You May Feel Fine, But Gregory Says Don't Skip Your Medical CareGrowing up in a large family in Beverly, Burlington County, Gregory Jones’ parents had to make every dollar count. Going to the doctor often proved too costly.
“When I grew up, and at the time in many minority homes, there were large families. We were a family of nine. You might not be able to afford to go to the doctor,” said Gregory. “A few of the doctors would come and visit the house. But even then, with nine kids, you figured out some at-home remedies to save some money.”
Gregory learned the importance of regular medical care when his father was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and more recently, when a Virtua nurse practitioner voiced concern over Gregory’s own labored breathing. That unease spurred action this winter, and set him on a health care journey of sorts. Gregory received lifesaving care at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, involving the placement of three stents to treat blockages in his coronary arteries and a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).
He believes African Americans and other minority groups should be mindful of their health and see a provider regularly. Black Americans face a 3.5 times higher risk of death from COVID-19 compared to White Americans. Studies also have found Black Americans are less likely to receive regular health screenings, have health insurance, and access to high-quality medical care.
“Since I’ve had diabetes for the last 15 or 16 years, if something is going on, I want to know it early,” said Gregory, 67, a retired teacher and social worker who now lives in Burlington Township.
Gregory said his father didn’t place a high priority on going to the doctor, and needed convincing when he became ill to seek medical attention.
“When we did find out he had testicular cancer, he was far too late. He asked, ‘Why can’t you cut me open and take it out?’ The doctor said, ‘Stan, that’s like shutting the barn door after the horses have left.’ He understood that analogy,” he said.
His dad died in 2000, less than a year after his diagnosis.
“A lot of men my father’s age were the same way. Maybe I’m reaching, but they were aware of the Tuskegee experiments, and some of them didn’t trust doctors,” said Gregory. “As with the family I grew up with, most of it came down to where would I put my money. Would I feed my family or take them to the doctor?”
Gregory vowed to be different than his father and visits a doctor every three months to help manage his diabetes. When his primary care physician, Joel Yudin, DO, retired, he saw Lyudmila Schowgurow, APN. She examined him, as Gregory says, “with a fine-tooth comb,” and noted his heavy breathing.
Although Gregory said he “never felt one iota of chest pain or shortness of breath,” he agreed to see Virtua cardiologist Eduard Koman, MD. The cardiac team diagnosed Gregory with severe aortic valve stenosis and found blockages in his arteries.
“Even though I felt great and I didn’t have any problems, I always listen to the doctor and follow through,” he said.
Virtua cardiothoracic surgeon Arthur Martella, MD, and interventional cardiologist Ibrahim Moussa, DO, corrected Gregory’s arteries on Jan. 11, 2021 and performed the TAVR on Feb. 16.
Feeling better, Gregory is a firm believer in going to the doctor. “I am so thankful to God that he hooked me up with the Virtua network,” said Gregory. “I want to know what is going on with me early so I have a better chance of survival. No matter what, I go to my doctor appointments.”
Don’t Delay Your Care
Virtua Health’s primary and specialty care practices offer in-person and telehealth appointments to help keep you well and on the go. Call 888-847-8823 to make an appointment.
If your symptoms are urgent, Virtua’s 7 emergency rooms are safe and ready to care for you. And, for minor emergencies, we have 8 urgent care centers throughout the area for walk-in care, as well as telehealth appointments if traveling is an issue or safety concern.
Updated March 25, 2021