What started as a fall and a visit to the ER for 74-year-old James Gafford turned into nearly three weeks in the hospital and eight weeks in rehab when his medical team diagnosed him with kidney failure. As he was being discharged, he grew anxious. Dialysis was new to him. He had no help at home. He had no shoes on his feet. He was hungry – very hungry – but had no means to buy food.
It all felt overwhelming.
He wept as he talked on the phone with his primary care physician, Dr. Shailendra Chavda, at USMD Las Colinas clinic in Dallas. Dr. Chavda knew James needed immediate help. James was able to get to his four-times-weekly dialysis treatments, but he needed supportive care. More importantly, he needed to eat.
The same day, the clinic staff reached out to James. “We tried to reach him several times, but he wasn’t answering his phone,” NP Megan Freeman said. “We finally reached him, and he told us he hadn’t eaten since the prior day, so he was trying to just sleep through the hunger pangs.”
While James was having pangs of hunger, the clinic staff was having pangs of empathy. Medical Assistant Azucena Jimenez and NP Freeman knew they had to do something. Azucena decided to make a stop on her way home at the local grocery store. With her own money, she bought enough food to fill up bag after bag of much-needed and appreciated groceries.
“He was so happy and grateful when he saw the food,” Azucena said. “His face especially lit up when he saw bananas. He said ‘I love bananas. How did you know?’ It really got to me how grateful he was to have a basic necessity – food.”
James’ gratitude is clear when he talks about the experience. “It really shocked me when she showed up at my door. It’s so nice to know someone cares,” James said. “She brought me a whole bunch of food and she even put it away for me.”
Azucena doesn’t see her act of kindness as anything special. “I was on my way home so I thought ‘Why not stop and get him some groceries?’” Dr. Chavda would argue it goes deeper.
“This team is extraordinary. They care for and have compassion for patients like I’ve never seen before. It’s an amazing culture,” he said.
The team is extraordinary indeed. NP Freeman took him a hot meal that night and saw to it that James received new shoes courtesy of the WellMed Charitable Foundation. Since that time, he has received another new pair. The WCF also arranged for James to receive free lunches for three months. The palliative team reconfigured their busy schedule so James was seen the day after discharge.
James says he’s feeling “pretty good” now, and he credits the clinic staff. “The clinic has a lot of good nurses. They do things for me they don’t have to do,” James said. “They’re good people, and I think they like me, so they take their time with me.”
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