Raymond Gibbard: One Man’s Journey to Better Health and Unexpected Happiness
Raymond, a man in his 80s who came under the care of Prospero Health in early 2020, first started experiencing health problems while spending his semi-retirement remodeling houses in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. One day, Raymond was driving home after picking up a check from a client when he noticed one of his tires was low on air. He felt dizzy after pulling over to pump the tire and had to gather himself for a few moments before getting
When Raymond woke up the next morning, he couldn’t lift one of his arms. He managed to get himself to the hospital and, after undergoing some tests, received a prescription for a medication to help with his dizziness. While Raymond felt better when he left the hospital, his remodeling career was over. (“The doctor didn’t want me climbing ladders anymore.”) And from that point forward, his life became consumed with doctor’s appointments, ER visits, and hospitalizations, as he experienced issues with his neck, bladder, and other parts of his body.
Raymond’s anxiety about his health grew with each new ailment. A strange sensation or mild discomfort could send him into a panic. If the feeling lingered, he would call 911.
Raymond made more trips to the hospital down the road from his house than he could count, and it wasn’t until Raymond connected with his Prospero providers—social worker Antoinette McMillan and nurse practitioner Gifty Bawre—that he began to feel comfortable and safe at home.
As Raymond puts it in his characteristically understated way, “I’d say those two have probably changed my life for me a little bit.”
Life Before Prospero
Raymond describes his childhood in Charlotte with one word— “ordinary.” His family wasn’t rich or poor but solidly middle class. When he wasn’t at school, he passed the time doing “the sorts of things other kids did” like riding his bike and playing sports. He was particularly fond of golf, which gave him a sense of identity.
“I was too small for football, too short for basketball, and I never was much of a baseball player,” Raymond explained. “Golf was something I excelled at pretty good. When you’re good at something, it makes it a whole lot better, you know?”
After “going down the wrong road” in his late teens, Raymond entered the Marine Reserves to get back on track. When he returned home to Charlotte, he found a job as a warehouse employee for an industrial parts manufacturer and eventually moved into sales. Raymond enjoyed driving from town to town to see clients because it meant a constant change of scenery and the chance to meet new people. At the end of the work week, especially in the summertime, he would often drive to the beach at Oak Island, North Carolina, where he and some friends organized a yearly golf tournament.
“The one time we saw each other was once a year at the golf tournament,” Raymond said. “It was pretty much the same crowd every year. I went for 38 years.”
While settling into his professional life, Raymond got married and he and his wife had a daughter. Raymond’s frequent work travel put a strain on their marriage. He was often away when his wife needed help with the day-to-day stress that comes with raising a child and managing a household. After 12 years together, the couple divorced.
Raymond eventually quit his sales job, and after a few years in retirement, he and a friend launched a home improvement company. Though Raymond lived a fairly solitary life, he felt content with his second career and the occasional round of golf. But everything changed with that dizzy spell at the side of the road and the health issues that followed.
Life With Prospero
Until last spring, Raymond was trapped in a frustrating cycle: Whenever he felt “off,” he called 911 to get medical attention. If he ended up being admitted to the hospital, the doctors usually sent him home after a day or two. Raymond’s anxiety about his health would never subside completely, though. Inevitably, he found himself picking up the phone to call the paramedics once again.
“If I get a cold, I think I got cancer,” Raymond said. “I’m a worrier. And the hospital’s only a mile away. That’s why I got insurance—I never had them turn me away.”
As Raymond tells it, he was sitting at home one day when he received a call from a Prospero provider out of the blue: “All of a sudden, I had Antoinette and Gifty calling me. I thought, ‘Where’d these people come from?’”
In fact, by the time Raymond heard from Prospero social worker Antoinette McMillan, he was already enrolled in the company’s home-based care program. Antoinette reached out to see how she and her team could better support him at home.
“Prior to us coming in, he used the emergency room pretty much every other day,” Antoinette recalled. “And he has a lot of anxiety. So, he would feel something and his anxiety would go through the roof and it was easiest to call 911 and go to the hospital.”
Gifty Bawre, a Prospero nurse practitioner, suspected that Raymond’s extensive medication regimen contributed to all the symptoms he was experiencing.
“I saw that he was on so many medications and realized that the same meds that were supposed to help him were giving the side effects that [made him call 911],” Gifty said. “I called his doctors and his pharmacy and clarified which meds he actually needed to take.”
Together, Gifty and Antoinette gained Raymond’s trust and convinced him to call them instead of calling 911. Raymond now speaks to one of them on a near-daily basis.
“Both of us plugged our numbers into his phone and said, ‘Call us,’” Antoinette explained. “He is definitely calling us now [laughter]. That’s the beauty of this program—we’re available to folks 24/7.”
Raymond added, “I don’t like feeling bad. I don’t think anybody does. And, unfortunately, I’m at the age where my health’s not good and I got a lot of things going against me. It means a lot to have somebody I can actually talk to and I know she’s knowledgeable.”
As Raymond’s bond with his Prospero care team grew stronger, he began to open up about his personal life, including his strained relationship with his daughter, “Stephanie.” With Raymond’s blessing, Antoinette tracked Stephanie down and helped the two of them reconnect. It had been nearly a decade since Stephanie and Raymond had last seen each other. Through some Internet sleuthing, Antoinette found Stephanie’s phone number and called her to ask if she would be interested in speaking to Raymond. Stephanie jumped at the opportunity.
“Your only daughter, when you’re not talking to her, it’s a strange thing,” Raymond said. “Something has to give eventually. So, I’m sitting here, and the phone rings, and it was Stephanie. I hadn’t talked to her in eight years. I had no idea where she was. But we get along great now.”
Just a few weeks after that phone call, Stephanie and her husband traveled from their home in Georgia to visit Raymond in Charlotte. The house Raymond lives in was once owned by his parents, Stephanie’s grandparents. It was a safe haven for Stephanie when she was a young girl and her parents’ marriage was falling apart. Raymond offered to leave Stephanie the house in his will, and she accepted. He views the gesture as one way to atone for his missteps as a father: “I wasn’t there for a lot of things when she was younger. I guess I’m trying to make up for that. That’s a hard thing to say in a way. It’s all I got now.”
Given his health concerns, Raymond has mostly been laying low since the pandemic started. While he has adjusted to the new reality, he is looking forward to enjoying more independence when things get back to normal.
“It’d be nice to get out and do things on my own,” Raymond said. “If I could get out and drive and get around, I’d go to the doctor, go to the store. That’d be about it.”