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Health Services for the Underserved

Health Services for the Underserved

Picture of Yvonne LaRose

It was Thursday, October 20, and there were a lot of mandatory appointments on my schedule. There were also some optionals. And there were "I want to" items that would have to be tossed if time or energy didn't allow them. One was an association dinner meeting. The other was going to the Los Angeles Sports Arena to see how the CareNowUSA.org free health clinic was progressing and what the faces of those being served. But at 5 PM, I was on a bus and trying to get home. It was obvious that I'd missed the four-day clinic that day. Or had I?

A fellow passenger was a woman who had fallen asleep. She had a suitcase near her that was blocking the aisle. A very over stuffed carry tote rested on the seat next to her. Three requests that she move the tote so that I could sit brought no response. Someone else made a space for me on the opposite side of the bus. Once settled, I saw a condition that caused me concern.

Her garb was nice looking. She appeared clean. Her blond hair was groomed and not oily. She did look worried and weary. However her legs, ankles, and feet were extremely swollen. Although I've seen worse, hers looked as though walking was very difficult. She awoke and my advocacy for getting care began.

"You need to lie down somewhere and get some rest. That will help get the swelling in your legs to go down," I urged. Her response was that there was no place to lie down.

My awareness of how urgent her condition was made me press my case for her seeking assistance. I regretted that I had no Ace bandages to give her so she could wrap her legs. The compression would have relieved some of the swelling and put off the inevitable. I vocalized that regret; it was ignored.

Next, was my urging that she get herself to a clinic so that she could receive some care, a little rest, and perhaps two Ace bandages. She raised a new objection. Clinic cost money and she had none. By this time, my vanity mission to see who was being served at the free clinic was well out of my mind. I forgot about it and the potential for my companion to find assistance there. I counseled her that she may have more affordable opportunities at a clinic than she suspected.

My campaign to persuade the woman to get medical assistance continued for two minutes longer and then stopped. Her embarrassment about her conditions was obvious. Then there was the matter of others on the bus who were hearing the exchange. She looked clean and well cared for. Her bag and suitcase were in good condition. Appearances said she had just come from a place where she was being attended.

Eventually she threw her head back in exasperation and admitted she had no place to go to lie down, she could not afford even a clinic, and that she was homeless. She covered her face below the nose with her woolen scarf. The pleading and reasoning stopped. That meant she had not been somewhere to hear the news about the clinic. She wasn't aware of the services nor the resources. There was no one who could have pointed her in the right direction so that she could obtain the care that was required.

But a spark of an idea came to her. "Do you have any money I can use," she inquired. "Sure," was my reply. My wallet emerged and I found a five dollar bill. It was passed over to her. Her face brightened as she handled, as she fondled its crispness and reality on her fingers. Several seconds after doing that, she cast her brightened eyes in my direction. "Could you spare a little more," she asked with hope in her face.

It wasn't where she was going or even if she had a destination that night. It appeared she was traveling east on the Number 4 bus and going to nowhere. She seemed to have no plan for herself and her survival. She seemed to have no ideas other than seek handouts from strangers.

Eventually, I actually did see impressions of those who were served during the four-day free clinic. They were not as well groomed as the woman on the Number 4 bus. They looked weary from having camped out in front of the Sports Arena on Wednesday to increase their chances of getting the earliest appointments and be treated. I was able to find images of those who sought the services of CareNowUSA. This is how the more than 5,000 members of humanity appeared:

After November 18, I was finally able to see video coverage of those who spent that Thursday, October 20, getting their wristbands showing the day they would receive services. I was finally able to see and hear the stories of those who were served.

Housing as Well?

The morning news of October 21 talked about housing assistance. The context in which this service was being made available wasn't clear. On calling CareNowUSA, there was no one available to provide clarification about the number of individuals actually served nor shed light on the housing matter. Nevertheless, I would like to believe that my traveling companion somehow learned about the free clinic as well as the housing services and benefitted from them. Unfortunately, she was riding a bus on the west side of the city after 5 PM. The allocation of tickets for the four-day clinic had been dispensed and she wasn't there.

Is it possible she survived her compelling condition? I would like to believe she has not had a heart attack and expired because she's had no real rest and no way to get rid of the fluids building up inside her body. Given the senses she exhibited the night of the 20th, it's highly unlikely.

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