From trauma to triumph: Healthy recovery from childhood challenges

Trauma experienced as a child can create lifelong effects on health.  Heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity and a wide-variety of physical and mental health issues are often linked to early emotional and physical stress, and may continue to affect families for generations to come.

Doctors, schools, and even employers are now working together to address the health results of these traumas – now referred to as ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences).

Jackson Care Connect, a health plan serving local Medicaid participants, is discovering that both exercise and nutrition are key components in helping families recover through “trauma-informed” whole-person health care.

Member Kelleni (Kelli) Rodriguez Camacho, who grew up in a family struggling with abuse and addiction, credits Jackson Care Connect’s 12 Weeks to a Healthier New You program, and its network provider Rogue Community Health Center, with changing her life.

While growing up, Kelli says, “I knew that there were other kids that had a peaceful home and stuff.” But her home was the opposite. The post traumatic effects of her childhood brought Kelli to 285 pounds – leading to other health problems including asthma, high blood pressure, heart failure, depression, nerve damage, and a total of 20 metabolic diseases.

“When I became disabled, when I wasn’t able to do anything, I became depressed,” said Kelli. “I just kind of shut myself down.”

When her doctor recommended Jackson Care Connect’s 12 Weeks to a Healthier New You program at her local YMCA, Kelli’s life changed. Beginning with training in healthy eating, she learned how to read food labels and recognize what was good for her body and what wasn’t. The program included a personal trainer and exercise programs that took into account her gradually improving health.

Community health worker Linda Larson from Rouge Community Health Center, part of the Jackson Care Connect provider network, was a vital part of Kelli’s recovery. “I would go every Wednesday, and Linda would sit on the bench and document [what I was doing],” said Kelli. “And she was a real good support person.” Kelli also received support from her primary care physician, Dr. Thomas Clark.

According to Kelli, she made these life-style changes to stop the cycle of early deaths in her family. She lost her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles young, in part, she believes because of their lifestyle choices. She didn’t want her children to face that same pain.

The Healthier New You program had a domino effect. “When the first 40 pounds came off, my asthma started getting better,” said Kelli. “I was no longer on insulin. I was no longer on the Glucophage for my diabetic meds. That was pretty awesome, so I knew I was doing something good.”

Ultimately, she lost 115 pounds and her son, Carlos, joined her in Jackson Care Connect’s Healthier New You program. “Growing up I was always that chubby kid.” Through the program, he lost close to 40 pounds, gained strength, and ultimately became an athlete. Because you need to do well in school to participate in his sport, he also focuses on being a successful student. 

With help from Jackson Care Connect’s health and wellness programs, Kelli and Carlos are stopping the cycle of poor health, depression and hopelessness that stem from a family history of trauma. “I’m living proof that these programs work,” said Kelli.

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