Founding of the Back Community Health & Wellness Association of Nevada: Why We Serve


It was the morning of Thursday, November 11th, 2021, when my life changed forever. At the time, I had then been employed as an Epidemiologist for almost a year, following a tumultuous period of working throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. During this period, I helped oversee (approximately) 1,500 patient and childcare communicable disease cases and experienced a myriad of health-related issues among our local urban, rural, and frontier communities. From experiencing children losing their parents and caregivers, spouses losing their lifelong partners, as well as healthcare and childcare givers losing their ability to work due to newly acquired chronic health conditions from exposure to COVID-19. It was a challenging and trying period to say the least, and aside from the communicable disease exposures that were negatively impacting the community at increased rates, additional social, economic, and overall health disparities were being further exposed and pushed to the forefront as both local and national public health and healthcare systems that were put into place to protect communities were showing penetrable cracks. In the year that followed in 2021, I (like many other health professionals) became chronically exhausted, both physically and mentally. Preventing others from becoming ill had taken such an extensive toll on my health that burnout was inevitable.

 

On the morning of November 11th, 2021, I had woken up early to meet a friend for brunch. I felt tired on that day, even a bit dizzy, but I did not think too much about it as I had experienced this many months before. However, as the morning proceeded, I realized that this feeling was different, as I suddenly became lightheaded, slightly disoriented, and my peripheral vision became dark. I felt that I was going to pass out and did not completely understand why. Immediately, I called 9-1-1, telling the operator about what I was experiencing, and she then instructed me to leave the front door of my house open then sit down and do not stand up as I was at-risk for falling. A few minutes later, Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel from the Las Vegas Fire & Rescue (LVFR) Station #6 arrived on-site to do my vitals while sitting down. Despite my report to the 9-1-1 operator and giving the same reported concerns to the LVFR EMS, after taking my vitals (i.e., blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level) while sitting down and getting normal readings, I was instructed by the LVFR EMS to stand up for another vital reading. However, as I stood up, there was no one assisting me in this brief transition. As quickly as I stood up, it was even quicker falling, as my blood pressure dropped below 60. I fell so quickly that my head snapped forcibly forward to the front of my chest and backward to my upper trapezius muscles, in mid-air I was caught, but as I was laid down to the floor my right leg slipped underneath me with the sole of my foot meeting my face. The trauma from the fall was so quick and intense, it left me with a grade 3 (severe) concussion, grade 3 (severe) whiplash, severe cervical sprain, and a neurological injury (of my vagus nerve) that later led to multiple episodes of seizures and tachycardia. All of this caused by their lack of professional judgement, disbelief in my health concerns (despite my persistence), and a simple case of dehydration, anemia, and chronic fatigue.  

After this incident, I battled tirelessly with my healthcare insurance company (Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield-HMO) from November 2021-February 2022, trying to find a primary care provider that would accept my insurance (that I paid in upwards of $400/per month), including experiencing delayed approvals to see healthcare specialists (physical therapist, neurologist, orthopedic physician, etc.), in the meantime my health declined significantly (notably, many providers would not accept my insurance plan). I became bed ridden, my muscles on the left side of my body (that took majority of the trauma) had begun to atrophy, blackouts became a regular occurrence (which I later found out to be seizures caused by the severe cervical sprain and muscle contortion), and I often had slurred speech, memory lapses from anywhere to minutes, hours, or days. I had to stop working for 4 months, with no income until well into the summer.

 

However, on one night in early February 2022, I blacked out from the ongoing neuromuscular pain, it felt like my back was on fire, and the nerves from my head to upper trapezius muscle area had endured so much trauma that even the heat from a touch of another person felt as if a curling iron had been turned on under my skin. It was indescribable, eventually unbearable, and the repeated daily trauma I experienced during that period had become all too much. On that night, my father called 9-1-1, as my body writhed in pain, my vision became blurred, speech slurred, seizures occurred back-to-back, and my heart rate raced uncontrollably. In my shadowy haze of in and out of consciousness, another group of EMS personnel from the same LVFR Station #6 arrived, seemingly unconcerned, and eventually put me on an unfastened gurney then cursed and berated me in their emergency vehicle for allegedly being a “drug addict” or altogether “acting.” Of course, I could not be black and having seizures without in element of drug abuse or grossly exaggerating my pain in their minds. Alternatively, in the toxicology report by the hospital they dropped me off at (Summerlin Hospital Medical Center) and the other medical center that I was treated at, it never showed any indication of recreational drug use. Even there, at the hospital, the attending physician showed no empathy, mercy, or the slightest modicum of concern in my depleting physical state. In a matter of days following this second LVFR incident, those seizures left me without the ability to walk and use the bathroom on my own for almost 3 months.

 

It was not until I had another seizure and tachycardia episode later in February 2022, in front of my primary care physician, while sitting in a wheelchair that I finally got the care I needed. Her (the primary care physician) quick response in calling American Medical Response (AMR) EMS, getting me admitted into Spring Valley Medical Center, and having an excellent attending physician as well as healthcare team that believed my symptoms and carried out the right medical treatment set me on the road to recovery. It was this first-hand experience in the Southern Nevada healthcare system, among my other professional and personal experiences a black woman working in the public health field, which led me to establish the Black Community Health & Wellness Association of Nevada in June 2022.

 

We are a non-profit organization established and operated by a caring, diverse, and local professional group of minorities, consisting of a Board of Directors that have backgrounds in law, healthcare, holistic medicine, cultural education, and public health that have pledged a lifetime of service for protecting, advocating, and providing resources for black and minority communities. Our mission is to empower black and minority communities through health education, social advocacy, community partnerships, and resources (e.g., mental health services, holistic care, preventative medicine, legal assistance, scholarships, etc.) to improve an overall quality of health outcomes by reducing health disparities and inequities in healthcare. So, that we may prevent others from experiencing preventable, traumatic events in healthcare, and get the support that is needed. We are currently partnering with Dreamsickle Kids Foundation, Inc., and are seeking additional community partners (individuals and organizations) to help in the expansion of our Association. If you are interested in partnering with us, or seeking resources/assistance, please contact us at [email protected] and/or visit our website at https://bchwanv.org.

Opinion-Editorial