Forrest and Lucinda Rice’s health problems could fill a textbook. Mr. Rice, who is 57 years old, has back problems stemming from being hit by a bus, exacerbated by years of working in the lumber department of a home improvement store. On top of that, he is a long-time diabetic. Mrs. Rice, also 57, is diabetic as well, and she has suffered a variety of other ailments, including an E. coli infection, sepsis and a sleeping disorder. She has had a stroke and an aneurysm.

When their doctor moved out of state a few years ago, the Caswell County couple had trouble finding a new one. “None of them wanted to take us because we were too medically involved,” Mrs. Rice recalled. “Then a friend told me, ‘Why don’t you try Prospect Hill [Community Health Center]; they usually take anybody.’ I said, ‘Well, we’ll try anything at this point.’ ”

They tried the health center and they were welcomed so warmly that, Mrs. Rice acknowledged, she was at first suspicious. “I was wondering what kind of care we’d get,” she said. That was back in 2008. The Rice’s are still patients at Prospect Hill and they say they have received friendly, top-quality treatment from the health center.

The diabetes classes were fun and educational, Mrs. Rice said. “We laughed and joked around and we learned,” she said. “In fact, we learned more in just one class about diabetes and other stuff than in all of the other meetings we had been to – and my husband has been a diabetic for 21 years.”

She especially praises two health-care providers at Prospect Hill – Dr. Rex Dancel, a physician specializing in family medicine, and Tinesha S. Smith, one of the center’s care managers. Mrs. Rice tears up as she recalls an anecdote about Dr. Dancel. Once, the physician interrupted his honeymoon to call in and check on the condition of her husband, who had been hospitalized, she recalls.“How many doctors keep track of patients on their honeymoon?” she said. “To take time out from your honeymoon and check on him, that is the highest quality of care imaginable. “I’ve been in the health-care field for 21 years,” added Mrs. Rice, who was an occupational therapist before going on disability. “I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of doctors but I’ve never seen care to that extent.”

As for Smith, Mrs. Rice said she sometimes calls her just to talk when she gets overwhelmed. She added: “I don’t know how I would have gotten through it all without her.”

For Smith, spending time on the phone with patients such as Mrs. Rice is part of the job. “I feel that emotional health is just as important as physical health,” Smith said. “This sometimes may require me to take an extra 15 minutes to allow her to vent and get things off her chest, but by doing this it supports our mission to improve the health and well being of our community. The first word in my job title is care, and I take that very seriously.”
Similarly, Dr. Dancel does not see the care that he has provided for the Rice’s as extraordinary. “I get a great deal of satisfaction out of helping patients,” he said. “I don’t feel as if I deserve any particular accolades – their gratitude is enough.”

Mrs. Rice sees divine guidance in Prospect Hill’s care. “They put his hand into the very fiber of that building,” she said.

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