Kyle McDermott thinks of himself as fairly healthy. He eats right, plays racquetball, and, most days, gets in his 11,000 steps while on the job. As vice president of support services at Johnston Health, he’s often on his feet, walking briskly from one place to the next.
So it came as a surprise one morning last August when he checked his blood pressure at the new blood pressure station at Johnston Medical Mall, and got some abnormally high numbers. At first, he thought the blood pressure monitor was broken, and nearly called up someone to say so.
He had seen his family doctor two months earlier for an annual physical. At the visit, everything had checked out fine. “That’s the thing that’s so scary,” he says. “I didn’t have any signs that my numbers were out of whack.”
That afternoon, he took his blood pressure again, and again the next day and the next. He bought his own blood pressure monitor, and kept a week’s worth of readings at home before calling his family doctor. Following a visit, his doctor prescribed blood pressure medication, which McDermott has been taking ever since.
Leah Johnson, corporate and community outreach coordinator for Johnston Health, is pleased that a hospital administrator was among the first people to use the station, and to find it helpful. Johnston Health purchased the monitor, and a federal grant provided through the state to the Johnston County Public Health Department paid for the educational materials. In all, there are nine stations scattered across the county and two others in the works.
Johnson says the stations are hubs for health education and resources. In addition to hypertension, there are pamphlets on smart eating, diabetes and diabetes support groups, and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in Johnston County.
She is working alongside Jaime Pearce, a regional grants coordinator for the local health department, to place the stations at popular gathering places, such as libraries and exercise centers, in rural and thickly settled communities. There’s even a popular restaurant in the mix.
“We want to raise awareness about the dangers of high blood pressure,” Johnson says. “For people who may be reluctant to go to the doctor, this is a less intimidating setting in which they can get involved in their health.”
The stations also offer support for those who already know they have hypertension, Johnson adds. “If you have a place where you can regularly check your blood pressure, then it’s much easier to stay on top of your condition.”
Dr. Marilyn Pearson, director of the health department, says the stations will provide an additional tool for individuals and medical providers to diagnose elevated or high blood pressure. “With the new guidelines for diagnosing high blood pressure, it’s essential that we monitor blood pressure outside of the clinical setting,” she says.
Had the public station not been available at the medical mall, McDermott says he likely would have gone until his next annual physical without knowing he had a problem. “I’m grateful the station was there,” he says. “It’s a great service to the community.”
Where are the other stations? Here’s the list: Kenly and Selma public libraries as well as the Public Library of Johnston County and Smithfield, and the Mary Duncan Public Library in Benson; C.E. Barnes Store in Archer Lodge; Fit 4 Life Health Club at McGee’s Crossroads; Clayton Community Center; and Parkside Café & Catering in Pine Level. The two other stations in the works are at REALO Discount Drugs in Four Oaks and Woodard Drug Store in Princeton.
Pictured: Johnston Health is teaming up with the Johnston County Public Health Department to set up blood pressure monitoring stations in communities across the county. From left, Jaime Pearce of the health department and Leah Johnson of Johnston Health help Nick Rummage of Clayton Parks and Recreation take his blood pressure at the new station at Clayton Community Center. It’s one of nine stations in communities throughout the county.