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October 09, 2008 3:40 am

Local woman praises efforts at the volunteer medical clinic

Written by Tribune Staff

‘I'm a success story'

Until the Heart Mountain Volunteer Medical Clinic opened in July, Lori Niebel of rural Powell had given up on trying to access the regular health care she needed.

In fact, she had nearly given up hope for living.

Niebel had seen a doctor twice during the previous 12 months — both times in the emergency room, and both when she was seriously ill.

During her most recent emergency-room visit, doctors discovered her blood-sugar level was more than 400.

“They said I should have died,” she said.

But Niebel and her husband have no health insurance, and they can't afford the medications she needs to control her Type 2 diabetes with their limited income.

“When I found out the (Heart Mountain Volunteer Medical) Clinic was open, I was all excited,” she said. “I thought, ‘I've got to go and find out if my diabetes is OK.'”

It wasn't.

Once again, her blood sugar tested at more than 400.

“I told them, ‘If I can't get help here, I'm dying. That's it. There are no other options.'”

Fortunately for Niebel, the clinic provided help she needed through volunteer doctors and nurses as well as the support of many other volunteers, along with free or reduced-price lab and prescription services.

Because Niebel's blood sugar was so high, clinic nurse and co-organizer Madelyn Morris drove out to Niebel's house that evening with former clinic director Traci Metzler to give Lori the lifesaving insulin and medications she needed.

“With my sugar at 400, they didn't want me to drive,” Niebel said.

Niebel then went to the clinic for weekly appointments to monitor her progress in managing her disease and assess other health problems.

Eventually, she was doing well enough that her visits to the clinic were needed only every other week. Now, she is able to go months between appointments.

Niebel also has received services through Migrant Health in Powell.

Between the two, her health concerns are being addressed.

“I feel much better,” she said. “It's helped a lot.”

These days, when she goes to the clinic, “They say I look so healthy now, compared to what I was. They say they see a big difference in me.”

Niebel can't help but compare how she feels now — physically and emotionally — with the despair she felt before the clinic opened.

“I honestly thought there was no hope,” she said. “They're helping me a lot, and I just love everybody. They make me feel so comfortable.

“I would say I'm a success story.”