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Tennessee is a joke.

Residents grateful for RAM services

By STEPHANIE A. TOLLIVER, Staff Writer

WISE - Grateful faces filled the Lonesome Pine Airport three days last week, thankful for the services provided to them by Remote Area Medical. Unemployed and uninsured citizens who desperately needed medicine, health care and dental care services began filling the airport grounds at 6 a.m. each day.

Sister Bernie Kenny of the Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital Health Wagon has organized the events for the past three years in an attempt to reach needy people who may not have access to quality health care services. "I wish we were able to see the people we turned away at 8:30 this morning," she said Friday. "We can only offer them services on the other days." More than 1,000 patients were seen on the opening day, she said, "Easily."

Overall, Kenny was extremely pleased with the turnout and was excited about a van at the airport that was equipped to perform mammograms. The van had some problems and needed parts before it could be credited as being usable. "It was a real hair-raising experience to get it here," Kenny said.

State Secretary of Health and Human Services Jane Woods was on site, talking with RAM volunteers, patients, and officials. She spent Thursday evening touring parts of Wise County and Norton and visiting the area's various health and human resource centers.

"Wow! I think this is so exciting," Woods said. "It's exciting to be in an area where there is such a great need and there are people coming out to help. There's real interest here."

Woods said she was thrilled to work as a volunteer during the medical outreach. "I want to get out there and help with everything," she said. "A lot of times people just need to get the information available to them. These people are not just saying 'thank you' and moving on, they're stopping to consider all the options and using the information we're giving them."

Woods worked closely with the FAMIS organization- a program that offers low-cost insurance for children - handing out brochures and other free resources to parents waiting in line for RAM services.

"That's our job," she said. "People in the South are the most hospitable people in the world. With that kind of attitude, we can solve things. With that kind of attitude, anything is possible.

Children from the U.S. Civil Air Patrol directed traffic and routed patients to registration booths while community members and students distributed food, seats, paper fans to beat the heat, bottled water and information packets to those standing in line.

University of Virginia's College at Wise head volleyball coach Kim Mathes and 11 team members were working to have RAM patients complete exit surveys.

After patients received services, Mathes and crew distributed questionnaires about which ones they received. "It's a satisfaction survey for the Graduate Medical Education Consortium. We surveyed people who came through RAM and we've seen nothing but quotes and comments of appreciation," she said.

Mathes explained that the surveys were designed to improve RAM, but most people commented that no improvements were needed. "They just love it. People say we can't make it better. It's just awesome!"

She shared one of the surveys from a female patient. "Thank you for being here," she wrote. "Last year was the first time in four years that I have not had pain from dental problems. I'm back for a follow up and a cleaning job. You are all God-sent to us here. Thank you all."

Lindsay Rutherford, a junior at UVa-Wise planning to major in pre-medical studies, volunteered at RAM.

"I want to go into the medical field and I'm excited to see how people just love RAM so much," Rutherford said. "They are so grateful to get the services here because there's no place else they can go."

Comments of thanks and appreciation filled the air. But patients weren't the only ones excited to be at RAM - the oral surgery vehicle from the Mission of Mercy project was decorated with signs of "Wise or Bust."

Doctors and dentists wore specially-printed T-shirts with RAM logos and arrived in RAM-decorated vehicles. Some dentists even wore hats proudly proclaiming they were part of the "Denture Team."

And the denture team was well-received. Patients were thrilled with the increased availability of dental services this year. More than 80 dental chairs remained occupied with people receiving cleanings, fillings and extractions. Hygienists and dentists worked elbow-to-elbow, bringing in new patients as soon as a chair was empty.

Mountain Laurel Cancer Center volunteer Anya Hobbs said RAM was not like going to the doctor or dentist and getting sent home with a prescription that had to be paid for. "It's great that so many people who can't get this are getting everything they need right here. It's all here," she said.

Besides the dental and medical services provided, patients also had access to free prescription medications and eyeglasses if doctors on site determined they needed them.

April Pettit of Wise waited more than four hours Saturday in hopes of obtaining free glasses. Her first time as a RAM patient, Pettit said she appreciated the services even though she had to wait so long. "I think it's great. A lot of doctors won't take new patients and it's so expensive," she said.

Like Pettit, others stood in long lines for several hours on Saturday and Sunday in hopes of being one of the patients served.

RAM TOTALS

-- Total patients served. This year: 2,649. Last year: 2,072.

-- Daily totals, patients served. This year: 1082 Friday, 1,067 Saturday, 500 Sunday. Last year: 735 Friday, 842 Saturday, 495 Sunday.

-- Total adults. This year: 2,482. Last year: 1,946.

-- Total children. This year: 167. Last year: 126.

-- Total people receiving dental care. This year: 1,104. Last year: 906.

-- Total people receiving eye care. This year: 642. Last year: 680.

-- Total people receiving general medical care. This year: 415. Last year: numbers incomplete, at least 319.

-- Total tooth extractions. This year: 2,908. Last year: 2,203.

-- Total fillings. This year: 871. Last year: 444.

-- Total cleanings. This year: 260. Last year: 242.

-- Total root canals. This year: 13. Last year: 10.

-- Total denture fittings or existing denture repairs. This year: 31. Last year: 28.

-- Total eye tests recommending glasses. This year: 642. Last year: 680.

-- Total eye tests not recommending glasses. This year: 400. Last year: 109.

-- Total mammograms. This year: 88. Last year: 58.

-- Total estimated value of 2002 services provided: $779,042. This total includes general medical services, eye exams and glasses, mammograms and all dental services. Dental services alone totaled $324,081 and medical services (including eye exams, glasses and mammograms) totaled $454,961. The total estimated value of 2001 services was $294,000.

Coalfield.com 2002 July 30, 2002