Men’s Health Awareness Month – One Patient’s Access to Care Journey

June is recognized as Men’s Health Month across the nation and it’s a time to encourage men everywhere to take a proactive approach to their health and wellbeing. With over 13.2% men over the age of 18 considered to be in poor health, according to the CDC, it’s important to create a space to share stories and resources that emphasize the holistic wellbeing of the men in the communities we serve.

At Methodist Healthcare Ministries, we have a variety of programs and resources to help men along their health journeys. One story from our Wesley Nurse program is a great example of how men can utilize these resources to get access to care for unique issues they face.

On Wednesday nights, Marlene Anders, our Wesley Nurse in Travis County goes to the Lakeway Food Bank where she works with community members to provide food for low-income individuals in her area. As the MHM Wesley Nurse in that area for over nine years, she’s built a network that provides help to each other when needed.

“It’s a system that I just find remarkable because I collaborate with them and sometimes people will come in and say that if you can help them with this, they’ll help you with that,” Marlene said. “It’s a very give and take relationship and it works very well.”

Although Lakeway City is a higher income area with an average household earning around $143,000 per year, according to the U.S. Census (2017-2021), there are still what Marlene calls “pockets of poverty” where people live without access to clean water, plumbing or even showers. These communities are around HWY 62 and Apache Shores where inhabitants are often unseen and sometimes unwanted.

Marlene met one of these community members through working with the Food Bank and happened into a conversation she was not expecting. The man had been a client of the food bank for several years, but she had not had the chance to meet with him yet.

“My badge said I was an RN so he started up this conversation and I could tell he was anxious. I could tell he was in some kind of pain and so he just kind of blurted out his problem,” Marlene said. “And it took me back a little bit because that’s one issue I haven’t come up against and it had me going through all of my knowledge from school.”

The patient noted a strange pain in his groin and trouble urinating which after diagnosing as a testicular hydrocele, Marlene recommended that the patient immediately go to an emergency room.

The patient, who did not have insurance, worked with Marlene to apply to the Travis County Medical Access Program or MAP. Through this process, Marlene also found out that the patient lived in a small lean-to shed in Apache Shores where he did not have access to toilet or shower facilities. The patient also had no access to transportation, making access to care much more difficult. After this process, she met with the patient at Seton Emergency Room after arranging transportation and prior paperwork.

“They ended up calling the security guard on him because they thought he was a homeless person,” Marlene explained. “This is what he’s up against.”

From there, Marlene worked with the patient to undergo an operation that would temporarily relieve the pain and other symptoms by negotiating with the clinic staff to bring down the out-of-pocket costs for the procedure to $84 which she paid using Wesley Nurse special funds. While the procedure was only temporary, she’s still working with the patient to acquire personal transportation and access to a more permanent solution to his health issue.

“It’s an ongoing process,” Marlene said. “Not anything that happens overnight, because they didn’t get into their situation overnight either.”

Marlene, who has been with MHM for over 26 years since she started in 1997, has worked with many patients who face extreme poverty and the biases that come with it. There are over 3.7 million people in Texas living at or below the poverty line and over 5 million individuals without health insurance according to data from Every Texan, formerly the Center of Public Policy Priorities.

“We’ve been talking a lot about health equity and the state where everybody can attain their full potential of health no matter what their circumstances.” Marlene said, reflecting on the experience with the patient. “But we’ve always been doing it. I think that what I do now is the same as what I did back in 1997.”

At MHM, we approach health from a holistic perspective that considers the entire wellbeing of our patients and communities. For more information on men’s health and resources to share, view the links below.

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