April 2, 2020

My Favorite Charity

How My Service Dog Saved My Life
Help for Patients Suffering with PTSD Through K9s forWarriors

By Andrew Davis

I moved to Norfolk about six years ago after serving in the U.S. Army National Guard for 10 years. The adjustment wasn’t easy – the nights were the worst. My body knew I was exhausted, but my mind had other ideas. Every evening, I would go to bed knowing that in just a few hours’ time I would be forced awake by a nightmare. 

This became my nightly routine, and my daily routine became a combination of trying to stay awake and avoiding mistakes at work caused by a constant state of exhaustion.

Doctors prescribed medication to manage Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but I was still suffering. I felt like I was digging myself deeper into a hole where I was constantly taking medicine while still experiencing drastic symptoms. 

At this point, I knew there had to be a different solution. My research led me to an organization that would change my life forever. 

K9s For Warriors is a non-profit that pairs service dogs with veterans living with military-related trauma. I remember feeling nervous to attend their training program, but my case of nerves melted away when I locked eyes with Lenny. 

Lenny, a golden retriever, was chosen to help with my unique symptoms.  There was an instant connection when I met him. In that moment, I was overcome by a sense of calm that I hadn’t felt since before my service. Without a doubt, Lenny has saved my life.

If I wake up at night, Lenny is right by my side to offer comfort. I’ve eased a lot of tension around my daily routine. Something as simple as going to the grocery story used to be daunting. I’d often feel a sense of urgency to leave the store without finishing my shopping. Now, if I begin to feel overwhelmed at the grocery store, Lenny comforts me until the moment passes. 

With Lenny, I have my life back. 

I hope more people can see the immense value that service dogs can have for veterans or anyone suffering from trauma. I feel better knowing I don’t have to worry about a public panic attack.

  1. I carry business cards for K9s For Warriors with me everywhere. Oftentimes when I meet veterans, I pass them a card when we shake hands. They won’t say anything when I do this, but they thank me with a look. They know I under-stand what they’re going through. 

2. I encourage people in the area to get involved if they can. K9s For Warriors offers opportunities to host a community event, sponsor a dog, or partner with businesses of all sizes. To learn more about the organization please visit K9sFor Warriors.org. 

I also want to thank my doctors and the people of Norfolk for being so welcoming to me and to Lenny. This community has truly benefited my recovery, and I’m so grateful to call Norfolk home.

Andrew Davis served as a lieutenant in the Texas Army National Guard from 2003-2012. Originally from Maine, Andrew moved to the Norfolk area almost six years ago and is proud to call Virginia home.

For more information or to schedule an eligibility appointment, visit gmcareclinic.com or call (804) 210-1368.   

My Favorite Charity

Deepak R. Talreja,MD
Sentara Cardiology Specialists

Working with and volunteering at the Beach Health Clinic is a true joy for Dr. Deepak Talreja. His work with indigent patients at the free clinic reminds him exactly why he became a cardiologist – or simply a doctor in general. 

“We all love helping people and making a difference,” Dr. Talreja says. “It’s more like the old days of medicine, with less required paperwork and more time to focus on the most important factors in care: symptoms, medications and treatment plans. It’s a wonderful way to practice.” 

Founded in 1986 by physicians and concerned citizens, Beach Health Clinic offers comprehensive health care to uninsured Virginia Beach residents below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $51,500 in income for a family of four.  

The nonprofit clinic is able to provide a high caliber of care thanks to dozens of dedicated medical volunteers, strong community support, and partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and local hospitals, particularly Sentara Healthcare facilities. 

“Our leaders have built an amazing infrastructure to ensure patients get what they need,” says Dr. Talreja, a volunteer for eight years and a member of the clinic’s Board of Directors for the past year. “Everyone puts their hearts and souls into it.” 

In fiscal 2018, the clinic provided more than $3.8 million in donated medical and dental care and medications on a budget of $249,126. Patient appointments included 764 visits to specialists, 201 to general practitioners, 150 to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and 38 to psychologists.  

Beach Health Clinic is open Tuesday through Friday. Emphasizing preventive care and health education, the Holland Road site provides acute illness care, chronic condition management, and oral health services bolstered by the 2013 addition of a dental clinic. 

The program also has an on-site pharmacy and a medication assistance program to deliver free or low-cost drugs. Both prevent patients from foregoing potentially life-saving treatments to save money for food, rent and other necessities.

Along with flu shots and mammograms, specialty care includes cardiology, endocrinology, gynecology, internal medicine, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, physical therapy, podiatry and urology. Sentara often covers needed diagnostic tests. Some providers travel from outside Virginia Beach to help, such as dental hygiene students from Old Dominion University. 

“It’s a real community effort,” Dr. Talreja says, crediting Executive Director Susan Hellstrom and the board directed by Dr. Raymond Troiano, a neurologist, for their vision and energy. “So many people are willing to share their time.” 

Dr. Talreja encounters the same health concerns that as he does in private practice, from hypertension to complex arrythmias, diseases and malformations. Some patients come to him just once, while others have appointments on a regular basis. 

One older man he has treated for several years, for instance, has survived a heart attack that left him with only half his normal heart function, but he is doing well thanks to a defibrillator and stents. In another case, Dr. Talreja replaced a heart valve on a woman who had damage linked to a childhood bout with rheumatic fever.   

“The vast majority of these patients are very hardworking people who have fallen on tough times, or who just don’t have the income to afford good health care,” he says. “They are sweet, kind, grateful individuals and families.” 

For Dr. Talreja, the Beach Health Clinic also is a family affair. His father, a retired internal medicine specialist and cardiologist; his sister, an obstetrician/gynecologist; and his brother-in-law, a dentist, have served as volunteers as well.   

“What we all have in common – not just my family members, but all the volunteers – is that we really want to be there,” he says. “It’s both a privilege and a delight.”

To learn more, visit beachhealthclinic.org or call (757) 428-5601.