As an emergency room physician, Dr. Lenora Berning saw many patients suffering from pain or anxiety due to chronic illnessess.
These patients had good medical care with numerous doctors and plenty of medications to manage their symptoms.
But they lacked a physician willing to sit down and listen to them about their problems.
Once Berning talked with them, the patients said afterward how she helped them more than any of their other doctors, she said.
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“I thought that is not right,” Berning said. “As the ER doctor, of all the doctors, I’m the one who would really have essentially the least impact on understanding their disease because of the nature of emergency medicine.”
Berning, who most recently worked as an emergency department doctor at hospitals in Mooresville and Huntersville, felt a need to reach out to these patients and, in 2010, she saw the first patient at her own free clinic, the RiverLife Wellness Center.
The clinic, using office and clinical space free of charge from the RiverLife Fellowship Church off Charlotte Highway in Mooresville, provides a faith-based approach to holistic health with emphasis on the body, soul and spirit, Berning said.
The nonprofit organization doesn’t provide primary care, Berning explained.
Instead, the clinic focuses on solving problems such as pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue with holistic services to supplement care patients may already be receiving from a primary care physician, she said.
All the center’s services are free, but donations are accepted.
“I wanted to reach out to that population of people because they’re never going to be well because doctors just pass them around and around because they don’t have time to deal with this other stuff,” said Berning, who serves as the clinic’s executive and medical director.
For Cheryl Foldoe, 62, the clinic has greatly improved her quality of life.
Chronic pain in Foldoe’s hip and shoulder caused her so much agony, she was unsure if she’d ever be able to sleep or walk comfortably.
“I was in such constant pain all the time, I didn’t think I’d ever be well again,” said Foldoe, who had previously gone to a chiropractor for help.
Foldoe, who lives in Mount Ulla, said she attends RiverLife Fellowship Church with Berning and decided to seek help at the wellness center about a year and a half ago.
After only three or four visits, Berning’s manual therapy technique cured Foldoe’s ailments.
“It makes such a difference when you’re not in pain,” said Foldoe.
Berning and her crew of volunteers offer traditional counseling, nutritional counseling, physical and occupational therapy, life coaching and fitness evaluation and instruction, Berning said.
The Wellness Center also offers free marriage seminars and informational programs on ways to maintain peace during stressful times.
The marriage counseling has been “a real blessing for a lot of people,” said Melissa Forsyth who volunteers as the wellness center’s office administrator.
Berning said the wellness center is open to the public and not just those who attend RiverLife Fellowship Church.
The Wellness Center also reaches out to those in the community who may be feeling hopeless, unvalued and without a voice.
Late last year, the Wellness Center was notified it was the recipient of a $3,000 grant from the Hope at the Lake Foundation, an organization offering financial support to organizations that effectively enrich the Lake Norman community with charitable works.
The grant will help the center continue providing support to at risk and vulnerable women in the area. The Wellness Center’s first off-site program provides counseling to residents at the Hope House Foundation in Huntersville.
This counseling provides women at risk of homelessness with emotional support and encouragement.
The grant will help fund “Healthy Identity/Healthy Relationships,” an expansion of the center’s work at the Hope House, to help at-risk and vulnerable women realize their inherent value, discover a sense of identity and purpose and gain communication skills, said Berning.
The program will help continue group therapy at the Hope House and provide bi-monthly seminars and training sessions pertinent to these women’s needs.
Berning said she was thrilled when she found out the clinic had received the grant.
“We felt like the Lord had opened the way to provide something for us to have more of an impact to a greater part of the community than we were able to previously,” Berning said.
Kate Stevens is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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