.

Last year, Katie’s insulin pump started acting up. At first, it wouldn’t allow her to change the batteries without setting off an alarm. Then, the buttons started sticking, which made it nearly impossible to give herself a bolus dose.

She called the company to see about getting a replacement, but her warranty had just expired. The company told her she could have a loaner pump, but it had to be returned in three months.

“There was a lot of red tape involved in applying for the loaner pump, and the stress of finding the money to pay for one or the thought of going back on needle therapy was enough to make me crazy,” Katie said. “I was depressed and on the brink of giving up.”

At the Church Health Center, we try our best not to let our patients leave with a problem they can’t solve, and we pride ourselves on being good listeners. RN Case Manager Jean Reed overheard Katie telling volunteer endocrinologist Dr. Sonia Guerra about her troubles, and she was filled with compassion. Jean had worked with Katie before, so she knew how much she depended on her insulin pump. Maybe, just maybe, we had one in storage that someone had donated, she thought.

“I asked a couple of Clinic Assistants to check our storage space across the street,” Jean said. “We welcome donations of any kind and, while I thought it was unlikely we would have one, it was worth a shot.”

Amazingly, they found a brand new insulin pump.

“It’s as if the planets aligned for her, and with God’s guidance, helped it all happen for her,” Jean said. “Plus, Katie did her part, making phone calls to the company and following up as instructed.”

Some people call it fate, and others call it luck. We at the Church Health Center call it God’s grace, and you don’t have to work here long to see it, or be a conduit for it.

A kind person thinks to donate an insulin pump. A staff member gets to know a patient’s story and looks for a way to be helpful. Then, a woman in need who hasn’t caught many breaks in life finally gets one when she needs it most.

“When I heard the good news, I felt the weight of the world come off of my shoulders,” Katie said. “That was the biggest feeling of relief and gratitude I’ve felt in a long time.”

“God won’t put something in front of you that you can’t get through, and I’m so thankful for the family of healthcare professionals who came together and made this miracle possible,” she said. “I would like to thank Jean Reed for listening to me and helping me, B.J. Cline for checking in on me, Dr. Guerra for managing my insulin pump orders, and all of the other folks who played a part in this. This is a true blessing, and I will be forever grateful.”

With your continued support, we will continue to care for people like Katie and help them get through life’s problems. We will continue to be a place where people listen and allow God’s everyday miracles to take place.

If you have any unused medical equipment that you would like to donate to help change someone’s life, please call (901) 272-7170 for more information. 

Photo via Jeff Hulett, Church Health Center

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