Rappahannock Community College, RAM of Virginia health event serves nearly 700 patients during Nov. 4-5 clinic
It started on the evening of Friday, November 3, when the huge white trucks rolled into Richmond County Elementary School’s parking lot. Out of these trucks came thousands of articles of medical supplies and equipment unloaded by an army of volunteers. Like the specialized teams who support a military force, these hundreds of volunteers were all on a 48-hour mission — to provide as much free health care as possible.
For five hours, the volunteers carted dental supplies and vision equipment, sheets and blankets and countless other items into the brick building. They transformed the gymnasium into a 25-unit dental clinic, complete with space for its x-ray team. Halls were waiting areas, which led to rooms of miniature medical clinics and vision examination bays. Soon a mammography truck pulled up. Folks arrived prepared to give flu vaccines and even more people, who were not trained in the medical arts, pitched in. All worked to help RAM of Virginia achieve its mission.
RAM, short for “Remote Area Medical,” is a non-profit organization started in 1985 with the intention of bringing healthcare to those who have none. The RAM organization has served more than 700,000 individuals since its inception, delivering $112 million in medical services.
While the national RAM organization serves much of rural America and beyond, Virginia is lucky enough to have its own spinoff group, RAM of Virginia, that set up shop in Warsaw to provide service to the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula residents without regular access to health care services.
As the moon shone over the school Saturday morning, the line of those seeking service stretched far past the steel-covered walkway into the dark. A large white paper, duct taped to the wall read that patients could request flu shots, physicals, medication and nutrition education, HIV testing, mammograms, podiatry, vision, hearing testing and other services.
Donald Payne of Westmoreland County and Tammy Kimble of Saluda have never met. Donald works for a small auto body shop, and Tammy works for a multinational cleaning services firm, neither of them have health insurance through their employer.
“We were there at 4 a.m., and I was 253, and my brother was 257 in line,” says Payne. “Once we got inside it was a pretty good wait. Dental was already filled up.”
Payne was there to have his teeth looked at by a dentist, something, he admits that he’d been either putting off or did not have the time for. On the way, he figured it would be a filling, but the dental team decided to take the tooth out instead.
After that, Payne mentioned that he’d been having some problems with his foot.
“This girl said she had just seen the podiatrist; she told me that I should go see him too. I didn’t know there was going to be a podiatrist,” says Payne. “He messed with my foot and asked me about it.”
The podiatrist gave Payne an injection, which helped a lot, especially in his line of work in the automotive field.
Tammy Kimble also needed a little help. She was having trouble with her vision and she tried over the counter reading glasses, she struggled with headaches, tension, and blurry vision. And if affected her work and the ability for her to care for her grandchildren.
“I hadn’t been to the eye doctor for over 20 years. I know that is really bad on my part,” she says. “When I went up there for the RAM, that was the only thing I had on my mind — getting my eyes checked.”
Kimble waited for her turn and went through three rooms of examinations. The doctor found that her left eye was giving her trouble due to cataracts and other issues. From there, the RAM of Virginia vision team crafted her new glasses on the spot. She even got to pick out the style of the frames.
“I like to be on Facebook at night,” she laughs. “I know that’s not very good. But my eyes have been feeling better, and there’s no more tension in my forehead.”
Dr. Victoria Molnar Weiss was the top tactician who guided the RAM of Virginia army through its Warsaw mission. Dr. Weiss and her small group of RAM professionals were, in large part, responsible for coordinating the operation and ensuring its success.
RAM of Virginia relies on local volunteers to secure a landing space and provide logistical support. For this operation, the job fell to Carrie Lewis, a member of the nursing department at Rappahannock Community College.
To borrow a Northern Neck term, Lewis is a “move-here,” meaning that she lives in the area but was not born here, but Lewis has lived here since sixth grade and considers Warsaw to be her hometown. For Prof. Lewis, having the opportunity to bring health care to her home and to serve those who she lives with for the second time — RAM of Virginia partnered with RCC in 2015 — is a real gift.
Lewis says that the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula of Virginia have very high rates of need, especially for medical treatment.
“We looked at the data and the statistics on poverty in our region,” says Lewis. “Some of it was based on the number of kids who apply for assistance services for lunches. And if they are having trouble serving lunch at home, then there’s not a lot of extra money for glasses. If we can’t afford the basics, then we cannot afford the medical necessities.”
Lewis started coordinating the 2017 RAM clinic as soon as the 2015 clinic wrapped up. For almost two years, Lewis and her partners in the RCC nursing faculty team, Ellen Koehler, Becky White, Sara Headley and Leslie Lantz, put together a game plan for this November’s event. They worked tirelessly to seek potential partners who could donate funds, food or time, and sometimes all three.
