Free clinic helps hundreds get healthy

Local,News,Entertainment,DC,Health,Joey Flechas

As Tony Kane sat in the waiting area for the free health clinic Wednesday at the cavernous Walter E. Washington Convention Center, he recounted what has been ailing him.

Fatigue, weight gain, depression and a particular weakness in his legs have him concerned, but a lot of his stress comes from something much deeper.

Kane said his 15-year-old son was recently diagnosed with bone cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy in North Carolina. Kane, who lost his consulting job and health insurance six months ago, has to travel by bus and train to visit him every week, because he sold his car.

He was one of approximately 1,500 people getting free medical care Wednesday. Kane was looking for a checkup because he said he can't spend the little money he has on a doctor of his own.

"I'm happy that they decided to do this," he said. "It's actually a godsend."

The one-day event was organized by the National Association of Free Clinics, a D.C.-based nonprofit that has been holding free clinics in major cities around the country since September. The District is the seventh city to hold one.

The entire operation runs on donated hours and dollars, according to Nicole Lamoureux, executive director of NAFC. Donors gave $33,000 for Wednesday's event and nearly 800 local volunteers give their time to ensure patients were comfortable.

"There's not one federal or state dollar that went into this," Lamoureux said.

More than 375 medical professionals and about 80 doctors, all local, volunteered for the clinic. The amount of support from volunteers lent some credence to the clinic's name: Communities Are Responding Everyday, or CARE.

Around 1,250 people preregistered for the event, with about 300 walk-ins.

"We can't do everything for everyone, but we can help 1,500 people," said Krishnan Narasimhan, a family practitioner who teaches at Howard University Hospital.

Patients were able to get physicals, eye exams, HIV tests, pregnancy tests and more at the clinic, which ran from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Volunteers like Terry Bailey, a registered nurse, seemed overjoyed to be helping people who wouldn't otherwise have gotten what they need. The 50-year-old Williamsburg resident only just received her license in February, and as soon as she heard of the clinic, she volunteered to come.

"I feel so humbled," she said. "It's an honor to help them."

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