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Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI)

A program staffed by dedicated healthcare professionals is giving people with diabetes who cannot afford their medical care a better option.

For many years, Manuel suffered from diabetes. It’s a debilitating disease that affects millions of people each year. With dangerously elevated blood sugar levels, Manuel’s symptoms were unbearable. They included unquenchable thirst, loss of mobility and a constant need to use the bathroom.

Manuel was too exhausted to keep his job, and his poor health was evident and alarming to those around him. Finally, a friend who was familiar with Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) told him about the special services that they offer to people with diabetes who cannot afford to pay for their medical care. BVMI’s notable program is supported by a generous grant from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, which is dedicated to supporting organizations that make New Jersey healthier.

It took convincing, but Manuel and his wife Raquel eventually stepped through BVMI’s doors. The bright, welcoming, state-of-the-art medical facility took them by surprise. They immediately felt comfortable and confident that they were in the right place.

“I felt hope for the first time I could remember,” Raquel said. “Manuel’s life was over and the people at BVMI gave him a new one.”

Manuel and Raquel were especially surprised when, after meeting with a certified diabetes educator, nurse navigator and physician, they learned that every health professional who worked there did so on a voluntary basis. With that volunteerism comes a passion and a commitment for ensuring that patients like Manuel succeed in learning how to take care of their diabetes through healthy eating, blood sugar monitoring, exercise and other lifestyle changes.

Holly Homa, RN, BSN, CDE with BVMI, said that the change in Manuel was nothing short of amazing.

“He was nervous, sick and scared when he first came to us, but each time he came back he was a little bit stronger,” she said. “Today, he’s managing his diabetes, he’s happy and he’s strong. You wouldn’t recognize him as the man who first walked through our doors. We are so proud of him!”

BVMI’s formula for success is simple: treat each patient as if they are the most important person in the room, carefully explain information, answer all of their questions and empower patients to take their health into their own hands, with the proper guidance.

Manuel said that it was BVMI’s doctors and other volunteers who helped him change his life.

“These people want to do a good job for you because they are giving you their own personal time,” he said. “They got to know me as a person and did everything they could to help me. I will always be grateful and so will my family.”