House calls are one of the most compassionate forms of medicine. But for those who believe in the value of healthcare for everyone – they are willing to pay the price for delivering that basic need. Take a ride with us as we accompany a home healthcare nurse on a real journey to improve the lives of her patients.
Their day begins in the parking lot of a Chicago police station, that’s where Atundra Horne, a nurse for Advocate At Home healthcare, meets Ollie Gavin.
Ollie is a retired Chicago police officer. After spending 30 years on the force, he now works as a detective and security officer. And as they often do, Atundra and Ollie work as a team today. We’re trailing behind with Tom Flanagan.
Tom Flanagan, retired CPD officer, Accord Detective Agency: “I went on the Chicago Police Department in 1965 and I retired in 1993.”
Tom now runs Accord Detective Agency. He and his staff — mostly retired police officers — provide security for Advocate’s home health nurses – the foot soldiers who care for patients with limited mobility and those too sick to make it to the doctor’s office.
Ollie Gavin, retired CPD officer, Accord Detective Agency: “We are the nurses’ eyes and ears, sometimes inside of a patient’s residence and sometimes outside.”
Most of the patients Atundra cares for live in neighborhoods defined by crime statistics and nightly news reports – where the actions of some overshadow the quiet lives of others who’ve made a home here. Bertha Jemison and her husband live in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. On this stop — with Atundra safe inside the Jemison’s home — Ollie waits patiently outside … it’s the activity on the streets he focuses on.
Ollie Gavin: “I’ve had situations where Atundra was inside providing care for one of the patients, and I’m sitting in the relatively close area and people are shooting, so I’ve got to contact her, let her know what’s taking place outside so she won’t walk outside into some type of a crossfire.”
Tom Flanagan: “On any given day we could have eight to 14 guys out. South side, west side, suburbs, any place the clinician feels they would need some security.”
Like at this house, where Atundra regularly cares for an elderly patient.
Tom Flanagan: “From coming here before we’ve noticed a lot of drug activity on this block, and the house next door. There’s one of our guys there. You get a little acknowledgment from them, usually. They know who we are.”
They are the drug dealers who make this a volatile block – and too risky for us to stick around much longer.
Tom Flanagan: “It would be a little too dangerous for us to be parked out here that long.”
But Atundra will stay.
Tom Flanagan: “She’ll be fine in the house, and Ollie will be just out here in case anything goes on.”
Atundra Horne, Advocate At Home nurse: “Everybody needs their healthcare. Doesn’t matter if they live in Englewood or Naperville, they all require the same amount of healthcare anyone else does.”
A home health nurse for 16 years, Atundra isn’t shaken by the risks she faces each day. And not every visit poses a threat.
Atundra Horne: “Generally, I have anywhere from eight to 10 patients a day.”
On a quiet block in Chatham on the city’s south side, Atundra and Ollie make their way to a young patient suffering with heart failure. Three weeks ago 28-year-old John Gill had an L-VAD implanted – a mechanical device that takes over the heart’s pumping function.
Atundra Horne: “It’s able to keep patients alive until they get a heart transplant, and they may be on it for a year, five years, seven years. It kind of depends.”
Tom Flanagan: “These clinicians, they go into these areas to help the people, and it’s a privilege to work with people that do this, that have the courage to do this, every day, day in and day out.”
Atundra Horne: “Just one day at a time. I love what I do.”
Advocate At Home expects to pay about one million dollars in security fees this year. That money comes out of their operating budget – it’s not covered by insurance. That’s why they’re hoping to attract philanthropic support from corporations and individual donors.