Grace is a 46 year old transgender woman, originally from Liberia, Africa. She moved to the US in 1987 and has been a medical patient at Lyon-Martin since 2002 and began receiving mental health support with us in 2011.
Grace has a history of psychosis, depression including suicidality, PTSD, drug abuse, incarceration and psychiatric hospitalizations. She has been disowned by her family in Africa because she is trans, and was a victim of a vicious hate crime in the US in 2002. Once isolated and too paranoid to leave her home, she is now a vibrant community activist. She credits Lyon-Martin for providing her with integrated support that addressed her medical and mental health issues with respect and thoroughness.
Lyon-Martin was recommended to Grace while she was receiving services from Citywide Case Management as she wanted to begin her transition. In an interesting twist, Grace’s story foreshadows the vision for integrated care that motivated the merger of Lyon-Martin Health Services and HealthRIGHT 360; at one point, she was receiving primary medical care from LMHS while part of a residential treatment program at Walden House, a HealthRIGHT 360 founding program. She quickly “fell in love” with the way we treated everyone the same, with love and dignity and quickly realized that the staff were truly working together to improve the lives of others. This differed greatly from Grace’s other experiences with healthcare facilities where she has encountered discrimination and prejudice as a trans woman, and not received the thorough and thoughtful care she receives at Lyon-Martin. Grace relates Lyon-Martin to a family business – where there are familiar faces, people work together and genuinely care about you. The quality of care is what has made Grace continue to choose Lyon-Martin, she explains “I could have the best insurance in the world and I would still go to Lyon-Martin because of the quality of care. The staff is dedicated to helping clients achieve their goals and everyone works together, always treating you with dignity and love.”
Lyon-Martin made a big difference for Grace because the staff all let her know that there were people in her life that cared about her and did so without judgment. Through the care of Lyon-Martin, Grace became medically healthy through medicine and remained HIV negative thanks to discussions about safe sex, but there was still something missing: happiness. She believes Lyon-Martin saved her life once she started working with the mental health team. Throughout her ups and downs she held on to the light she knew Lyon-Martin staff could see that she couldn’t yet see herself. With our therapists and social workers, Grace continues working through her painful past that has burdened her for too long. She has been able to find balance in her life as she learns to respect herself and to make healthy choices. “I can honestly say that because of Lyon-Martin I have made the right decisions and will continue to improve my life and my living standards and move forward.” Whether about nutrition or safer sex practices, Grace knows she can always find someone at Lyon-Martin to talk about anything with, a luxury she hadn’t had with friends and family, and knows that staff will take their time to get her needs met.
Grace is extremely thankful to the unique group of people that make up the staff of Lyon-Martin, recognizing our strength as a clinic that really know the needs of our community and are dedicated to providing the best care possible to the entire LGBTQ community and beyond. Specifically, Grace wanted to thank Sara, Nick, Veronica, JM and Marguerite who all work together to make sure she can flourish as an ongoing success story and wanted to share that her “love and respect for them is limitless, there imprint will be on my heart forever.”
Grace has been sober from illegal drugs for 5 years, is stable on psychotropic medication, and furthering her transition as a woman. She is currently looking forward to gender-affirming surgeries. She is now a motivational speaker, photojournalist and activist for LGBT issues with a special focus on the needs and safety of LGBT Africans who remain in Africa.
We are so thankful to Grace for sharing her story and always championing Lyon-Martin. Look for more on Grace in HealthRIGHT 360’s video due out next month.