Eskenazi Health Programs Help Patient and Family Lead Healthier, Safer Lives

After immigrating to the United States from Nigeria, Eskenazi Health Center patient, Olufunke Adewole, found herself in an abusive relationship and the victim of what she calls “modernized trafficking.” Though she worked, she never saw any of the money she made, and she did not have access to transportation. She and her children were alone and in desperate need.

A medical emergency for one of her children led to being referred to primary care services at Eskenazi Health Center Pecar. Not having a vehicle or transportation of her own, she and her children did not show up for an appointment. An Eskenazi Health social worker called to follow-up and ended up arranging for a cab to come pick-up her and her children and bring them to the appointment. What happened next would change their lives.

When Deanna Reinoso, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of Eskenazi Health social determinants of health walked into the exam room, she looked at the patient and asked a single question – “Are you OK?” Adewole said she knew by the way Dr. Reinoso looked at her that she could be trusted and was genuinely there to help – something Adewole said she had not encountered in a long time. “I think she could see through the pain,” she recalled. “She was able to break the barrier of me not wanting to talk to anyone.”

Adewole and her children were not OK. They were going on the third day of having nothing to eat, and the patient was pregnant and had yet to receive any prenatal care. Dr. Reinoso walked the family down the hall to the Crooked Creek Food Pantry, located in the Eskenazi Health Center Pecar building, and let them pick out food to bring back to the exam room. “Right there in her office, we were eating bread,” Adewole recalled. “We were really hungry.”

Having access to the food pantry was only the beginning of Adewole’s journey. Dr. Reinoso connected her with free programs including the Eskenazi Health Medical-Legal Partnership, a safe family program for her children and was connected with a doctor to oversee her pregnancy. “It was a life-changing day for me and my family,” she recalls.

By working with Eskenazi Health Medical-Legal Partnership, Adewole was able to start her immigration process, apply for necessary work permits and become independent from her abuser in conjunction with the safe family program. While difficult, the safe family program removed Adewole’s children from the abusive home and placed them with another family as a means to help Adewole gain financial independence and leave an abusive relationship. “I am now free from abuse and my children are safe. This would not have been possible without the help and support from Dr. Reinoso and Eskenazi Health,” explained Adewole. 

Although it was not easy, through her own hard work and the available Eskenazi Health services, the lives of Adewole and her children are changed for the better. “We are in a better place now because of Eskenazi Health,” she said.

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