No longer a frequent flier: Programs help “revolving door” patient heal himself, help others

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No longer a frequent flier: Programs help “revolving door” patient heal himself, help others

Ken Manitopyes can name three things that have saved his life: jail, Eagle Moon Health Office (EMHO) and Connecting to Care.

Ken Manitopyes says he’s learning ways to stay well in the community and avoid the hospital. Photo credit: Medical Media Services

Without the food and health care jail provided, he believes he would have died on the streets from illness or starvation.

Eagle Moon, because staff there – who take a holistic approach to health – have always been supportive, listening and linking him to services that have helped him regain his health.

And Connecting to Care, one of the services Eagle Moon put him in touch with, for giving Manitopyes the help he needs to stay out of the hospital and participate in the community. Connecting to Care is a program that helps patients with complex needs, and who repeatedly require hospital services, receive more appropriate services and follow-up care in the community to ensure they are supported in improving their health. Support is wide-ranging, ranging from help with medical issues to support with housing and social needs.

Before learning about Connecting to Care, “I was in and out of the hospital,” said Manitopyes, who has a number of chronic illnesses. “It was like a revolving door. I would get better and then go back.”

It was the same with jail.

“I was raised in foster care, followed by the residential school,” he said. “I was not taught respect for authority or given proper social skills. It wasn’t long after leaving school I became involved with the legal system, ending up in jail.”

Three years ago, things changed.

“I couldn’t breathe,” said Manitopyes, a member of the Muskowekwan First Nation. ”It all hit me. I fell down and I was getting dizzy. I was blacking out. A friend picked me up and took me to the hospital.

“That’s when I found out I had COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]. I was terrible looking. Besides COPD, I had hep C, diabetes and high blood pressure – I never got any doctoring for high blood pressure. I felt like I was barely living but I didn’t care. I just wanted them to give me drugs. I didn’t care about nothing back then.

“Then I met some people who wanted to show me that there’s more to life.”

He credits EMHO’s aboriginal health consultant Harry Desnomie, director Stephanie Cavers and especially community urban representative advisor Dorothy Lloyd “for taking me under her wing and connecting me with Connecting to Care. Lori [Robertson, a registered nurse (RN) with the program] came to my rescue. After that my healing was on the way.”

Robertson, who is part of a care team that includes a paramedic, two social workers and another RN, said she first spoke with Manitopyes about Connecting to Care while he was in the hospital.

“I told him we could connect him with educational programs, hook him up with a GP [general practitioner] who could help him manage his COPD and diabetes, transportation, housing,  advocate appropriate avenues regarding oxygen needs, whatever he needed supports with that our team could provide. Our goal is to connect him to services that exist and to always support him.”

As a result, Connecting to Care entered Manitopyes’ life and nothing’s been the same since.

“They give me rides, they make sure I get my meds on time, make sure I get to my appointments,” said Manitopyes.  

The Connecting to Care team linked him with a United Way service which will prepare his income tax for free. Some funding programs are connected to a person’s income tax, such as the general sales tax.  Without a current tax return, the funding will not be provided. Robertson advocated for him to receive more oxygen tanks than the usual 14 per month that are allotted. This allows him to leave his house more frequently for appointments, weekly Bible studies and for coffee with his friends. Each tank provides about three hours of continuous oxygen.

Through rehabilitation and educational programs, he’s learned to better manage his COPD and diabetes and understands what he needs to do to stay well.

Manitopyes said his health journey has taught him to ask for help when he needs it – not wait until he’s sick.

“Now I’m seldom in the hospital unless I get stubborn with myself. I don’t like bothering people. Lori [Robertson] always tells me not to do that. I have to keep my head up and out of the water.”

When Manitopyes first entered the program, Robertson said her team saw him two to four times a week. Now, they see each other about once a week or “as needed.”

She said the biggest reason Manitopyes is having success staying out of the hospital is because he wants to heal himself. “He’s driving his own care. I’ve seen him move mountains compared to others who aren’t nearly as ill.”

Manitopyes is turning that motivation into inspiration by telling his recovery journey to others so they can either improve health care services or take courage and heal themselves. He’s participated in Primary Health Care’s lung function planning sessions, COPD educational sessions and, as a former foster child, EMHO’s children-in-care support group.

His daughter, Toni, said his positive actions have rubbed off others, including herself.

“After he quit smoking I decided to quit. Kyle, my partner, quit. It’s has a domino effect.”

Family has proven a big motivator for Manitopyes, who has five children and 19 grandchildren. “It’s good to be able to see them.”

He said that with the support of others he’s become a wiser man.

“I know lots more about my health. I learned that your life doesn’t end when you have COPD. You’ve got to take one day at a time and know there are a lot of people who can help you. You have to reach out and ask.

“I thank God for everyone in this room for helping me, for giving me the initiative to keep going,” he said, referring to Robertson, Desnomie and Toni, who drove him to theelink interview and with whom he lives. “I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.”

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