APL makes blood pressure monitors available through AHA program

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, March 8, 2023

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The Andalusia Public Library received five blood pressure monitors in a partnership with the American Heart Association’s Libraries with Heart loaner blood pressure monitor program Friday, March 3.

Opp Public Library Director Courtney Smart, middle, demonstrates how to check her blood pressure with assistance from APL Assistant Director Caryl Lee Ray and AHA Vice President of Health Strategies Kim Baldwin. (PHOTO BY ZACK MAIO)

Much like a library book, patrons will be able to check a blood pressure kit out, use it in the privacy of their home, and then return it to the library.

“Today was a big day for Andalusia Public Library. After nearly two years of what they called ‘Caryl Lee’s persistence,’ the American Heart Association has donated five blood pressure monitors for the public to use. We are the first library in the state of Alabama to offer this service to our community. It is called the Heart of South Alabama Blood Pressure Program. We are so much more than books. We are a library with a heart,” APL Assistant Director Caryl Lee Ray said.

According to Ray, the APL typically averages between 350 to 400 visitors each week. The Opp Public Library also received three monitors. “We are excited to offer these blood pressure monitors to our patrons and our community. I am thankful to Caryl Lee for including us in this project,” OPL Director Courtney Smart said.

The need to offer blood pressure monitors first arose when her co-worker Amy Mott had a heart attack last summer.

“She collapsed onto the floor beside my desk. 911 routed us through other towns, so we made the decision to get her to the hospital ourselves. Four librarians carried our friend out of the building and flagged down a police officer on the street who radioed for an ambulance. Through CPR and the assistance of EMTs, she is alive and sitting beside me today. I understand that a blood pressure cuff would not have helped us during that terrifying moment, but if it would aid others in monitoring their health and maybe prevent emergency honor situations, then please allow us to offer them to our community,” Ray said.

Mott expressed gratitude to her fellow librarians for their joint efforts in rescuing her.

“Caryl Lee, Threasa, Gwen, and Mona literally saved my life here at the library. Because of this, Caryl Lee began to research ways to help the community prevent things like this from happening. This is what led to our receiving blood pressure cuffs. Granted, the day everything went down, they wouldn’t have had the time to use anything like that on me, but hopefully, this will help prevent someone else’s health issues before things go too far,” Mott said.

American Heart Association Vice President of Health Strategies Kim Baldwin stated the AHA was able to make the donations through Ray’s persistence.

“We have a real heart for rural health work and improving the lives of people that live in rural communities. When she had the need in Andalusia, we thought it was a great idea and found a way to make it happen,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin added that keeping up with one’s blood pressure is one of the most important aspects of cardiovascular health.

“Most of the time, cardiovascular diseases are preventable. There are simple things we can do like knowing your numbers, knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and keeping track of your blood sugar and weight. When we can take these preventative measures, we make sure we live longer, healthier lives, which is the AHA’s mission.”

Coming from the Birmingham area, Baldwin looks forward to serving Covington County.

“We have wanted to work in the rural health space for a while now and to be able to impact people who don’t always have access to quality healthcare or blood pressure monitors. Having the opportunity to impact people in this community is really wonderful, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” she said.

Libraries with Heart is a community-based blood pressure screening and connection to care initiative. It provides library patrons with access to a loaner blood pressure monitor for self-measured blood pressure, educational resources, and a connection to low-cost clinical care as needed.

The library staff’s role will be to check out blood pressure monitors, review the basics of how to measure one’s blood pressure accurately, and issue educational booklets to patrons. The APL will sanitize and store each monitor upon check-in. If patrons opt-in, the staff will connect them with the Andalusia Walk-In Clinic for urgent care.

The Andalusia Public Library is located at 212 South Three Notch Street and is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information visit heart.org, email library@cityofandalusia.com, or call 334-222-6612.