By Martha Nottingham (Reprinted from the 3/4/14 edition of the Senior Citizens’ News)

In recent weeks, traveling has been a challenge to say the least. Due to winter weather and treacherous roads, the shortest journey may have proven to be a harrowing experience for the bravest of souls. Even in the best of conditions, travel is not always an option as many elderly individuals no longer wish to drive long distances themselves, especially if the trip involves maneuvering through heavy traffic. There are also those who simply do not feel physically able to spend the better part of a day as a passenger in an automobile. Unless there are additional incentives for traversing these long distances, many people prefer receiving their healthcare a little closer to home. Such is the case with Emma Jean Copeland…. 

Nearly four years ago, Jean had a severe allergic reaction to a wasp sting. Referred to as anaphylaxis, this type of reaction affects the entire body and can be life-threatening. According to WebMD, ‘An anaphylactic reaction may occur with the first exposure to an allergen, with every exposure, or after several exposures.’ In Jean’s situation, she had experienced minor irritation, including swelling, redness, and itching, throughout her life following a wasp sting. On one occasion several years ago, she lost consciousness as a result of a sting to her face, yet was revived having taken a Benadryl tablet at the onset of symptoms. Although Emergency Medical Services responded and encouraged a trip to the hospital, Jean refused. However, her subsequent encounter with a wasper on July 6, 2010, resulted in Jean becoming unresponsive. While her husband performed CPR, her daughter utilized an EpiPen® injecting her with epinephrine, and her grandson called 911. Braxton EMS was quick to respond and transported her to the BCMH Emergency Department only 20 miles away. While there, she regained consciousness, was admitted for observation and later transferred to CAMC. After receiving a clean bill of health, Jean was referred to Thrush & Clark Allergists in Charleston where tests were conducted to determine the exact allergens for which she should receive injections. 

Once this testing was completed, it was decided that Jean would begin immunotherapy, which is a series of allergy shots given to reduce sensitivity to allergens that cause an allergic reaction. In Jean’s case, a very small amount of insect venom is injected under her skin in hopes of decreasing the severity of her reaction in the event of another sting. For the first eight weeks, she received these weekly shots from professionals at Thrush & Clark Allergists, progressing to monthly injections for another five months. Each time, the amount of allergen was slightly increased until an optimal amount was achieved; and treatments continued until she attained a ‘maintenance level’.  Jean does not drive and was dependent upon friends and family to transport her to Charleston for these allergy injections. During this time, her husband was also in poor health, so she began to inquire about receiving injections through the Braxton Community Health Center. In September 2012, just prior to her husband’s death, Jean began her allergy shot regimen at her local, community hospital. 

Every six weeks, Jean arrives at the Community Health Center as a walk-in patient to receive her allergy shots from Cathy Stricker, LPN, Clinic Coordinator. WebMD reports, ‘In rare cases, a person may have a severe allergic reaction to the shots. Because of this possibility, the shots are given in a doctor’s office or other setting where emergency care can be provided if needed.’ Jean says, “Cathy gives me my ‘bee shot’, and I have to wait about 15 - 20 minutes to make sure I don’t have any problems. Then my daughter and I go to The Works beauty shop and enjoy the rest of the day. It is a big help not to have to travel a long way to get my shots.” Jean adds, “Cathy is a good person and really cares about people. She is always helpful and smiling. I just love her. She even calls and makes sure my medicine is delivered and ready for me. She makes my day.”  

According to Cathy, anyone requiring this type of treatment can receive their injections as a walk-in patient at their local, healthcare facility. In addition to allergy shots, patients are currently receiving Vitamin B-12 and Testosterone injections at the Community Health Center as ordered by their physicians. Cathy states, “Established patients receiving routine injections and wanting to reduce their travel time can begin this type of treatment immediately at our facility. Non-established patients may be seen through our walk-in clinic and follow up with one of our providers once a year. Injections can begin as early as the first visit. Patients can initiate this treatment themselves, although an original order from the patient’s allergist is required.” Cathy adds, “Other clinical staff can administer allergy shots as well. Jean is one of my special patients, and I always try to accommodate her. She has been through a lot in the past few years and I think she is comfortable with me.”  

Although Jean is one of our elderly patients and this writer’s own dear, sweet mother, there may be individuals of all ages traveling long distances to receive weekly or routine injections. Parents of young children may even prefer stopping by the Community Health Center after school to receive their allergy shots. For those who may prefer to spend their time somewhere other than behind the wheel or as a passenger in an automobile, please consider your local, community healthcare facility. Traveling the highways and byways of West Virginia is not always as challenging as it has been in recent weeks, yet there are other options when it comes to receiving allergy shots.  

For additional information regarding services at Braxton Community Health Center, call (304) 364-1093. Visit our website at braxtonmemorial.org or call (304) 364-5156 for more information regarding your local, community hospital - Caring for you close to home.

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