DANVILLE — Aunt Martha’s Vermilion Area Community Health Center has been a lifesaver for Phil Johnson of Danville, as well as his second home.
“They opened their arms to me and I find that very dear,” said Johnson, who has been in a wheelchair since undergoing spinal surgery. “I don’t forget the people who were there for me when no one else would take me.”
After six years of coming to Aunt Martha’s, Johnson is now on the patient advisory committee. In that role, he talks to patients to find out their concerns and how the clinic can help them.
Johnson is one of about 4,600 people each year who benefit from services at the center, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary as part of Aunt Martha’s.
Johnson’s health problems started in 2008 when he tripped on a parking block in Chicago and fell on his neck. He ignored the pain and tried home remedies, such as hot baths. He moved to Danville that year.
After a while, he got to the point where he couldn’t lift his right leg, his right hand started curling up and his right arm was weak.
“Now, I wanted to go to a doctor,” he said.
Unemployed since a machinery plant in Chicago closed, he went to Aunt Martha’s in 2010 and was relieved when the staff didn’t turn him away.
“They were so patient and understanding when I didn’t have insurance,” he said. “I’m going to be loyal to the clinic.”
He saw a doctor, who treated his symptoms and did what he could. By 2012, Johnson had insurance, and he was able to see a neurologist in Champaign. He had damaged several discs in his spine.
Johnson underwent spinal surgery on Feb. 26, 2012, and was released in April. He was able to walk some, but used a wheelchair for distances.