Angel on a pin: Catherine’s Health Center helps Kentwood native become pain-free

By Ron Rozema, Catherine’s Health Center


“I’m an angel person,” said Sharon Esterley when asked about the pin she wore. It featured the image of an angel centered in a heart. “I really believe in angels and I have lots of them in my life looking after me. Some are from my church, some from Catherine’s [Health Center], and there are lots more.”


For the past three years or so, Esterley has relied on Catherine’s for her primary medical care.


“Dr. Jack first and now Dr. Jon, they’re great!” she enthused, adding that she’s had good experiences with everyone she’s met at the Center.


Esterley’s life story starts and stays in the Grand Rapids area. Raised in Kentwood, she worked for 32 years as a nurses’ aid. When her parents needed help, she left that job to become their caregiver, an arrangement that lasted for nine years until they both passed away. It was during that time she lacked any health care coverage and, through the urging of a friend, began to get her health care through Catherine’s.


In addition to her medical care, she got medication through Catherine’s Medication Assistance Program, attended diabetes management classes, participated in the Community Walking Program and more. While arthritis and a pre-diabetic condition were focal points of her care, she was essentially healthy and able to return to paid employment. Around age 59 and thinking it was time to try something different after years of paid and family caregiving, Esterley took work as a custodian with Goodwill Industries.


Sharon Esterley

Things seemed to be going well when, in 2014, a spontaneous, non-work-related fall at her work setting left her with unbearable pain in her left leg. Esterley’s care at Catherine’s included physical therapy after the injury. When it did not bring relief, she was referred to Mary Free Bed. Using a walker, not sleeping at night, generally feeling miserable and unable to do the tasks required for work, her pain and distress just didn’t subside.


Looking for a new option, she was seen by Dr. Jon Reitzenstein not long after he arrived at Catherine’s. Trained in acupuncture, the doctor believed some relief was possible through the administration of auriculotherapy — simply put, treatments involving key points in the outer ear that, when stimulated, provide relief from pain. Esterley was willing, and, just as Dr. Reitzenstein expected, it worked!


After only two treatments she noticed a substantial reduction in her pain. Now, after seven treatments, Esterley says the pain is mostly gone, her walker has been replaced with a cane and she is sleeping again. She uses no medication to manage her pain and the acupuncture treatments are being reduced in frequency.


“I haven’t taken a sleeping pill in six weeks,” she said, “and I’m sleeping!”


“People at Catherine’s have really helped,” Esterley continued. “Since I had no insurance, I worked with one of the navigators” (trained volunteers who provide objective information on insurance options and help people access information and applications). “They helped me and now I’ll have Medicaid coverage.”


When Esterley is even more fully recovered she looks forward to volunteering, perhaps in a caregiver or support role.


“I have so many angels in my life, I hope I’m an angel for others too,” she beamed.


Located at 1211 Lafayette Ave. NW in Grand Rapids, Mich., Catherine’s Health Center offers primary medical care to people who meet certain income guidelines. Go here for more information.