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Curbside medical check saves man’s life

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A Sheepshead Bay man volunteering with a local flu-shot drive saved his own life when he opted for a spur-of-the-moment blood-pressure check.

Richard Arneman, a member of the Bay Improvement Group, dropped by a medical van the group had arranged to provide free flu shots for Plumb Beach and Sheepshead Bay residents on Jan. 17, aiming to help out, but when he took a moment to get his blood pressure checked by the staff, the test revealed a life-threatening level and doctors rushed him to the hospital.

“I wanted to help other people,” said Arnerman, “and I ended up being helped.”

The doctors at the mobile medical facility clocked Arneman’s blood pressure at a sky-high 200 over 122, placing him in the highest risk category for heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions — a category morbidly characterized as “walking dead.”

“The doctor said, ‘We don’t get a lot of walking dead people coming through the door,’ ” recounted Arneman. “If not for the medical van, I would have died. I would have died, or had a terrible stroke, or something.”

Arneman has a history of blood pressure issues and had, until recently, been taking medication to curb his elevated sodium levels, but after his wife passed away last year, the Sheepshead Bay man lost his medical coverage through her plan and had to make a decision between either paying his medical bills, or keeping his house.

“I could be a spokesperson for the thousands of people who have fallen through the cracks, who have to choose between paying there medical bills and their mortgage,” he said.

Arneman was on his way to meet with the Bay Improvement Group’s president, Steve Barrison, and executive director Laura McKenna at the medical van to see if he could help out with the vaccination operation, when he decided to get a flu shot and, since it was offered, a blood pressure check.

“So, I was going over to see if Steve and them needed help at the trailer, so I went to the medical van to see about the flu shot and they gave me a blood pressure check,” Arneman said.

The “walking dead” Sheepshead Bay man made a beeline for the Beth Israel Medical Center, where doctors held him for 20-hours as they pumped him full of various pharmaceuticals in an attempt to curb his surging blood-pressure levels.

Eventually, doctors brought him down to a higher-than-optimal, but much-improved blood-pressure level of 150 over 90, and released Arneman with a warning to monitor his levels, come in for regular checkups, and lay off the salt.

“I’m on three different medications for the blood pressure, and I won’t find out until later whether I’ll need to take more, or get on a new medicine, but right now it’s a big improvement” he said. “I’m thankful that Chaim Deutsch along with the Bay Improvement Group were able to get that medical van there. It was a god send and, chances are, I’m alive today because of it.”

With a flu epidemic rampaging through the city and community members struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, leaders of the Bay Improvement Group had just about everything except blood-pressure checks on their mind when they worked with Chaim Deutsch of Councilman Michael Nelson’s office to arrange for Coney Island Hospital’s mobile medical unit to set up on Emmons Avenue near Brown Street.

“The flu was just whipping through the whole city and people were doing so much work on their homes, we were worried that if they stepped on a rusty nail they could be in a whole world of hurt,” McKenna explained. “So, we though it would be really beneficial to the community to bring those doctors and free services to them.”

Coney Island Hospital’s mobile medical van is currently in the shop for repairs, but the Bay Improvement Group has vowed that it will return later this month. Check their site, bayimprovementgroup.org, for updates.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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