BYU nonprofit gives specialized medical care to Native American reservations

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From left: Western Reperfusion volunteers Dalton Braathen, Jordan Jones, Carson Bateman and Joelle Andersen present the diagram describing peripheral artery disease to the Native Americans on the Moapa Valley Reservation screening in December. (Jordan Jones)

The Western Reperfusion program is a nonprofit organization formed by BYU students in October 2018 to help Native Americans with peripheral arterial disease.

Program founder Jordan Jones, a senior studying exercise science, said the organization started because of his love for Native Americans. Jones served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on an Indian Reservation and said he fell in love with the people. 

Jones connected with Provo cardiologist Dr. Rodney Badger after his mission. Badger brought up the idea to screen Native Americans for an asymptomatic, subtle disease called peripheral arterial disease (PAD) to Jones.

“It’s just an eye opener to see that there is a need for these screenings, especially for Native Americans,” Jones said. “Of all the ethnicities in the U.S., they have the highest diabetes rate, which is a risk factor for PAD.”

Jordan Jones goes over the ABI results with a patient at the Moapa, Nevada, screening in December 2018. (Jordan Jones)

The Western Reperfusion program has been working to build connections with Indian Health Services (IHS) clinics to offer free PAD screenings.

According to the program’s newsletter, the screenings do not involve any medical instruments entering the body. The screening is a quick, 10-minute procedure that checks blood flow from the patient’s fingers to toes.

“The screening machine outputs a numerical value called an Ankle Brachial Index (ABI),” the Western Reperfusion newsletter reads. “The value is a ratio between systolic pressure of ankle over the systolic pressure of the arms. The ABI value is compared to a qualitative chart that tells the level of condition.”

Jones said the test sensor, called the quantiflo, is an easy device to use and plainly explains ABI results to patients.

Carson Bateman discusses the results with a patient at the Moapa, NV, screening in December 2018. (Jordan Jones)

The group went to a reservation in Moapa Valley, Nevada, to conduct a screening on Dec. 7. Group members screened 25 people and found nine had strong PAD symptoms.

Group member Carson Bateman said he noticed many people on reservations are not educated on technology.

“We try to refer them to doctors in the area. If PAD is left unchecked, it can result in numbness, wounds not healing, or needing amputation,” said group member Carson Bateman. “With these medical connections, they can start a routine of diet and exercise to prevent it from getting worse.”

According to both Jones and Bateman, the focus of Western Reperfusion right now is to get the word out about the group and potentially recruit volunteers to accompany group members on future screenings.

“We’re a group of BYU students who want to serve,” Bateman said. “Maybe the volunteers have a connection to Native Americans, or maybe they don’t, but they follow through and serve an underserved population.”

Jones said the group’s goals for the year include setting up screenings at Indian Health Services clinics and tribal health clinics across the Intermountain West.

In addition, Jones said Western Reperfusion students would like to network with PAD specialists, such as vascular doctors and cardiologists, close to the reservations they volunteer at so severe PAD patients can be connected with medical specialists in their area.

Bateman and Jones said they invite volunteers to help the program make an impact.

 

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