Advocate’s special support turns farmer’s trials into triumphs

Arcola-area farm Brian Blagg and his wife of 39 years, CharityBrian Blagg can’t say enough good things about his Health Alliance care coordinator.

“Teresa (Riegle) has kind of a social worker feel. She has a very helpful nature. She’s supportive and never pushy,” said Blagg, who farms about 1,000 acres near Arcola.

“Really, I feel like she’s my own personal angel. She’s the mortar between the bricks.”

Care coordinators at Health Alliance partner with Carle and other providers to make sure members get the healthcare they need, understand their options and are accountable for their health. Supportive services like health coaching, disease management and care coordination are available at no cost to Health Alliance members. They serve as one of the most visible benefits of a vertically integrated health system that includes hospitals, clinics and a health insurance plan to best serve patients and members.

“Helping the patient determine what he or she is committed to do to make healthy lifestyle changes is the key. The patient knows someone will be calling in a few weeks to see how he or she is doing with those changes, what efforts he or she is making to meet those goals,” said Riegle, RN, BSN.

While Blagg started talking with Riegle because of blood pressure, cholesterol and weight concerns, she provides extra support now as he copes with how he and his care team will tackle the tumor wrapped around his pancreas.

“Brian is very motivated and had decided to make lifestyle changes when we met. I was the tip of the iceberg that pushed him to make the changes. He is taking an active role in his cancer treatment, seeking as much information as possible,” Riegle said.

Because of Riegle’s support, Blagg better understands his medication that aims to impact how the tumor is growing to make surgical removal possible. Riegle tells him he can take his anti-nausea medication if he needs it, but she suspects he won’t.

Brian Blagg, who benefits from Health Alliance care coordination, with his family at HalloweeIronically, Blagg used to visit the infusion suite at Mattoon on Hurst “just for blood.” He’d marvel at the kindness the staff showed to each and every cancer patient while he received iron infusions and blood transfusions.

“They do a beautiful job as a team,” he said, acknowledging he could one day need chemotherapy there, as well. “They’re all nurturing and encouraging. They’re all bright and sunny during the tough times.”

Riegle regularly adds to the brightness.

“I’d be there for a transfusion, and she’d just saunter right up,” he said.

The wisdom she shares – with her special brand of kindness and education – works.

“I see myself as a liaison, a support person to the patient and family, helping them negotiate a very complex system and situations,” Riegle said.

“Staying as healthy as possible is a daily choice.”

A choice made easier with support from Riegle and from Blagg’s family – wife of 39 years Charity, three daughters, six granddaughters and one grandson.

“She taught me a lot about being healthier in general,” Blagg said. “I don’t really like to drink water, but I drink lots of it now. And red meat only once a week.

“Teresa helped me ease into it. We set realistic goals, like increasing my time on the treadmill little by little. … It’s all easier to deal with because I know Teresa sincerely cares.

“She really wants to help me, and that makes me want to take better care of myself.”