At our clinic in Columbia, Tennessee, July 16-17, we met a woman by the name of Sylvia. Sylvia is originally from Cuba, but she moved to the United States in 1969.
She has been a U.S. citizen for close to 40 years, and she recently moved to Tennessee. Her daughter lived there and had some complications with a pregnancy, so Sylvia moved to be closer to her daughter. Her daughter’s son was born with spina bifida. Spina bifida is a birth defect where there is an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. However, he has completely recovered from that and has no lasting effects. “He is a miracle baby.”
We learned of another major event going on in Sylvia’s life when we asked how she heard about the clinic. “My husband has cancer – multiple melanoma – and we saw a flyer at the doctor’s office.”
So not only has she been trying to assist her daughter and her grandson, but her life-partner is suffering from cancer. Upon learning all of this, and that she is unemployed without medical insurance, it became apparent how important the RAM clinic was to Sylvia.
She arrived at 7:45 a.m. Sunday and came for help with medical, dental, and vision issues. When we spoke with her she had already received the medical screening she needed and was waiting for a teeth cleaning in the dental area. She was, however, not able to receive any vision care because she arrived after all vision positions were filled by people who waited through the night to receive a spot in line.
This did not deter her from saying how happy she was. “I really appreciate all of you guys. It is hard for me to be unemployed and not having insurance. I thank all of the volunteers, staff, media, and people up front.”
Sylvia had not had her teeth cleaned in over three years and stated, “I appreciate what you guys are doing. People like me need something like this to happen to get what they need.” Unfortunately, this is an all too common sentiment which we hear at most clinics.
Recently, we asked volunteers what RAM’s 800th clinic meant to them. We walked around the clinic and let volunteers write their meanings on the whiteboard. Some wrote things like, “This clinic means people care,” or, “This clinic means someone will be able to smile again.”
One volunteer refused to write on the board. Her response was much different than those we received up to that point. She said, “I will be happy when one day we show up to do a clinic and no one comes. That will mean that there is no one in America suffering without medical care.”
Reflecting upon that, it really was a powerful answer. Will we ever see the day when every person who needs medical care has access to it and we are no longer needed? Sure hope so……..
Lastly, we asked Sylvia what she would say to someone who wonders what a RAM clinic is like. “I would totally recommend it! It is very organized. Everything has been very smooth. People are very polite, and the volunteers are really nice.”