Witnessing firsthand the enormous disparity in America’s healthcare system is a powerfully moving experience. On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2009 in New Orleans; in 2010 in Charlotte; and in 2012 in Dallas as a medical student, I saw the same story play out before my eyes. Patients, thousands of patients, from all backgrounds and walks of life streamed through the doors of our civic center clinic. Some have lived with little or no access to healthcare. Others, though insured, were unable to meet copay’s and deductibles needed to obtain routine healthcare. While medical issues varied from routine, to serious, to critical, one thing remained constant–everyone was in need.
Being part of the team of compassionate volunteers dedicated to meeting those needs is rewarding in ways beyond words. Many times over at these clinics, I have witnessed relief of sometimes years of suffering, which still brings me to tears upon reflection years later. I vividly remember one young woman around age 16 whose lifelong vision problems had caused her great difficulty at succeeding in school. She put on her first pair of prescription eyeglasses, made on-site at the clinic. For the first time, she was able to see clearly, to read the words on a sheet of paper clearly, to finally see her mother’s face clearly after sixteen years. Her face betrayed her disbelief that the glasses were hers to keep. With assurances from fellow volunteers, the disbelief in her face faded as a flood of gratitude so heartfelt washed over her that her knees buckled, sinking her to the ground weeping tears of joy along with all those around her.
For most people, an opportunity to create this much positive change in the world comes once in a lifetime. For a CARE Clinic volunteer, the opportunities walk through the door all day long. How could anyone pass that up?