Close to 800 get free medical, dental care through RAM Clinic at Heritage High School
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The gymnasium at Heritage High School was transformed into a medical, dental and vision clinic over the weekend, as the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Free Medical Expedition wrapped up its free services Sunday afternoon.
Close to 800 people came through the doors throughout the weekend as RAM opened the gates at midnight Sunday, passed out numbers at 3 a.m. and started seeing patients at 6 a.m. Professionals volunteered their time to help those without health insurance or were unable to afford care.
The total number of patients served in each area throughout the weekend were not immediately available.
Dentists cleaned, filled and extracted teeth at 32 stations, while eye professionals and optometry students checked people’s eyes, helped them select eyeglasses and performed other duties.
Ron Brewer, RAM director, said the demand was so high Sunday that several people had to be turned away.
“Our mission is to serve the underinsured, the uninsured and those down on their luck,” Brewer said. “(Saturday) we did vision, fillings, cleansings and extractions such as removing that aggravating tooth. In the general medical area, we’ve seen patients in a way that if they did not see a doctor on the weekend, there would be some life-threatening calls. We’ve seen some people with diabetes that needed screenings and education, and those that have no way of getting other medical help.
“It was a good turnout,” Brewer continued. “We do the demographics on the areas we go into. Once we get there, the numbers are higher than what we expect. We have weeks and weeks and of planning, and sometimes it takes as long as 18 months. We make sure the facility is furnished with water and working electricity. If we can get a gymnasium for the dental area, that is a big plus for us.”
Dr. Mark Evans, who has a practice in Maryville, was one of many local and regional dentists who volunteered their time. He roughly estimated seeing at least 50 patients Saturday and more than 20 on Sunday.
“It’s been a long day, but a good day,” Evans said, smiling. “I’m not surprised at all by the turnout. Not everyone has access to dental care, and lots of people are hurting.”
Evans said the most rewarding thing about the weekend was “the opportunity to hear people’s stories. It’s a ministry. My mission is different than others. I care for them and want to allow them to be treated with dignity and get good care.”
Bill Hogan, a Kiwanis Club coordinator in Blount County, said the organization was responsible for organizing all the food for the volunteers, providing transportation and keeping up communication.
“We are honored to participate with RAM because they have a great mission, and we believe in it,” Hogan said. “You can see all the people here. Earlier in the day this place was full. It is incredible.”
Walland resident Sly Burch of Walland had some dental work performed, and he was grateful for their work.
“I had a tooth growing (the wrong way), and it was hurting and giving me headaches in my temple,” Burch said. “It seemed to go on for two weeks, and this has helped. I really appreciate what they did here. I want to thank them so much.”
So does he feel any pain?
“I’m numb right now, but I’ll be waiting for it when I come home,” Burch said with a laugh.