Thursday, April 3, 2014
For Tina Brabham, going to the doctor presented many challenges. Over the course of her life, starting with her teenage years, Brabham has lost use of her muscles in her arms and legs as a result of the disease spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Now 50, the Summerville mother and grandmother is considered a quadriplegic. While she has pursued as much independence as possible, and recently learned to pilot an automated chair with her breath, she needs extra help to travel to appointments. When she learned about Doc at the Door several years ago, she immediately signed up. “The service is fantastic,” she says. “It was like a blessing from God to me.” Her physician, Dr. John Forney, started Doc at the Door in 2006. He recognized that many people with disabilities, as well as many senior citizens and others who are homebound, would benefit from a physician visiting them where they live and would be more likely to get the preventive health care they need. Dr. Forney really gets to know the people he treats, with a typical visit lasting 30-45 minutes. “It’s more relaxed, and you do develop a really good doctor-patient relationship,” he says. “You see where patients live, meet their family members and even meet their pets.” The service includes old-fashioned “house” calls as well as visits to assisted living facilities and group homes. And as a result of its success in the Charleston area, it has expanded to include Dr. Marion “Chip” Cooper. Both Dr. Cooper and Dr. Forney are certified in family medicine with special interests in geriatrics, hospice and palliative care. “There’s no other job in medicine like this,” says Dr. Cooper, who admits he is well-suited for this line of work. “I visit people to see how they are doing, and I get a chance to have some wonderful conversations. I take my time with things, and I think I’m a good listener, too.” Doc at the Door makes health care more accessible for patients such as Brabham, who admits that she didn’t see a physician as often as she should have before. It also eases the demands on caretakers and family members who would otherwise be called upon for transportation and perhaps have to miss work in the process. Plus, Brabham says, she does not have to worry about exposure to contagious illnesses, which would be a real concern for her in visiting a doctor’s office. Yet, Doc at the Door is about more than just convenience. It’s about quality of care. Dr. Forney has helped Brabham in many ways, for example, encouraging physical therapy that helps lessen her muscle pain and stiffness, and guiding her to equipment like her new automated chair. When her father died, she says, Dr. Forney was there to lend support. “He’s very good, very compassionate and cares about my well-being.” Call out: “There’s no other job in medicine like this.” –Marion “Chip” Cooper, MD
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