It is hard to describe the impact that patients and volunteers at the Kansas City free clinic had on my emotions and thinking. I can say that the humility and appreciation of patients along with the caring and sincerity of so many volunteers from across the United States has deepened my belief in the basic decency of people in general. However, that doesn’t fully capture the emotions and thoughts with which I came away from the experience.
For two days, people needing health care streamed into Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Missouri. They came by the hundreds each hour – old people, young people, obviously very poor people, people that could have been my neighbors. I had the opportunity to help them to triage, to labs, to dental care, to physicians, to eye care, and to a variety of other services. I was able to spend a considerable amount of time with these patients and to connect with them as fellow human beings. I can say that it was my good fortune to have the opportunity to be involved in this amazingly well-run operation by the National Association of Free Clinics and the Kansas City, Missouri Free Clinic.
Meeting and working with these patients and volunteers from Johnson County, Kansas City, Missouri, other local communities, California, Iowa, Washington, DC, and from practically every state in the Nation, was an experience that I will cherish. It was hard to maintain my professionalism at times during the two days. On many occasions, looking across the massive hall and seeing people sitting patiently in waiting areas and seeing health care professionals giving their best professional services in other areas, it was hard not to “choke up.”
I must mention that Keith Olberman is a mensch. By promoting free clinics on his program, he has raised over two million dollars and has made several clinics like the one in Kansas City possible. Also, if you watch his show, you will often see Nicole Lamoureaux, Executive Director of the National Association of Free Clinics. Nicole is an absolute angel. With her leadership and Keith Olberman’s support, thousands of uninsured Americans have had health care they would have not have had. They have undoubtedly saved many lives.