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Helping Our Appalachian Neighbors

Jun 22, 2016 | Volunteer Medicine

 

Inside the Medical RV

Inside the Medical RV

In a win-win medical mission to beautiful Marion, Virginia, west of Wytheville, VA, hundreds of grateful patients gathered for free medical, dental, and eye care.  Under the leadership of Remote Area Medical (RAM) 300+ volunteers piled in to help people and have fun, donating a weekend of high level care to men, women and children from far and wide.  A caravan of medical vehicles and tents–even a tent-pharmacy–converged upon Mountain Empire Airport for this wonderful Smith County expedition.

 

Caravan on Airport Tarmac

Caravan on Airport Tarmac

What a sight!  Reporting for duty at 6:00 am, the little medical community already hummed with activity:  Volunteer ladies at the check-in table had our badges ready to wear.  To the left, the dental clinic, with its 35 chairs, sterilizing equipment and instruments and teams of dental professionals was ready to go!  Ditto the eye clinic on the right—refraction equipment and lens lab ready to go.  Out on the airport tarmac the mobile semitrailer x-ray truck, the mammogram truck, the women’s Pap smear clinic RV, and the hospital lab-drawing table were all staffed and ready to go!   Out by the parking lot, the triage tent for blood pressure and blood sugar checks was lining up patients.  The meal tent had hot coffee and breakfast serving us all on those chilly April mornings.  Nice job, RAM—this was going to be fun!

Climbing Into the "Health Wagon"

Climbing Into the “Health Wagon”

I climbed up the steps of the medium-sized RV and started working.  Digging through drawers of equipment, I found basically everything I had in my own office.  Blessed with 2 exam rooms (each slightly wider than the exam table), a nurse, a check-in helper, a nursing student and a runner (to shepherd patients from one area to the next).  We could crank it out!   We learned later this RV was the one used by the 2 nurse practitioners featured on “60 Minutes.”

Pharmacy Tent

Pharmacy Tent

No sooner had I sorted the equipment than the first sleepy patient clambered up the steep RV steps.  Blood sugar 450, the patient had slept in his car all night to be toward the front of the service line, he had forgotten his insulin at home 60 miles away, and he had run out of blood pressure medicine 2 months earlier.  He needed 4 teeth pulled in the dental hangar but the pre-op rule is for blood sugar below 300.  “Ok, let’s go with 12 units of regular insulin from the RV next to mine with the fridge for insulin.  And I wonder if the pharmacy tent has

Dental Operatory in Hangar

Dental Operatory in Hangar

blood pressure medicine to tide him over.”   The runner escorted him to the insulin van then to the pharmacy tent.  In short order both his blood sugar and blood pressure were acceptable, and off he went to the dental clinic in the hangar, where 4 bad teeth would be pulled.   And so it went, patient after grateful patient was evaluated and treated for a host of medical problems.  They caught up on decades of missed care. Their appreciation was palpable.  And I’ll tell you what–in volunteering it takes very little to do a whole lot!  The local leader wrote a nice letter to us for our service, see letter here.

Appalachian Road

Appalachian Road

RAM volunteers travel mostly to Appalachian sites, but also provide disaster relief across the US and world, http://ramusa.org/.  I first served with RAM 16 years ago, when looking for ways to combine flying with medical service.  Typically RAM sets up at airports to see large numbers of patients, which worked out well for me because I could fly to the weekend missions.

 

Next Patient, Please

Next Patient, Please

The best part of this Appalachian mission was in helping appreciative, nice patients, and having fun with the adventure.  But the fun didn’t stop at the airport:  I had a little time to drive around the hilly surroundings, I toured Hungry Mother State Park, had dinner on Main Street, and I met dozens of nice patients and volunteers.  Yet another mission perk was in staying at the Collins House Inn, an historic B & B on Main St., Marion, www.collinshouseinn.com/. Mike Edwards and his wife opened the doors to this lovely house in their gratitude to volunteers.  If you are looking for a wonderful place to stay in the Marion area, look no further!

 

Let's Help our Neighbors

Let’s Help our Neighbors

“Help other people and have fun,” is my motto.  Each volunteer experience brings new adventures, landscapes and people.  Gratitude abounds, which brings me to say, “Thank you, patients and friends, for your support of me.”  Your support helps me help others, and I appreciate you.

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Thank You, RAM

 

 

 

 

 

John T. Kihm, MD practices concierge internal medicine in Durham, NC. Feel free to share this news blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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John. T. Kihm, M.D., F.A.C.P.

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