Homeless Health Initiative: The White Family's Story

Nathanial, 15 months, is getting to be a pro at walking these days. Now, in his mother’s words, “he’s off to the races.” 

The White Family Image As Mayumi White chases after him as he races around Episcopal Community Services (ECS) St. Barnabas Mission, she has one less worry: Nathanial’s health.

Because of regular checkups during CHOP Nights, when doctors and nurses from the Homeless Health Initiative visit West Philadelphia homeless shelters, she knows he’s happy, healthy and on track developmentally.

Mayumi White holds Nathanial during a dental checkup at CHOP Night.

“We come to every CHOP Night,” White says. “And we see the dentist each time, too, to get him used to it. He doesn’t freak out when he goes to the doctor. He likes to get weighed.”

Soon after White and Nathanial moved to St. Barnabas, Nathanial’s stomach was giving him trouble. The CHOP Night doctors advised a trip to the Emergency Department, just to be on the safe side. It ended up he was just getting adjusted to the shelter food.

Connecting to primary care physicians

CHOP Night clinicians also helped White find a new primary care pediatrician closer to St. Barnabas. Now she takes Nathanial to see Meera Siddharth, MD, FAAP, the former associate medical director of HHI, at the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center. The Center is located at 48th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.

“Our new doctor is at the brand-new Karabots Center,” White says. “That’s definitely a big plus because it’s easy to get there. The facility is beautiful. I’m very pleased with his doctor. You’re in and out, and no leaving without answers."

"Dr. Siddharth told me I could call her if I needed her. I can leave a message and she’s very good about returning the phone call," White adds. "If Nathanial needs medicine, she’ll call the pharmacy, and it’s ready when I get there.”

For non-urgent questions that come up, White knows she can always talk to the physicians and nurses at the monthly CHOP Nights.

"They have no problem with you asking a lot of questions,” she says. “They take the time to hear you out. I really wasn’t sure of the appropriate age for the dentist. They told me that once he has teeth, he can go. They’ve been really helpful and given me tips already. They reassured me that he’s doing great.”

Medical visits remain at the core of HHI programming

CHOP Nights are the foundation of HHI’s mission to put healthcare resources where they’re greatly needed. In its 25 years of helping families experiencing homelessness, HHI has maintained the monthly shelter visits while expanding into programs that bolster overall well-being.

The comprehensive approach is one reason the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies has been a longtime supporter of the program.

“When families are struggling with life challenges and are living in a shelter environment, it puts additional stress on family members, especially on children who are vulnerable and often unaware of the circumstances,” says Bonnie Petrauskas, a Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman. “Programs like the Homeless Health Initiative provide needed health services to children that will have a positive impact on their long-term development. Without this initiative, these children would most likely not receive services that can help shape healthy behaviors for the future."

“Johnson & Johnson believes strongly that an effective approach to addressing the challenges in children’s health is through the power of partnerships and education,” Petrauskas continues. “By combining assets and resources and working together to mobilize forces, efforts are strengthened to achieve optimal results that benefit families.

"We are privileged to partner with CHOP and HHI to make a difference in the lives of children and families.”

Finding reassurance during life's uncertainty

For White, knowing that CHOP is looking after Nathanial’s health gives her peace of mind during a difficult and uncertain time.

“I’ve never felt so confident about how Nathanial is doing,” White says. “Participating in CHOP Nights was the best decision I’ve made.”

Originally posted: May 2013

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