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Remote Area Medical provides care to 935 over weekend

Almost 1,000 people get treatment for medical, dental or vision needs at RAM clinic

The 2017 Remote Area Medical free clinic concludes Sunday.
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The 2017 Remote Area Medical free clinic concludes Sunday.

Bradenton’s Larry Linton smokes and has for a long time.

He hadn’t been to a doctor to get his lungs listened to for about five years, he said.

But, on Sunday, Linton, who is having trouble breathing deeply without discomfort, was one of the last patients to be seen during the 2017 Remote Area Medical clinic at Manatee Technical College, which, for the third consecutive year, has provided free medical, dental and vision care to the medically needy of the area.

“They said I really need help,” Linton said of the RAM volunteer medical professionals who examined him and are hoping to set up follow-up care. “They’re doing great for me.”

In the short term, a team of RAM volunteer nurse practitioners — including Debbie Friedrich of Palma Sola Medical Associates of Bradenton; Josie Weiss, a professor at the University of Central Florida in Orlando; and Anu Balaji, a nurse practitioner student at Florida State University — slipped a plastic mask over Linton’s mouth and turned on a portable nebulizer that administered medication to Linton in the form of a mist that he inhaled into his lungs.

In a touching picture that spoke of the bond between RAM’s volunteer medical personnel and the patients and their families, Linton’s daughter, Laura, smiled at Friedrich, who smiled back as they stood behind a curtain and listened to the healing mist seep into Linton’s chest.

935 total patients in two-days

Linton was one of 441 patients who checked into RAM on Sunday, the wrap-up of the two-day event this year, said Lori Dengler, who, along with Nancy Lawrence, was in charge of volunteers and logistics as event co-chair.

Along with Saturday’s total of 494 patients, the two-day total of unique patients was 935 patients, with many receiving more than one service, Dengler added.

For the two-day event, there were 628 dental visits, 435 medical visits and 390 vision visits, Dengler said.

Unforgettable cases

Dr. Tom Lewis, a volunteer dentist from Chico, Calif., remembers seeing a patient who has been on drugs.

“We call it ‘meth mouth,’ ” said Dr. Lewis, who believes in remote area medicine so strongly that he flew from California to volunteer. “Most of his teeth were remaining but they were all decayed, rotten to the gum line. He was in pain and his gums were swollen. He was really sad because he has a beautiful smile and is a nice-looking man, but he needed all of his teeth out.”

Dr. Lewis also saw a young girl whose jaw was swollen with a cavity that had abscessed.

It seems unlikely for students not to have volunteerism rub off on them when they are around people like RAM volunteer Denise Elswick, another nurse practitioner, who completely organized the medical part of the RAM.

“We see people who haven’t had basic medical care for a very long time,” Elswick said.

According to Dengler, RAM will be coming back to Bradenton in 2018.

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond

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