Doris Dodgins, 63, got the scare of her life last year when she was admitted to the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville for symptoms related to congestive heart failure.
“It felt just like something’s closing in,” she said.
Her husband, Allen, 66, had his own reaction.
“It scared me to death,” he said.
And without insurance, the couple worried about whether they could afford Doris’ medical costs.
That’s when the Good News Clinics, a local nonprofit providing free medical and dental care to low-income individuals without insurance, stepped in to assist.
The nonprofit’s clinic for patients managing heart failure symptoms has served more than 800 residents of Northeast Georgia over the last 12 years.
There are currently more than 100 patients being treated at the clinic after experiencing chest pains, heart attacks, trouble breathing, hypertension and other symptoms.
Good News provides care until patients qualify or age into Medicaid or Medicare.
Eva Johnson, a nurse practitioner for the Northeast Georgia Health System who works in partnership with Good News every Wednesday, said the clinic has a stellar reputation because of the community’s support (such as partnerships with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank and Northeast Georgia Health System) and breadth of services available.
The readmission rate for heart failure patients, measured by whether they are hospitalized again within 30 days for any cause, is 23 percent nationally — but just 3 percent at the clinic, according to Johnson.
“I think it’s because of our resources,” she said.
These resources include a registered dietician on staff at the clinic, access to free prescription drugs, broad case management that includes regular follow-ups, and specialist care.
“Research has shown they tend to have better outcomes, better quality of life” with this approach, Johnson said.
The heart failure clinic at Good News is in the spotlight as the nonprofit prepares for its annual fundraiser in the banquet hall at First Baptist Church at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16.
A Mardi Gras theme was chosen for this year “because we have a lot to celebrate,” said Liz Coates, community engagement director.
Entertainment will include a live band and the West Hall High School drumline, while festive masks and a photo booth will be available for attendees, Coates said.
Good News is expecting between 500 and 600 attendees, with different levels of sponsorship ranging from $500 to $5,000, she added.
Though the night promises fun, Coates said the patients are the “heart and soul of what we’re celebrating.”
A lot has changed for both Doris and Allen since they were first introduced to Good News.
Most of all, she’s much healthier and feeling a lot better these days.
With changes to her diet, medication, more exercise and ongoing doctor’s visits, Doris said she is feeling well.
So much so, in fact, that Allen has to try to keep Doris’ admittedly restless spirit under watch, perhaps the hardest change of all.
“She wants to get out in that hot sun … I got to try to stop her,” he said with a smile.
“But I also have to rest …” she conceded.
Good News Clinics annual fundraiser
What: Mardi Gras theme fundraiser
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16
Where: First Baptist Church banquet hall, 751 Green St. in Gainesville
More info: www.goodnewsclinics.org/events