Free men's clinic helps catch father of 3's cancer

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Nathaniel Paxton is in for IV fluids, after a radiation treatment at Emory Decatur Hospital.

It's been 8-months since a chance encounter altered the course of the Stone Mountain 55-year father of three's life, September 8th.

"That day was my birthday," Paxton says.  "And, I didn't want to go out that day."

But Paxton has promised a friend he'd volunteer at a men's health fair.

So, he kept his word.

"I look at, and it was a blessing," Paxton says. "And, sometimes a blessing comes in disguise."

Because at that fair, Paxton met Kevin Humphries with the DeKalb County Board of Health,

"I just had my table, I believe I had a Men's Health and Wellness Clinic sign," Humphries remembers.

The two men started talking.

When Humphries learned Paxton had a job managing a McDonald's restaurant, but hadn't been able to afford health insurance,

he told him about the Men's Health Clinic run by Physician's Care Clinic, an after-hours, low-cost health clinic for DeKalb residents

who don't have insurance. 

"I was, like, 'Wow, let me look into it,'" Paxton says.

Because, as Humphries explained, through a grant from the DeKalb Board of Health, men who qualify for the clinic can see a doctor for free.

"We're just looking for ways for men to improve their health," Humphries says. 'The same way we take in our cars, (we are) taking ourselves into see the doctor."

Paxton had been having a sharp pain in his side.

"So, I came in and, the doctor, she did a little checkup for me," he says.

The doctor wanted Paxton to get a CT scan of his kidneys and liver, the next day.

It can easily run close to $800.

But, when he asked the Physicians Care coordinator Dee Snyder about the cost, she told Paxton not to worry about it.

"She said, 'We'll take care of that,'" he remembers.  "She said, 'The main thing we want you to do is you get healthy.

So, I did CT scan the next day."

That scan, led to another, to look closer at a suspicious shadow in Paxton's chest.

"It showed I have a mass in the center of my chest," he says.  "They said it was the size of an orange."

Paxton was diagnosed with thymus cancer, a rare cancer that effects only about 1 in 100,000 people.

That's when he says the Physician's Care Clinic jumped into action.

"It was a very quick response," he says.  "When they had seen the problem, there was no delay, it was right then and there."

The clinic coordinated with Emory Decatur Hospital to get Paxton cardiothoracic surgery to try to remove the tumor, chemotherapy and radiation, all at no-charge to him.

Humphries says the Physician’s Care Men's Clinic has helped about 40 uninsured men like Paxton in the last 15 months, mostly with primary and specialty care.

He says they would like to enroll as many as 100 men.

"Usually they would use the ER, otherwise, and they might not even think that little pain was a big deal," Physician's Care volunteer doctor Sheri Schneider says. 

Through the program, Dr. Schneider says, men who've never had preventive care, are getting their blood pressure, diabetes, and other health issues under control.

"I don't want to sound sexist," Schneider says.  "But I think men are tough.  And they like to be tough.  So, they tough out things."

Nathaniel Paxton wonders about that, too.

"I think about it every day," he says.

Where would he be today, he asks himself, he had ignored that pain in his side?

"My message to men is we're not that tough," Paxton says.  " Quit playing macho with your health."

With funding from the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, and in partnership with Physicians Care Clinic, Inc., the clinic supports non-emergency, chronic disease management, and primary care medical services, including pharmaceuticals, for low-income or uninsured male residents of DeKalb County.

The Physician's Care Clinic is located in the DeKalb Board of Health’s T.O. Vinson Health Center on Wynn Way in Decatur and is open Wednesday and Thursday evenings by appointment.

To learn more about the Men's Clinic call 404-508-7847 or visit www.dekalbhealth.net.

The program is open to DeKalb County residents who meet certain financial requirements.