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A Caring Connection

Health care success stories told by the people who lived them


A Caring Connection:
Health Coach Helps Member Go from Low to Lively

Judy Marcilliat

Sometimes, life takes unexpected turns. These sudden twists can rattle your resolve and greatly affect your well-being.

Judy Marcilliat, age 67, of Statham, Ga., recently faced such an unexpected turn – several of them, in fact. But, with the help of her UnitedHealthcare health coach, she got her life and her health back on track.

When it rains

In April 2007, Judy learned she had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy – and then faced the physical and mental adjustments that came with it. "I'm not sure you ever adjust to breast cancer. But, you learn to live with it."

Then, in December 2008, she was dealt another blow. While at her job as a school parent-volunteer coordinator, she fell on a slippery floor and suffered a devastating knee injury.

Suddenly, Judy's independence was threatened. She could no longer drive. She began to question whether she would ever even walk again. To add insult to injury, she had to retire from the job she loved.

After surgery to repair her knee, Judy started feeling depressed. She wanted only to stay secluded in her house. And, that isolation contributed to significant weight gain, she says.

All of her problems seemed to be combining to make matters worse. "I was at the lowest point."

Fortunately, she didn't stay there. A turning point came when Judy remembered getting information in the mail from UnitedHealthcare about a health coaching program.

"I could either decide that I was going to move forward or I could just sit there," she says. "I made the decision that I was going to do all I could."

So, she picked up the phone. And, from there, her life began a dramatic turnaround.

An inspiring connection

Judy didn't know what to expect when she called. "I was just reaching," she says of her initial call to the health coach program.

But, what she found on the other end of the line was a caring, empathetic person. Erica Amuzie, the health coach she connected with, listened to Judy's story. Then, together, through a series of informative and motivating phone calls over several months, they formed a plan for Judy.

First, they focused on weight loss. Erica explained the basics of good nutrition. She offered Judy some specific ideas. For example, she suggested Judy eat more fruits and vegetables and that she write down what she ate.

Then, they turned their attention to exercise to help boost her weight loss and overall health. Concerned about her knee, Judy was reluctant to be active, even though her doctor said it was OK to start exercising. But, Erica explained that doing some physical activity was better than doing nothing at all. So, Judy started taking short walks to her mailbox and back. Then, Erica nudged her to walk to the corner – and, then, a bit farther.

They also talked about everyday activities. Judy learned from Erica that she could find new ways to do things she loved. For example, if kneeling in her flowerbeds was now out of the question, perhaps she could sit on a small stool and still enjoy gardening.

Though it took time and work, Judy's spirits began to rise. She's quick to credit Erica with helping her transform her life. "She was an inspiration, I can tell you that!"

A conversation with her coach was never stressful, according to Judy. "It was a 'let's just take it a little at a time' kind of thing." But, Erica kept her on task. And, she did it with enthusiasm, humor and a can-do attitude that made all the difference. "I looked forward to her calls," Judy says.

Grateful for good days

Erica's coaching and Judy's hard work paid off. She has lost about 45 pounds. Though her knee is unlikely to be what it was before her accident, she's much more mobile. And, thankfully, her cancer has not come back.

She's also relishing new successes. She's working again – as a product demonstrator, making use of her newly discovered talent for sales. And, recently, she achieved another of her goals: getting into a swimsuit she had her eye on. When it did fit, she was "tickled!"

She's confident on her own these days. But, Judy knows that she can contact the health coach program again in the future if she needs to.

Looking back, Judy can see how far she's come. "It's still quite painful," she says recalling her experience, voice choked with emotion. But, now, trim, happy and grateful, she's only looking forward. That, she says, she owes to Erica and the health coaching program.

"The health coaching program is a wonderful thing that UnitedHealthcare offers," she says. "It was a lifesaver for me – and I do mean lifesaver!"

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