Self-sufficient and independent, McClain prides herself on her old-fashioned grit. After all, the 62-year-old divorced mother of three overcame infantile polio, escaped an abusive marriage and built a business that for 28 years put food on her table and paid for her diabetes and blood-pressure medications.
But one day, McClain, like many of the working class, found herself locked in a situation for which there was no master key.
Last summer, a nurse practitioner at St. James-Santee Family Health Center recommended that she see a specialist for the intense pain she was feeling in her lower abdomen. When McClain told her she had no way to pay for the for specialized care, the nurse referred her to Georgetown Community Care Network, which was established to improve access to health care for the region’s medically underserved population.
As an AccessHealth SC initiative in partnership with Georgetown Hospital System and the Duke Endowment, GCCN includes faith communities, social service providers, health educators, state agencies and primary care and specialty care providers.
Reluctantly, McClain agreed: “I felt guilty because I was asking for help,” she says, “but the GCCN coordinator made me feel comfortable and assured me that she would help me through this.”
Within weeks, McClain was referred to gastroenterologist John Orchard, MD, of Waccamaw Gastroenterology. He performed a colonoscopy, removed several polyps and referred her to Anthony deHaas, MD, of Winyah Surgical Specialists for a colectomy. GCCN also put her in touch with Welvista, a nonprofit organization that works with pharmaceutical companies to make medications affordable, to get help paying for her diabetes medication.
McClain says the assistance that GCCN provided her has given her a better quality of life and kept her from getting cancer.
“I don’t know what would have happened or where I would be right now without the help of GCCN,” she says. “They made my quality of life better, and I know I have a little more time.”