STUART-Having heart issues could be detrimental but it could make things worse if you don’t have health insurance. When your ejection fraction is below 15 percent, it could cause sudden death. That’s the story of Michael Nelson and Gabriel Vasquez. Two patients who struggled to make ends meet and lived their lives without health coverage. They ran into trouble with their well-being and turned to Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Clinic in Stuart.

When Nelson became a patient he had numerous problems; hypertension and congestive heart failure. He had difficulty breathing and that’s when he decided to pursue help. Nelson was uninsured and unaware of the local services that are available to him. After discussing this problem with an acquaintance, he was referred to VIM in Stuart.

“They’re doing a pretty good job. I feel much better and I’m able to get around and take my medicine. I give VIM an A plus on that,” said Nelson. “Vickie Dodds prescribes [my medicine] and she’s really good. We’re able to communicate and I trust her a lot.”

Vickie Dodds, ARNP, prescribed him Entresto for free through a patient assistance program. It’s a medicine that keeps blood vessels from narrowing, which lowers blood pressure and improves blood flow. Nelson couldn’t take 10 steps without needing a break and his illness almost required a heart transplant. Now that he’s taking Entresto, Nelson is walking on a continuous bases without shortness of breath and he gained the strength to hold his two daughters.

“I dropped 13 pounds because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m watching my meals and I’m following Vickie Dodds’ directions. I also check my blood sugar because I’m a type 2 [diabetic]. Sometimes I go weeks without eating sweets because I know what it’ll do to my diabetes. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink, I just had a new born so I need to be around for her as much as possible,” said Nelson.

Gabriel Vasquez reached out to a friend about his unremitting heart problems. Due to his condition, he was unable to find a job and he couldn’t afford health insurance. This person sent him to the VIM Clinic in Stuart.

Gabriel Vasquez after his appointment with Alan Eddison, DNP, ARNP.

Once he became a patient we were able to examine his heart condition, it was discovered he had multivessel disease. Vasquez was referred to Ocala Heart Institute where he had coronary artery bypass surgery performed by James C. Thornton, MD. Since his surgery, he now has normal heart functions.

A year later, there was a sudden scare when Vasquez had a retinal detachment; it could cause blindness if it goes untreated. He went two weeks with weak vision. He was referred to Stuart Eye Institute for further examinations and then Mark Michels, MD from PGA Retina Care Specialist in Palm Beach Gardens performed the surgery.

“I’m very thankful for the services they offer because I got more life. The heart is a big thing and because I was seen in time and got the attention I needed, I got more life to be with my family,” said Vasquez.  “It gives a lot of hope for people like me that are in these situations.”

The VIM Clinic provides free health services for uninsured Martin County residents. Patients must have an annual income below $24,120. For more information call 772-463-4128.