Columbia, SC — I witnessed a miracle last weekend. The Cantey Building on the State 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, cordoning it into waiting areas, service areas, an eye-care center, a pharmacy, computer set-ups for patient intake and discharge and cubicles for examinations or just storage of the vast amount of supplies necessary for the Mission Midlands.
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, emergency departments and urgent-care rooms. Each cubbie was outfitted with more-than-ample supplies, all donated or purchased with donated funds from the collaborating institutions. Lexington Medical Center, Palmetto Health (both Richland and Baptist) and Providence Health all sent volunteers, from executive vice presidents to the true worker-bees.
When the doors opened on Friday morning, a tide of patiently waiting patients 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. A visit with one of the many physicians, advanced-practice nurses or physician assistants who had given of their time and talent to serve some of the underserved, uninsured people who came from at least half the counties in South Carolina.
Medical students from the USC School of Medicine shadowed the practitioners, gaining a valuable lesson in empathic communication techniques. 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 final patient was escorted from the building on Saturday afternoon, 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 and set up to examining, prescribing and counseling, and even on to tear down and clean up, each component part a miracle in itself. This weekend represented 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.
Dr. Leon Bullard
S.C. Mission Midlands Medical Director