People of all ages began arriving before dawn, lined up by the hundreds, some in wheelchairs, others hobbling on crutches, many of them missing teeth, all of them seeking the same thing: free medical care. The hundreds who showed up weren’t refugees of a disaster or a civil war, just working people without health insurance.
One of them, Kenny Gillett hadn’t seen a doctor in two years, not since the 47-year-old welder lost his job and insurance when his employer went broke. Adriana Valenzuela, a self-employed and uninsured cosmetologist, brought an 8-year-old son with a mouthful of cavities. Frank Carodine, a friendly white-haired man of 57, who rolled up in his wheelchair, said he had lost parts of both legs to diabetes, which was now ravaging his right eye. He needed glasses. Some of the visitors would need follow-up care, so before letting them out of the building, RAM volunteers were writing referrals to free clinics around the area.
Outside in the cold, several hundred more people, waited patiently for their turn to enter the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The arena was jumping with the energy of hundreds of smiling volunteer doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and other professionals, all of them brought together by the Tennessee-based nonprofit group Remote Area Medical. On the first day of the seven-day clinic, California first lady, Maria Shriver and other officials paid a visit, Shriver saying she was humbled by the scope of the volunteer effort.
RAM, which was founded in 1985 to bring medical care to remote regions of the world, is focusing more these days on urban centers like Los Angeles. It put on a similar clinic in nearby Inglewood last year and has others scheduled for Oklahoma City and Chicago this summer. More than 6,000 people were treated at last year’s clinic.
For more information on RAM and their events, visit: http://www.ramusa.org