SC Mission 2010 - A Sobering Success

Last September at our annual TAP (Trustee/Administrator/Physician) Conference we were introduced to Remote Area Medical (RAM), an organization that sponsors medical mission trips worldwide—including here in the U.S. When our members saw the images from RAM's outreach, they implored SCHA to sponsor a similar event here in S.C. We began planning last fall, and last weekend our first medical mission trip, SC Mission 2010, was held in Greenville.

Before we invited RAM to S.C., we talked with our colleagues in other professional associations and discovered there was a strong appetite to host an event within our own resources. (The sense was that our own professionals would give of their time and talents to make such an event happen.) So we thanked RAM for their inspiration and set out to host an event on our own. There were many logistics to organize and an equal number of lessons to learn, but the result was nothing short of inspiring. Melanie Matney and her AccessHealth SC team did a fabulous job of coordinating more than 500 volunteers, and those volunteers delivered free medical and vision care to more than 1,200 people over the course of the two-day event. The local media coverage was extremely positive, and I've included a link to the best TV news story we found on the web.

I want to thank publicly all the on-site volunteers as well as the S.C. hospitals who contributed supplies and equipment needed to bring this event to life and make it such a blessing to the thousands of people who waited in line for much-needed care. The stories coming out of the event were heartbreaking as well as gratifying and inspiring. The event began at 6 a.m. Friday, and the first people began lining up at the Carolina First Center about 9 p.m. Thursday. One of the first men in line for dental care required 14 extractions. Many people said they hadn't seen a dentist or a doctor in years. At least six patients were transferred to local hospitals for emergent heart procedures; one man presented with a systolic blood pressure over 300.

I heard many caregivers express shock at the sheer number of people who had gone so long without access to care. They, like I, often assume everyone who needs care comes to one of our emergency rooms. It certainly feels that way, but we were reminded this weekend it just isn't true. There are many people in our state (and in every state) who do not receive basic health care. The lack of proper dental care is especially disheartening…many of the patients at our Mission 2010 event stated they know how to get medical care (ER, free medical clinic, etc.), but they have no access to dental care. Despite the sobering evidence of poor health care in our state, the event was uplifting because of the gratitude on the faces of those who were helped…and the joy on the weary faces of so many caring volunteers. Thanks to all of you who sacrificed your time and efforts to help others for no reward other than the knowledge that you made a difference in their lives.