Getting a handle on your health |

Getting a handle on your health

Preston Utley/EnterpriseWanda Wilson of Eagle has her blood drawn March 31 so she can get the results at Saturday's 9Health Fair in Eagle.

EAGLE ” Julie VanNatta of Eagle enthusiastically spreads the 9Health Fair gospel. She has reason to.

“I have been diagnosed with three different health issues because of the health fair,” she said. “I have had such positive experiences with them.”

VanNatta had gestational diabetes during pregnancy and her doctor recommended annual blood tests after age 40. When she heard about the health fair’s low-cost program, she figured it was a price-conscious way to comply with the doctor’s orders.

Back in 2001, VanNatta felt generally lethargic. When her blood test came back, the reason for her dwindling energy became apparent ” her tests revealed her thyroid numbers were way off. She contacted her doctor and began treatment, including a diabetes-prevention regime.

“I don’t know if I’m a person who would have gone to the doctor about my energy level,” says VanNatta. “Because of the 9Health Fair and monitoring my thyroid, I may never have to be on insulin.”

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Her 2001 blood test was the catalyst for a comprehensive treatment program that raised flags when VanNatta returned to the fair in 2002. She participated in the blood draw and took off on vacation. But when fair medical professionals processed her blood, they were concerned enough about her thyroid levels that they contacted her at home.

When VanNatta’s husband said she was out of state, the crew left a number and urged him to contact his wife and have her call in.

“I was able to tell them I was under my doctor’s care for my thyroid, but I told them I really appreciated them being so proactive, tracking me down,” she said.

Her story isn’t unusual. Last year health volunteer nurses made 2,100 calls to participants with critical health problems within 72 hours of the fair visit. For other participants, the blood test results arrive in the mail within three to six weeks of the event.

On the day of the fair, VanNatta doesn’t just zip into the blood draw room and beat feet out of the building. She stops by the breast and skin cancer stations and the foot screening. Her husband, Ray, has a health fair success story of his own ” his foot aches were resolved after a visit to the podiatry station.

“I would highly recommend people go to the health fair,” Julie VanNatta says. “If you don’t want to go alone, give me a call and I’ll go with you ” it’s a little bit of an inconvenience that could change the outcome of your life.”

Volunteers are a bedrock of the health fair. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists participate. The blood room requires a staff of more than 15 health professionals from the Vail Valley Medical Center and the Western Eagle County Ambulance District.

Organizer Joy Ortiz says the most popular stations are the blood draw, the skin cancer screening performed by Dr. Drew Werner, the breast cancer screening performed by Dr. Angela Ammon, and the Body in Balance station run by physical therapists Brady and Carly Baker, Jennifer Cockrel and Melanie Smith.

This year’s event will include a station offering $5 tetanus/diptheria/whooping cough booster shot. Folks at the booth can offer information about who should consider getting a booster.

Lions Clubs also play a major role in health fairs across the state. Ortiz, together with her husband Dave, has organization the fair for the past three years.

“Organizing the fair is an yearlong project,” Joy Ortiz says.

To make sure that the fair is a comprehensive event, Ortiz contacts doctors, nurses and therapists months in advance. She also checks on the other volunteers to make sure they have the date reserved.

The fire department is tapped to man the height, weight and blood pressure screenings in addition to offering fire truck rides for the kids. Local restaurants are asked to donate food for volunteers.

And finally, on fair day, a corps of men and women sporting the Lions’ distinctive purple vests will arrive at Eagle Valley Middle School at dawn to set up stations, hang signs, and prepare for the onslaught. This year, at least, promises a bit of glamour for all their hard work.

For the first time in 27 years, 9News will broadcast live from Eagle.

By day, Marian McDonough of Eagle is the manager of Youth and Family Services for Eagle County. Once a year she is the centrifuge queen.

A lot goes on in the blood room after the patient leaves. Individual vials have to be matched with paperwork, and the blood has to settle for a half hour before it is spun.

“But the vials can’t sit for more than one hour, that’s the tricky part,” McDonough says.

McDonough patrols the blood room, collects vials and prepares them for the centrifuge. At the end of the day, she also packages the blood for transportation to a lab.

McDonough can’t remember when she started working the centrifuge but she comes volunteers every years.

“It’s just something I do. It’s a good cause and it’s a morning I volunteer to give back to the community,” she says.

Eagle Town Clerk and Treasurer Marilene Miller is the money maven for fair. She organizes the crew that collects blood draw payments.

“I’ve worked at the health fair for 12 or 15 years,” she says. “I’m just one of the little worker bees.”

She estimates that 90 percent of the fair have blood tests. The Eagle site collects upwards of $24,000 for tests.

Miller’s responsibilities don’t end when the fair does. She has to review all the paperwork and make sure the receipts and the money match.

“I enjoy working the health fair,” she says. “I get to see a lot of people, and it’s a way to participate in something that benefits the community. It really is a strong volunteer effort.”

Support Local Journalism