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Wellness on Wheels offers low cost screenings

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Hospital able to provide preventative care across its service area

By The Staff

Elizabethtown resident Jo Nell Lee admits she needs a push to visit her doctor regularly.

Lee rose early Wednesday to climb into Hardin Memorial Hospital’s Wellness on Wheels mobile health unit at Kroger on Dolphin Drive in Elizabethtown. The visit served as a motivational self-starter.

The mobile medical unit has become a staple in Hardin and surrounding counties, including LaRue, pulling into local parking lots and setting up shop on the spot from 7 a.m. to noon.

In addition to attracting nearby workers, roughly half of its patients are first-time visitors. The unit attracts 15 to 20 patients per stop, said Karen Blaiklock, community and industry education manager at Hardin Memorial Hospital. The unit has screened around 5,000 patients this fiscal year, which is an increase from the roughly 4,000 visits last year, Blaiklock added.

Equipped with a licensed driver and registered nurse, the unit’s atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. The vehicle is lined with medical equipment and pamphlets guiding readers to a healthier life.

Most of the screenings are free and the visit begins with a baseline health assessment: height and weight are evaluated, and blood pressure is taken.

From there, a sample of blood is obtained and analyzed to determine cholesterol, glucose and triglyceride levels.

The $20 test is one of the more revealing, serving as a wakeup call to some who need to seek treatment

Lee, who has been visiting the mobile health unit for more than four years, said her initial visit was sobering, as she realized she needed to make some lifestyle changes.

Since then, she has strived to improve her diet, particularly because of her struggles with blood sugar levels.

Just three months ago, her blood glucose skyrocketed, a fact she was made aware of during a follow-up screening. The increase spurred her to seek treatment.

“I would not have (gone to the doctor) if I had not gotten the screening,” she said.

Lee said most people walk through life oblivious to those numbers on a day-to-day basis, but each visit helps snap her back to reality and tighten up her regimen. The numbers, she said, don’t lie

“It keeps me motivated and it keeps me out of denial,” Lee said.

Promoting personal responsibility is a role the Wellness on Wheels program has embraced, Blaiklock said. The concept of a mobile unit started around 1999, Blaiklock said, pitched as an active method to promote wellness education and preventative screenings.

“It gives people a snapshot of where they are and where they want to go,” she said.

Blaiklock said the unit is in operation to empower visitors with information and tools needed to improve those numbers and their overall quality of life.

The screenings also can pinpoint potentially disastrous illnesses in their infancy and provide a larger window of time for the patient to seek treatment.

“We are not a substitute for a doctor’s office visit,” she said, and patients are reminded of that often during the screening process.

The unit returns to LaRue County at Hometown IGA 7 a.m.-noon July 26.