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A helper is helped

Alicia Orozco (right) urged her uninsured sister Martha Mercado to get a free health screening. Now both are grateful that she did.

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Medical Center

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As a volunteer promotora de salud - health care promoter - with Providence St. Vincent Medical Center's Promotores Parish Health Outreach, Alicia Orozco once tried persuading her older sister Martha Mercado to come to a free health screening.

"I knew she didn't have insurance," Alicia says, "and that this was a good opportunity to get herself checked out."

Martha almost didn't take the sisterly advice. "I just pulled a lot of excuses," she admits. Eventually she relented and showed up at a local church for the screening, offered jointly by the Beaverton Lions Club, Promotores Parish Health Outreach and the church's parish nurses.

"Oh, wow," she remembers the nurse saying. Martha's blood sugar level was dangerously high - the highest the nurse had seen. She needed to see a doctor immediately for treatment of Type 2 diabetes. "That was a big, big surprise for me. I said, 'Why me? Why?'"

Recalls Alicia, "I felt glad that she found out in time. Because you never know what could happen."

Since that screening more than three years ago, Martha has faithfully managed her diabetes with wise eating and regular walking, while her sister has faithfully continued her work as a health care promotora.

Alicia and the many other volunteer promoters trained by Providence St. Vincent's Promotores Parish Health Outreach serve in their parishes and in the community, offering health education and screenings for fellow Latinos.

Both sisters are dedicated to helping people: Alicia also is a teacher assistant with Head Start, and Martha volunteers with her parish's Hispanic ministry.

"And I'm glad I have all those people around me," Martha says of the health care promoters. She's now a longtime fan of the program that's helped her cope with her condition.

Says a cheerful Alicia, "The best thing I like about it is when I touch someone who I am able to help. That's the payback."