Taking the Wheel to Improve Health and Inspire Others

Doug Palank has been comfortable behind the wheel of a bus since age 18. But he didn’t get in the driver’s seat of his own health journey until 2018. “There was a season in my life where a conversation about health wouldn’t have made any sense,” said Palank. “I referred to myself as a ‘seafood lover’ – I’d see food, and I’d love it!”

He had a wake-up call that he needed to take control of his health in December 2017, just weeks before his 65-year-old brother died of a massive heart attack. He set a goal to lose five pounds a month over six months and vowed not to shave his beard until he met it. “I call it ‘weight loss through ugly beard growth,’” Palank said with a smile.

He didn’t do it alone; Palank enrolled in the care management program offered to him through his Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) health benefit plan. He worked closely with a BCBSNE registered nurse health coach and other resources available through the Wellframe mobile application over the next several years.1

“The timing of [BCBSNE] making this available has allowed me to keep my health on track,” Palank reflected. “I use it every morning. It’s one of the first things I do.” Palank’s dedication to start driving his own health outcomes paid off. He surpassed his goal by losing 50 pounds, reversing the prediabetes his doctor had warned him about and developing healthy habits he could take with him on the road, including nutrition, exercise, sleep and mindfulness.

COVID-19 put a wrench in things when Palank caught the virus after driving a busload of cruise passengers home from Louisiana in the earliest days of the pandemic, and he was furloughed due to travel restrictions soon thereafter. Still, he stayed as healthy and optimistic as ever, continued to engage with the care management program and got back to work in late 2020.

Unfortunately, Palank couldn’t drive off into the sunset just yet. In the wee morning hours of Feb. 5, 2021, shallow breathing and tightening in his chest sent him to the emergency room in his eldest brother’s footsteps. He had a quintuple bypass the following Monday.

Fortunately, the open-heart procedure was successful. Having built a life-changing relationship with his BCBSNE health coach, Palank had support and resources to comfortably transition home from the hospital after surgery, learn about coronary artery disease (CAD) and ongoing cardiac care management, adhere to his complex post-surgery medication regimen and continue making the most of his insurance benefits.

“All of these lessons that come day after day [through the Wellframe app] are not overwhelming; it’s just information,” Doug explained. “I am so fortunate… it gave me the information I needed to know at the right time. It reassured me. I feel it has the means to change other people’s lives.”

To see more of Doug’s story and other inspiring health journeys, or to share your own, visit NebraskaBlue.com/YourStory.

1 Wellframe is an independent company that provides mobile enabled care management services for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

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