When Lebanon resident and business owner Ron Steele unexpectedly lost his beloved wife of 35 years in 2019, his life was shattered. In addition to losing his great love, he lost his co-pilot. Steele is legally blind and his wife handled all of their affairs: finances, medical appointments, grocery shopping and cooking.
Now living alone in the motor home he once shared with his wife, Steele was having to learn to do it all on his own. He was staying on a friend’s property with no running water or heat, and his health began to rapidly decline.
Living with diabetes, he knew his persistent open leg wounds were problematic. His feet swelled and he was unable to walk far without falling.
“I knew things were getting bad, so I just started praying,” said Steele.
Help From a Friend
A week later, while working on a church project, he showed a friend his wounds. The friend immediately called his wife, faith community nurse Deb Fell Carlson, RN.
Faith community nurses are licensed nurses who have taken special training to minister to people at their places of worship.
“As soon as I saw Ron’s legs and the overall condition he was in, I knew action had to be taken,” said Fell Carlson.
The first step: help get Steele enrolled in a good Medicare plan to cover his medical needs. Then, help schedule a visit with Bridget Shariat, DO, at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital Medical Center — Sweet Home. Dr. Shariat instigated a series of referrals to several Samaritan services for collaborative, comprehensive care.
“Lebanon Diabetes Education taught me how to really care for my diabetes,” said Steele. “I learned what to eat, how to monitor my blood sugar levels, fun ways to exercise and how to check my skin for infections.”
Samaritan Wound, Vein & Hyperbaric Medicine treated the wounds on his legs, which revealed problems with Steele’s circulation. He underwent vein surgery that improved circulation, reduced pain and helped to prevent new leg ulcers.
Moving On With Life
Next came physical therapy.
“Physical therapy helps me manage my chronic pain and I have really come to enjoy it,” said Steele.
For 15 years, Steele used opioids to control constant pain. His new treatments allowed him to manage the pain and transition to a safer medication.
“Dr. Matthews at Samaritan Recovery Clinic in Lebanon was another answer to my many prayers,” said Steele. “He helped get me to where I didn’t need the opioids anymore and I feel so much better without them in my system.”
Besides medical services, Fell Carlson helped get Steele an apartment, a pool membership, new dentures and glasses, and helped him access other needed community-based services.
“He’s a whole new person and it has truly been a gift to be able to help him find health, comfort and safety,” said Fell Carlson.
Today, Steele is climbing stairs to his third story apartment, enjoying water exercise and immersing himself in old hobbies.
“I don’t know where I would be today without my faith, Deb, my congregation and the many care providers who supported my return to health,” said Steele. “I am thankful for this community and the collaboration from everyone to give me a better life.”
To learn more about faith community nursing or how to get involved, visit samhealth.org/FaithCommunityNursing.