NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Each week in Oklahoma, 300 people are admitted for crisis health services.
Communities around the state are focused on the importance of mental health these days because we know those services are critical for our well-being.
This week, News 4 and First Fidelity Bank are celebrating a frontline health care worker who has devoted her life to patients struggling with mental illness.
Tony and Daneice Foster raised their family in Tuttle, Oklahoma; two boys and a precious baby girl named Ginni.
Childhood pictures show no signs of mental illness; a disease that crept into their lives Ginni’s senior year of high school.
“It was pretty bad,” Ginni remembers. “I’m a Christian. I believe God gives us gifts and things we can overcome, but this was really hard.”
Ginni was hospitalized with extreme psychosis, crippled by hallucinations.
Her diagnosis is a lifelong disease: paranoid schizophrenia.
“When you have a child who is mentally ill you feel so alone,” said Ginni’s mom, Daneice Foster, as she choked back tears. “And with the PACT team we’re not alone anymore. So few people understand unless you have a mentally ill child.”
The Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) team is a superhero squad of mental illness professionals.
“I believe the Lord led us to this program,” said Ginni’s dad, Tony Foster.
They are nurses and therapists at the State Department of Mental Health.
Their goal is keep patients out of the hospital and in the community.
They are a lifeline for adults like Ginni.
“They help Ginni stay where she’s supposed to be with her meds and with social interaction and with doctor’s appointments,” Daneice said.
Guidance and support from the PACT team helped Ginni realize how important her life is.
Lorrie Shy is Ginni’s nurse.
“I don’t know anyone who has more understanding or empathy or understanding for mentally ill folks, than Lorrie does,” said Ginni’s dad, Tony Foster.
Nurse Lorrie is like a second mom to Ginni.
She wears many hats: driving Ginni to doctor’s appointments, managing Ginni’s medications, reminding Ginni to take her prescriptions and generally calling to check in on Ginni’s mental health.
The Foster Family nominated Nurse Lorrie for a Pay It 4ward award because of her selfless devotion to dozens of mentally ill adults, just like Ginni. The wellness checks that the team makes saved Ginni's life 18 months ago when she was suffering from Pancreatitius and in a diabetic coma.
Every week, First Fidelity Bank partners with News 4 to recognize Oklahomans who make a difference in the community.
“Nurse Lorrie represents exactly what Pay It 4ward is all about,” said Nyky Wilson with First Fidelity Bank.
“We have tried so many times to give her gift cards and thank you’s and she always says, no,” Daneice said. “She’s so honorable in that way. We thought we would do this to show her just a tiny bit of how much we appreciate her.”
Ginni presented her nurse with $400 as a token of her family’s appreciation for her dedication to the care of her vulnerable patients.
Nurse Lorrie has spent her career serving and saving Oklahomans like Ginni.
“I just love this area of nursing,” said Lorrie.
Nurse Lorris is lighting a path for patients lost in the darkness of mental illness. Every day she Pays It 4ward by bringing them back.