By Leon Bullard, MD, Lexington Medical Center physician, SCMA Board Member and SC Mission 2013 Midlands Medical Director
“Miracle”—A remarkable or marvelous phenomenon or event. (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Volume I, page 1793).
I witnessed a miracle last weekend. The Cantey Building located on the South Carolina Fairgrounds was transformed from a vacant, empty shell of a building into a vibrant, buzzing bee hive of activity.
An army of volunteers descended on the building armed with poles and lines and canvas drapes; the once empty building was cordoned into waiting areas, service areas, an eye care center, a pharmacy, computer set-ups for patient intake and discharge, cubicles for privacy during examinations, or just storage of the vast amount of supplies necessary for the Mission. Electrical cords were provided along with multiple outlets for all of the technology to be powered— X-ray equipment, EKG machines, ultrasounds, microscopes, and the other paraphernalia so often taken for granted in physicians’ offices, EDs, or urgent care rooms.
Each “cubbie” was outfitted with supplies that more than met the needs of the health care providers. All donated or purchased with donated funds from the collaborating institutions. Lexington Medical Center, Palmetto Health (both Richland and Baptist), and Providence Hospitals were all represented by volunteers from executive VPs to the true worker bees.
When the doors opened on Friday morning, the tide of patiently waiting folks was greeted by enthusiastic volunteers who escorted them from area to area where they obtained the services most of us take for granted. An eye exam and being fitted with glasses –or– a visit with one of the many physicians, advanced practice nurses, or physician assistants who had given of their time and talent to the service of some of the underserved, uninsured people who came from at least half of the counties in South Carolina.
Medical students from USC School of Medicine volunteered, came and shadowed the practitioners, gaining a valuable lesson in empathic communication techniques demonstrated by these seasoned professionals. Emergency dental providers were on site for bona fide dental problems. Gynecologic services were available, including cervical cancer screening with an old fashioned Pap smear (graciously provided by the Lexington Pathology Associates), referral for mammography, and even screening for HIV.
When the dust settled and the final patient was escorted from the building on Saturday afternoon, a total of approximately 1,300 people had received some or all of the services offered. This could not have been possible without the efforts of so many volunteers from all over the Midlands; from event planning meetings, setting up and stocking, implementation and provision of services, examining, prescribing, counseling, and then tear down and clean up, each component part a miracle in itself.
This weekend represents just a micro-example of what can be accomplished when like-minded people pull together for the common good. I look forward to witnessing yet another miracle at next year’s event.