I was in need of help. I was rescued by two life coaches.” This was Marcus Thomas’ self-assessment after successfully overcoming several health challenges.

Marcus came to the Sentara Obici Hospital Emergency Department in April 2015 with extremely high blood pressure, he was overweight, in need of dental care, had no transportation and had no medical home. However, Marcus had been prone to multiple emergency room visits. His last emergency room visit was in May of that year due to the intervention of Life Coaches Renee Austin and Vanessa Dunlap.

The medical staff at the hospital referred Marcus to the Life Coach Program, which is a grant funded by the Obici Healthcare Foundation to the hospital. Sentara Obici partners with the Catholic Charities Life Coaches to help uninsured and underinsured patients secure primary care services and other resources.

Renee helped coordinate Marcus’ first appointment at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic. At the time, he was taking three high blood pressure medications and was in need of dental care. Marcus weighed 276 pounds and his health status made him unable to work. To make matters worse, he did not have transportation to and from his medical appointments.

After about a year as a Free Clinic patient, Marcus’ health condition improved considerably. Now that his blood pressure was under control, his weight was down 30 pounds and his oral health needs were met, Marcus was ready to get a job. This is when Vanessa Dunlap, another Life Coach, entered Marcus’ life.

“You need to develop a long-term plan now that your health has stabilized,” Vanessa advised the 26-year-old.

Marcus, who lives in Chuckatuck, needed more independence. Vanessa gave Marcus one of her bicycles, a helmet and helped him obtain a food handler’s permit from the health department. Marcus was ready to roll, now that he had transportation and the certification needed to start work.

He got a job at the Burger King located 5 miles from his home. He is so thrilled to have a job and transportation to get there that he is undeterred by cold or rainy weather conditions. “I bundle up by putting on extra layers of clothing when it’s cold or wet outside.” His positive work ethic led to Burger King increasing his number of days from 3 to 4 per week.

Renee said that Marcus really stepped up. In doing so, he is able to help his family pay bills.

Marcus knew he could take care of himself. “I just needed the chance.”

When asked about the help received from the Life Coaches, Marcus said, “It is very wonderful! I’m blessed!”


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