By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
She's the lady who escorts patients to the exam rooms at Temple Community Free Clinic. Her days are filled with answering phones, filing and lab work - the daily administrative tasks that help keep health care available and affordable for people in need.
But Jackie Hutton isn't a typical employee who sought her job via an interview and application.
Her seven-year tenure as clinic secretary is a result of the six years she spent as clinic patient.
'Coming to the Temple Community Free Clinic was one of the best moves I ever made,' Mrs. Hutton said, emphasizing that she is very grateful during this holiday. 'Everything I have today is because I came to be a patient here. This clinic saved my husband's life.' Her husband, David Hutton, is diabetic.
'But he didn't really know how to take care of himself,' Mrs. Hutton said. 'And I didn't know he wasn't doing what he needed to - not until I came to the Temple clinic.'
What led Mrs. Hutton to the Temple clinic was an odd series of events that took place in the spring of 1994, two years after the free clinic opened.
'David proposed. We had been dating for eight years,' Mrs. Hutton said. 'But then he got violently ill. I couldn't marry him and then turn around and bury him. So, as a new Christian, I took it to God in prayer.'
The couple was enjoying a radio contest prize - a Pink Floyd concert in San Antonio - when Hutton first got sick. The illness, Mrs. Hutton later came to learn, was due to extreme low blood sugar. 'I didn't know how serious his condition was,' Mrs. Hutton said.
But she knew in her heart, she said, that 'God would make David a healthy man.'
So the couple lived their daily lives, waiting for God's answer.
'It came time for me to get a woman's exam,' Mrs. Hutton said. 'So I went to the Bell County Free Clinic.'
Mr. and Mrs. Hutton, at that time, were in need of free health care because neither had jobs that provided health insurance.
'The jobs didn't pay well,' Mrs. Hutton said. 'We did good to pay our regular bills.'
At the county clinic, a routine blood test showed that Mrs. Hutton was borderline diabetic.
'They told me you have to check your blood sugar three times a day,' Mrs. Hutton said. 'I was like, 'What? My boyfriend doesn't check his blood sugar.''
Once she shared her thought with the doctors there, she said, 'Everyone became so concerned. So they sent me to the Temple Free Clinic where there was a doctor who specialized in diabetes.'
Mrs. Hutton learned that she could manage her own Type 2 Diabetes with diet and exercise. Her husband's diabetes, however, was more serious.
'He needed insulin,' Mrs. Hutton said. 'And he didn't know it. But he couldn't afford the monitors and test strips that say how much insulin is needed. He thought he could take care of himself by paying attention to how he felt.'
Mr. Hutton was then 28; at 6 feet tall, he weighed 146 pounds. His wife said his over-the-counter insulin came from Kmart. A stock of candy bars Mr. Hutton kept with him was his arsenal against any unexpected attack of low blood sugar.
'He was taking the same amount of insulin as he did when he was 21, when he last saw a doctor,' Mrs. Hutton said.
The people at the Temple clinic, Mrs. Hutton said, described why that is dangerous.
'And they helped him get better,' Mrs. Hutton said. Tears started to roll down her face as she read from her husband's medical file.
'He's 42 now and healthy,' she said. 'He weighs a solid 172 pounds.'
They've been married now for more than 10 years.
'Everyone at the clinic was so concerned, so wonderful. I was amazed about how the doctors were willing to give in exchange for nothing,' Mrs. Hutton said. 'They sent us to classes and taught me how take care of him with monitors, tests and strips. They saved my husband's life.'
That's why Mrs. Hutton says her daily life is now about showing how grateful she is.