Storytelling

Vital Signs 5What does health look like for you, your family, and your neighborhood? Share your story about what your community needs to be healthy on our Tumblr or on air.

If you would like to learn more, please contact KQED’s Ryder Diaz.

RECENT POSTS

Video: Meet 72-Year-Old Rollerblader Frank Hernandez


Editor’s note: For seniors, exercise is an important way to prevent injury and retain independence. But it can be difficult to come up with a routine that works for you. Frank Hernandez of the Central Valley town of Delano solved that problem by turning to rollerblading. He’s now 72 and shows no sign of stopping. We visited the skatepark with Hernandez as part of our community health series Vital Signs.

By Frank Hernandez

When I first started I would rollerblade the skate paths, then I said, “I need more than this.”

I used to look at the X-Games, and I saw the rollerbladers back then in the 90’s, and I said, “Oh, I’m going to do that someday.” Continue reading

Out of Prison — and Hungry

Aus Jarrar was released from an eleven-year prison sentence with $200. He's got an internship as a drug and alcohol counselor, but until he starts to earn a wage he's relying on charity food-- he doesn't qualify for food stamps.

Aous Jarrar was released from prison after an 11-year sentence with $200. He has an internship as a drug and alcohol counselor, but because he doesn’t qualify for food stamps, he is relying on charity food. (Jeremy Raff/KQED)

Editor’s note: For nearly two decades, people with drug-related felonies were banned for life from getting food stamps, but that’s all changing now. Starting April 15, thousands of former inmates will be eligible for food stamps and other public benefits.

Until then, how do you feed yourself when you get out of prison with no money and little help? As part of our health series Vital Signs, we hear from Aous Jarrar. He was recently released from prison after serving an 11-year sentence for bank robbery. Now, without food stamps, he’s one charity meal away from hunger. We caught up with him as he rushed around downtown Oakland looking for food.

By Aous Jarrar

Walking by that restaurant back there, I smelled some barbecue. Somebody’s really cooking. You know the funny thing? Since I got out, I’ve been really full maybe three times.

It was a shock to me the morning I woke up out here that my breakfast wasn’t ready. I was in prison for a total of 11 years. I took breakfast for granted.

I’m Palestinian. I’m not a citizen so I don’t qualify for food stamps.

The prison system, they give us $200 to leave with. I had no clothes, and I have no food. So I had to make the choice: do I want look professional, so I can get a job? Or do I want to eat? Continue reading

Through Photos, Oakland Youth Focus On Neighborhood Health (Video)

Fifteen students stand facing an imaginary line bisecting the room.

“If someone in your family has diabetes, cross the line,” said Sidra Bonner, the UCSF medical student leading the session on community health. Twelve of the 15 students cross the line. “If you have been affected by gun violence, cross the line.” Every student shuffles across.

The game is called “cross the line.” The students playing have all returned to school here at Civicorps, an Oakland-based non-profit that helps high-risk young adults get a high school diploma and job training. The school is right next to the Port of Oakland. Outside, trains whistle and trucks rumble down the freeway.


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Video: Why the New Autism Benefit Is So Important to Medi-Cal Families

Effective this week, Medi-Cal now covers a key autism therapy, and some 12,000 kids stand to benefit statewide. One of the children who will benefit is Timothy Wilson, a bubbly 6-year-old who will now be able to get Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) through Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance program for people who are low income. ABA is the clinical standard of care for autism.

Timothy was 2 when he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. “He didn’t say mama, didn’t say dada,” says his mother, Jazzmon Wilson. He threw tantrums and hardly made eye contact. “You just see all your dreams go by the wayside.”

The Wilsons enrolled him in the Regional Center of the East Bay, where children under 3 receive state-funded services. He began ABA therapy, which breaks down everyday skills into bite-sized, learnable portions, then uses repetition, memorization and rewards to reinforce or discourage behaviors. Parents learn to lead their child in the therapy as well. In the video, Jazzmon works with Timothy — or Bubba as she calls him. Seeing him now, it’s hard to believe how affected he was at a younger age. Continue reading

School Nursing in Small-Town California: Much More Than You Think

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Bernice Arnett, school nurse for the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, is in charge of student health at the district’s seven public schools. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: School nursing is more than Band-Aids and ice packs. Nurses help students with complex medical conditions and tough home lives. Bernice Arnett is a nurse for seven schools in Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District — two Central Valley towns just south of Modesto. This month, our ongoing health series called Vital Signs focuses on prevention. Arnett talks about how she’s working to keep students and families in her community healthy.

By Bernice Arnett

There have been days where I have visited all seven sites in one day. But I was doing reactive nursing rather than proactive nursing. There were times that I’d have to actually triage in my head what I should go do first.

