WINDHAM – Christie Jordan listens carefully through her stethoscope as Jeannette Holmes takes deep breaths.

“You’re not nearly as wheezy in your lungs, but there’s still some stuff in there,” said Jordan, a visiting nurse with VNA Home Health & Hospice in South Portland.

“Are you using your nebulizer?” asked Jordan, referring to a device that delivers medication in the form of a mist.

“Yes, it really helps. I only had to use it once yesterday,” said Holmes, 79, who suffers from congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other ailments. “Even if you’re feeling better, you need to use it regularly,” said Jordan.

Just before we entered Holmes’ small apartment, Jordan told me that a big part of her job is patient education.

“We hope what we do enables people to be independent and cuts down on the risk of being re-hospitalized,” said Jordan.

Holmes had been released from the hospital about a week before our visit. Jordan had already been there twice.

“It’s not easy for me to get out to a doctor,” said Holmes, 79, who has no car. “But knowing they (the visiting nurses) are coming makes me feel secure.”

Jordan starts her days in the VNA Home Health office in South Portland, calling her patients to see how they’re doing and if they need a visit. She averages about six visits a day. Some patients she sees only a few times, but others require longer-term care.

Visiting nurses are registered nurses and are qualified to perform many procedures. On our visit to Holmes’ apartment, Jordan took a blood sample to check whether blood-thinning medication was working for Holmes.

She also took Holmes’ temperature, listened to her heart and lungs with a stethoscope, and examined her swollen feet.

When Holmes told Jordan she had gained 2 pounds in a day, Jordan immediately called Holmes’ doctor to report the gain, probably caused by the fluid in her swollen feet. Jordan said Holmes’ doctor would probably want her to take a diuretic — medicine that helps the body eliminate excess fluid.

“Either the doctor’s office will call me back or they’ll call you later,” she told Holmes. “Then you’ll know what you can take.”

VNA Home Health is affiliated with Mercy Hospital and is a member of the Visiting Nurse Associations of America. The company provides a range of home health services, including nursing and physical therapy.

VNA Home Health keeps tabs on Holmes between visits with the help of a home monitoring machine that plugs into Holmes’ phone line.

Once a day Holmes turns the machine on, and a voice tells her what to do. At one point, she’s directed to place a blood pressure cuff on her arm, and then told what the reading is. The machine also tells her to place a device on her finger that takes her pulse and to stand on a scale to be weighed.

If there are any major changes with Holmes’ various readings, a nurse at the VNA Home Health office will see it and may call.

“They called the other day when I did this,” said Holmes. “These nurses are the best.”

Jordan likes that she gets to know her patients. She knows where Holmes keeps her medicine, and she can see that Holmes is quick to learn about her condition and take care of herself.

“She knows she’s on a low-sodium diet and she works hard to stay on it. She knows what the medications are for,” said Jordan. “We want patients to be advocates for themselves.”

Holmes tells Jordan she is grateful for everything the nurses do for her, but she understands she has to take some responsibility, too.

“All the things they teach you make you more alert,” said Holmes. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]