Saul Ivan Martinez lives with diabetes and hypertension and understands that maintaining healthy blood pressure is essential to his well-being — as it helps reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. However, Martinez does not have health insurance and could not afford a cuff that would help him track his blood pressure at home.
“All of our providers ask patients to check their blood pressure at home,” said Jackie Tizol, a medical assistant and volunteer coordinator at the Good Samaritan Health Centers of Gwinnett (Good Sam Gwinnett). “However, many of the patients do not check their blood pressure at home [because] they cannot afford a blood pressure machine, they get overwhelmed with trying to find the best blood pressure machine, or they do not have transportation to pharmacies where they can check their blood pressure for free at the automatic machine.”
This leaves patients like Martinez feeling less optimistic about their health and while they are struggling to make ends meet. While working in the Good Sam Gwinnett dispensary on Buford Highway, Tizol realized that many of her patients would benefit from a portable blood pressure machine, as most of them suffered from hypertension.
“Patients are able to purchase a glucometer and be educated on proper use with us,” she said. So, she thought, why can’t we provide them with cuffs as well?
Tizol began exploring options for low-cost blood pressure machines but ended up beginning a partnership with MAP International, a medical nonprofit that provides supplies around the world. MAP has provided more than 20 free blood pressure machines to Good Sam Gwinnett patients, and their providers educate them on how to use the cuffs at home.
Martinez has found his machine to be easy to use, effective, and “a great blessing” in his life. He checks his blood pressure every morning and evening and discusses the numbers with his provider during follow-up visits.
Good Sam Gwinnett patient Guillermo Sanchez has also received a free blood pressure machine. He struggles to manage his diabetes and hypertension while his wife is ill and cannot work. When she did work, however, her job provided health insurance, but now Sanchez has to go without.
“It’s kinda hard, not just for me but for everybody,” he confesses, mentioning the high gas prices and inflation in 2022.
A former patient of Good Sam Gwinnett, Sanchez knew he could turn again to the charitable clinic when he lost health insurance to access affordable and much-needed medical services. On top of that, receiving the free blood pressure machine makes managing his health more convenient and less burdensome. Without it, Sanchez would not be able to work, and his family would not have a breadwinner.
Almost half (116 million) of adults in the United States suffer from hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In addition, only one in four of those people have their hypertension under control. Left untreated, hypertension can cause impaired vision, brain damage, kidney problems, and increased risks of a heart attack or stroke.
Around 16% of people in Gwinnett County live without health insurance, according to available census data. That’s about 148,000 people living in our communities. In addition, 11% (about 101,000) live in poverty.
You might be surprised how a small device like a blood pressure cuff can make a big difference in someone’s life. It can completely change their outlook on their health, even in times like these.
If you would like to help poor and uninsured patients get back on their feet, your donations can cover 75% of the out-of-pocket costs for their medical and dental services. This spring, we are aiming raise $50,000 to cover dental and medical services for our patients. Please consider donating today.