When Wendy O’Quinn sat Barbara Chesney down for a heart-to-heart talk just a couple of short years ago, they’d already known each other for a long time.

O’Quinn, now a Registered Nurse and Central Carolina Hospital’s community wellness educator, and Chesney, a children’s services worker for Lee County Government, had worked alongside one another nearly 20 years ago, and they’d remained friends since. And when O’Quinn started showing up at the county government offices in 2011 to do assessments for CCH’s employee wellness program, which the county had just opted into, they began seeing each other again more regularly.

Still, that talk in 2016 left Chesney came away feeling hurt. But that hurt is gone – today, more than 100 pounds lighter and in far better health after undergoing a number of lifestyle changes and surgical procedures, Chesney credits O’Quinn essentially with saving her life.

“I know it was the God in Wendy that helped her help me,” Chesney said.

The CCH Work Site Wellness Program, in which employees of various companies are encouraged to participate in regular health screenings and education sessions in exchange for a break on their insurance premiums, played a critical role in reversing Chesney’s health situation.

Ever since O’Quinn began showing up for those assessments in 2011, Chesney had consistently ranked as “high risk,” leading O’Quinn to regularly encourage her to change her diet, get more exercise, anything to help her begin a healthier lifestyle.

“Barbara was so high risk,” O’Quinn said. “I’d encourage her to do things differently, but she would always give me the same reply. Finally I had to sit her down and have a heart-to-heart. I looked at her and said ‘what do you want to hear? I don’t know what else to tell you.’”

Chesney said it wasn’t long before she began to view the talk not as an attack, but as a wake-up call.

“She gave me that tough love,” Chesney explained. “I was a diabetic. I was on pills for my cholesterol, blood pressure medication. (O’Quinn) was right the whole time, but I didn’t want to listen to her. You get so complacent in what you do, it’s hard to change. But I knew I had to do something if I wanted to keep living.”

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Chesney underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2016 and a partial knee replacement with Dr. Andrew Bush the next year, helping her to be more active and lose weight. Her ease of movement is dramatically improved, allowing her to do things she never could before, like get on the ground and play with her grandchildren.

“I have energy, I can get around, I can do stairs,” she said. “I can’t run yet, but I feel a whole lot better. To me, it’s kept me alive. If Wendy hadn’t come in that day, I’d still be doing the same thing, and I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Chesney, left, and O’Quinn.

In many ways, CCH’s wellness program has progressed in much the same manner as Chesney, becoming better and better as the years have gone by.

“When we first started the employee assessments, we used a paper tool to look at all the data,” O’Quinn said. “But due to the amount of participation, we were able to use a company called Wellsource that offers an online portal so each employee has their own unique URL and password. It’s a complete online assessment that gives each employee a detailed report.”

Additionally, to enhance the wellness program offered to employees, Lee County Government has established an Employee Wellness Clinic near the government building on Hillcrest Drive that is staffed by CCH.  The clinic provides convenient access to acute care for county employees and their covered dependents.

“Lee County benefited from the wellness program enough that they wanted to add to it,” O’Quinn said.

And even if Chesney is just one example of the type of health progress a person can make with the help of a wellness program, she’s absolutely one worth paying attention to.

“It’s amazing to me. All the years Wendy and I worked together, I never thought she’d be telling me what to do and that she’d be right,” Chesney said. “But without that tough love, I don’t think I’d be here.”

Companies interested in partnering with CCH on an employee wellness program should contact O’Quinn at (919) 708-4695.

Story courtesy of Central Carolina Hospital.