Just how difficult it can be for someone without a permanent home to manage a chronic disease like hypertension, asthma, or diabetes came into sharp relief for Damon during his commute to a new restaurant job. He was staying at a shelter after moving to Boston from Louisiana where the COVID-19 pandemic had shuttered many of the local restaurants. On the way to his new restaurant job, he suddenly found himself near collapse.
“I started pouring down sweat and felt really lightheaded,” Damon recalled. “I was freaking out. I didn’t know what was going on. When I got to work, I told the chef I wasn’t feeling well, called an ambulance, and went to the hospital. That’s when I was diagnosed as diabetic.”
Once stabilized, Damon was referred to BHCHP for care.
“Instead of me going back to the shelter, [clinicians at the hospital] suggested that I come to the Barbara McInnis House for further treatment and learn more about being a diabetic,” Damon explained. “I didn’t know anything about being a diabetic, so they showed me how to check my blood sugar, how to use insulin. It’s a good educational tool—you can come here and learn as far as whatever problems you’re going through.”
With support from BHCHP’s chronic disease management team, Damon said he’s able to easily match certain symptoms with high or low blood sugar, and act accordingly.
He thought that would be the end of his engagement with BHCHP. But then he quickly ran into a common obstacle patients face—safeguarding of medications while staying in a shelter or in a state of transience.
“When I went back to the shelter, I was there for a month and then my medication bag got stolen,” Damon said. “I was out of medication for at least a week. And I felt my body breaking down again.”
Damon returned to BHCHP, where he said staff helped him manage his symptoms, refilled his insulin, and offered moral support.
“They welcomed me back with open arms and really went out of their way to help me get my health back together,” he said. “I made the right decision in coming back. Knowing that you have somebody to help you, and that they care—it helps the person with their recovery, and it means a whole lot.”