Some of that prep work went to the students in the nursing program who volunteered their time to support RAM. Students worked with other volunteers or moved medical equipment to the school, while others coordinated the golf carts and trash cans. That task was done by nursing student Emily Kuhn of New Kent County.
“I was the part of the facilities coordination,” says Kuhn. “I called to see what kind of outside services were willing to donate their services, like Waste Management and W.C. Lowery’s.”
Kuhn knew of the RAM organization and was excited to be a part of this clinic.
“I saw a RAM documentary, and I wanted to be a part of it for several years,” she says. “It was cool to play a small part. I grew up in a family where we ministered to everyone, no matter what, especially people who are less fortunate. It’s something you do.”
While some RCC students operated in the logistical space, others were on the front lines of treatment. Lynn Louise Payne was one student who got to put her nursing skills to the test.
“In the morning, I was actually on triage, and we performed blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and also blood glucose checks,” says Payne. “We also did a little interview with the patient.
“We would ask them what their latest immunizations were, and if they had any drug allergies like penicillin. We’d also get a medical history, like if they had heart problems or a history of seizures or stroke.”
Payne and her nursing assistant would investigate the patient’s needs and point them in the right direction for where they would get care.
“We would fill out the information, and we had a runner who would pick up the card, and the runner would know that they were ready to go to the next station … dental, medical or vision,” says Payne, who found the work tough but the experience incredibly rewarding.
“I loved it,” says Payne, who lives in Mathews. “It was a wonderful way to go out there and do something. We use the nursing process whenever we’re in clinicals, but it was wonderful to be able to practice that in person.”
Kuhn and Payne were among a number of RCC students who came to volunteer. That list includes Myrtle Atwell-Sholl, Madison Bates, Sarah Camacho, Alex Clark, Chris Dunn, Jamie Garcia, Katelynn Headley, Kirsten Harvey, Hannah Hayes, Inigo Howlett, Lesley Hunter, Dakota Kuca, Nikki Marshall, Brook McLeod, Merri Grace Sabo, Tyler Seay, Courtney Shelton, Christy Steensma, Lindsey Vanleliveld and Kim West.
RCC nursing graduates came to pitch in as well, including Chad Forrester, Yanelys Harper, Blanca Lopez and Caleb Stone.
The College had volunteers of all stripes throughout the clinic from Chef Hatley Bright, Rhett Moore and Martha Rest who operated the volunteer cafeteria; the nursing faculty including Susan Perry and Health Sciences Dean Charles Smith were all on site to lend a hand. Other RCC staffers who helped include Marlene Cralle, Canice Graziano, Lisa Hill, Therese Johnson, Charlene Jones, Kimberly Kent, Bob Parker, Sarah Pope, Karen Turner, Kathy Van Landingham, Rebecca Guest, Chris White and Hutt Williams.
And RCC’s most prominent staff member rolled up her sleeves too to pitch in for the clinic. President Elizabeth Hinton Crowther pulled a wagon around the school on Saturday afternoon offering sandwiches, apples, and water to those who waited for treatment. Dr. Crowther smiled and greeted all, and explained that RAM for RCC was a “labor of love.”
As the sun set on Sunday afternoon, all of the equipment, supplies, and volunteers left Richmond County Elementary School. Lewis admits that she cannot say where all 580 volunteers came from, nor can the organizers with RAM of Virginia.
“The organization has such a good reputation that people just show up,” says Lewis. “They just sign up online, even if they’re not from the area. We were able to give them all a role.”
After all the white trucks hit the interstate, 696 people received free medical treatment of one type or another through Nov. 4-5. The value of that treatment in dollars was $249,582, but for those who do not have access to healthcare, it was worth so much more.
“Between me and my husband, we have 19 grandchildren, and I babysit ten of them in the summer — and in the summer, we go everywhere together,” says Tammy Kimble, whose eyes are now working as good as they have been for years.
“I just wanted to say thank you all so much for having the program.”
RCC would like to thank the following partners who helped make the Warsaw 2017 free medical clinic so successful:
Beale Memorial Church
Beulah Baptist Church – Warsaw
Cobham Park Baptist Church
Grace Episcopal Church
Newland Church of Christ
Rappahannock Church of Christ
Department of Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Richmond County Emergency Services
Town of Warsaw
Town of Warsaw Police Department
Virginia Department of Health
100.9 River Country
Northern Neck News
Northern Neck Food Bank
Northern Neck Tech Center
Ledwith-Lewis Free Health Clinic
Richmond County Fire Department
Germanna Community College dental students
Marymount University nursing students
Rappahannock High School JROTC
Richmond County Public Schools
Southern Virginia University
Stony Brook University of New York – dentistry and optometry
UVA – Mammogram Truck
VCU medical and pharmacy