You treat the whole student. Sometimes you treat the whole family. And a lot of times, families are desperate. They don’t know where to turn. Continue reading

Fresno Community Garden is Sanctuary for Hmong Refugee

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Cha Deng Vang, 68, tends to the community garden at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries. Working in the garden helps Vang, a refugee from Laos, relieve anxiety and get exercise. (Annabelle Beecher/KQED)

Editor’s Note: Refugees face unique challenges building lives in the United States. Cha Deng Vang fled Laos in 1987 after fighting as soldier in the US-backed forces. As part of our ongoing health series, Vital Signs, we hear from 68-year-old Vang who has found that a community garden for Hmong refugees at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries has helped him build community and relieve stress. Chong Vang and Sam Chang helped to translate his story.

By Cha Deng Vang

On this side we are growing Hmong pumpkin. They’re very round and very big compared to the American version.

Growing up my parents taught me how to garden and farm. As soon as I turned 18, I became a soldier, and that was basically my entire life.

When I first came to America, I had no education. I couldn’t find a job which equals no money to help my family. So with no financial support, it was a lot of stress on the entire family. And on top of that we also had a lot of illness in the family, which also caused a lot of stress on me as well. Continue reading

Finding a Nursing Home When you Don’t Speak the Language

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Teri Lim, an attorney in Los Angeles, had a tough time finding a nursing home for her mother. After a stroke, her mother needed constant care but many nursing homes in the area were ill-equipped to deal with Korean-speaking patients. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: Finding a nursing home for a loved one can be a daunting task. The job becomes more complicated when that family member doesn’t speak English. As part of our ongoing health series, Vital Signs, we hear from Teri Lim who immigrated with her parents to Los Angeles from Korea. After her mother had a stroke two years ago, Lim started searching for a place to give her mom around-the-clock care. 

By Teri Lim

I found this great rehabilitation home, and I took her there (but) she couldn’t last a day because she couldn’t speak English. When she pressed her button for help, someone would peek in, but my mom was not able to really fully articulate what was wrong with her, and they would just leave. Then she would press the button again.

After a while my mom was perceived as kind of a difficult patient because her needs were not met. She was so frustrated. I could just see in her face that she was very strained.

Continue reading

Clues to Dementia Often Missed in Vulnerable Older Adults

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Dr. Anna Chodos, a UCSF geriatrician, has worked with many seniors who lived in dangerous situations due to lack of awareness and early screening for dementia. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: As Californians live longer, the number of dementia, a disease that destroys not only memory but also critical-thinking skills will grow. As part of our ongoing series on health, called Vital Signs, we hear from Anna Chodos, a physician specializing in geriatrics. She says that social services can often keep people with dementia safe in their homes, but many older adults aren’t getting the diagnosis they need. 

By Anna Chodos

To diagnosis [dementia] early is to give people a chance to be a part of planning for the future in a very meaningful way. And that’s exactly what I’m not seeing. I’m seeing people stuck in situations where they now don’t have the ability to engage with you in complicated decision making and they’re not making safe decisions for themselves.

Dementia can affect your ability to remember to pay bills. It affects your ability to comply with your medical plan. Continue reading

Gaining Respectful Health Care, a Struggle for Transgender Elders

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Pamela Howland, 76, moved back to San Francisco in part because of the discrimination she faced in Arizona hospitals because she is transgender. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: In the coming years, California’s senior population is expected to grow more than twice as fast as the total population. As part of our occasional series on health called Vital Signs, we’re spending the month focusing on older adults. Today we meet 76-year-old Pamela Howland. When she retired, Howland decided she could finally live as a woman after spending her entire life as a man. But being a transgender senior has come with many challenges, including discrimination, even in health care settings.. 

By Pamela Howland

I had decided that the years I had left, I wanted to live the way I wanted to live. It was a shame that I had to make the change because it would have been so much easier to continue living as a male rather than encounter the difficulties of living as a transgender female that doesn’t pass as female. Continue reading

For Students with Disabilities, Getting to Class is Tough

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UC Santa Cruz senior, Ariana Rojas, opens a door to a campus building. Rojas is the president of Disability Alliance, a student group pushing to get automatic door switches installed on doors throughout campus to make entrances like this one accessible to students with disabilities. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: For students with disabilities, getting to class can be a hurdle, especially when the school campus spans dramatic elevation changes. As part of our first-person series called Vital Signs, this month we explore how the environment affects health. UC Santa Cruz senior, Ariana Rojas talks about her experience navigating her unique campus. A car accident when she was younger left her with arthritis and chronic pain that limit her ability to climb stairs and even to walk without pain.

By Ariana Rojas

Imagine a lot of buildings in the middle of the forest. And like the mountains, there’s uphills and downhills and those hills can get very steep.

Freshman year, I would force myself to get up in the morning. [I would say to myself,] ‘Go, let’s go. You can do it. We can walk up these hills.’

When I would reach the very end, I would be in terrible pain.

I couldn’t bear the idea of relying on the Disability Van Service on campus. It just wasn’t helping me out. At times, I would find myself having to wait an additional 15 minutes into my class. [I would think to myself,] ‘Okay, I’m late. I’m late.’ You don’t feel independent. Continue reading