'I was thinking I was healthy, and I wasn't'

'I was thinking I was healthy, and I wasn't'

December 6th, 2018

One of the hallmarks of AccessHealth Spartanburg is its approach to complex care management. The goal is not only to confirm a person’s known medical conditions, but also underlying causes and social barriers to care a person may have. Known as a needs assessment, this often takes more time than the typical cursory exam. But it always leads to a better care plan. And sometimes, it results in catching other problems before they become even more serious.


In Antoinette Dawkins’ case, she first entered the AccessHealth Spartanburg program after losing a job and, with it, her health insurance. In a story that is all-too common, a number of health problems lingered and worsened, including high blood pressure.

AccessHealth Spartanburg was able to get Dawkins an appointment at St. Luke’s Free Medical Clinic, which became her medical home. There, she was diagnosed not only with a thyroid problem she did not know she had, but also with breast cancer. Without AccessHealth Spartanburg, it likely would have been months before Dawkins knew. AHS then helped Dawkins apply for and be approved for Medicaid, an arduous and uncertain process for low-income, uninsured adults in South Carolina, which has one of the most restrictive and lowest funded Medicaid programs in the United States. Medicaid paid for her cancer treatments.

“They saved my life when they sent me for that mammogram,” Dawkins said. “I never will forget the day Friday, February 13, 2015. That’s when they found that knot and they saved my life all the way around. My cancer was discovered in its second stage, and my medication and my health were continually monitored. If my blood pressure medications weren’t working, they changed my medication.

“The surgeons at Gibbs Cancer Center and social workers that were helping me with what I needed were all just amazing. I’ve never met a group of people that just care the way they do at AccessHealth Spartanburg. They’ve got their own families and their own lives, but you walk in and they know your face and want to meet your needs. They just really went out of the way to make sure we were taken care of.”

In the process, Dawkins said she gained a new perspective on life. She said she used to “jump to conclusions” about people in need or when she would see a homeless person.

“I had always worked, and I had made really good money, so there were a lot of things I turned my nose down at, you know? I felt like God put me flat on my back so I could appreciate all of those things I seriously took for granted before. When I found myself in a position where I was, I was so thankful that these resources are available for people in situations like me. … My experience changed my heart so now I’m a minister. I try to help everyone I come into contact with, and I’ve spoken to so many churches about AccessHealth.”

When Dawkins tells others about her experience with AccessHealth Spartanburg, she stresses the complex case management approach that led to the discovery of problems she didn’t even know she had.

“Other programs just saw and talked to me as another person. I would tell them about my issues I was having with my medication, and they would call me in something else that would create more problems. Before, I had awful headaches and migraines from my blood pressure problems. I got on a medication for my thyroid issue and I got to feeling better. I had a history of these kinds of problems in my family, but because I never went to the doctor, I didn’t know they were hereditary and that I had those same issues.

“I was thinking I was healthy, and I wasn’t.”

In that moment, AccessHealth Spartanburg was there to help Dawkins get the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Dawkins' story is yet another example of how AHS's approach to complex case management is not only saving lives, but improving them.

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