Imagine a sixth-grade boy unable to read since third grade ecstatic over a new pair of glasses. Or a woman suffering from pain for three years finally receiving dental care she desperately required, then crying in the parking but with happy tears. And a Texas mom coming a thousand miles for treatment of multiple mouth infections and migraines caused by untreated conditions.
Those are just three of the true stories that emerged from last November’s phenomenal Remote Area Medical event. The unique and altruistic RAM organization returns in less than two weeks to build on last year’s success in its inaugural visit to Manatee County, when once again volunteers will treat hundreds of ailing individuals with free medical, dental and optical services.
RAM’s massive free clinic expands to three days this year with its sights set on bolstering its mission “to stop pain and alleviate suffering.” This year Florida RAM, part of the international organization, also extends its range by including Sarasota County.
Plus, this year there’s a twist on the free health, dental and optical care for medically deficient adults and children — a day for kittens, puppies, cats and dogs, with, of course, complimentary veterinary care on the first day of the event, Nov. 11. As the directors of this Manasota RAM/Animal Network Veterinary Clinic told us in June, “Pets are family.” This commendable holistic approach to family will improve underserved households with ailing animals.
The care includes vaccinations, micro-chipping, county tags and vouchers for free spay and neuter services, the latter essential to addressing the county’s overpopulation of pets — so many, the county animal shelter constantly exceeds capacity and rescue organizations are stretched to their limits by the influx of animals. This aspect of the clinic will stress participation in the spay and neuter benefit, notably hoping this will “be a game-changer for the whole rescue community as well as individual pets and their owners.”
The pet overpopulation is so acute, on Wednesday the county’s Animal Services Advisory Board came out in favor of a mandatory spa and neuter ordinance with limitations. That would indeed be a game-changer.
Organizers hope the half dozen veterinarians and dozen vet techs will be able to boost the health of 500 needy pets at the Braden River High School site.
The clinic for the working poor, the uninsured and the underinsured will again be held on the Manatee Technical College campus, Nov. 11-13. This humanitarian effort served well over 1,000 people last year, some coming from far away since word spread to other states. Those individuals experienced an astonishing 3,250 separate medical, dental and visual procedures along with health education. All that care translated into an estimated $1 million free care. All that certainly proves once again this is a caring and compassionate community.
Hundreds of people missed out on the life-enhancing care for the lack of additional physicians, dentists and other medical personnel. This time around, Dr. Richard Conard, president of Florida RAM, and his many organizing associates have been recruiting more health care volunteers to serve the community’s disadvantaged population.
Last year, demand was so great people camped out on the school grounds to be among the first to collect tickets when distribution began at 3 a.m. both mornings. Last year one woman arrived precisely at the first start time and was handed ticket No. 489.
This year’s additional day should add quite a few patients, who are all served on a first-come, first-served basis with no criteria for the care. More than 2,000 are expected.
Close to 300 volunteer medical doctors, nurse practitioners; dentists, hygienists; and ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians — all enlisted in an admirable army of volunteer professionals — are expected to serve and take care of those medically needy people. Hundreds more provide logistics and other tasks. In a word, wow.
The Second Annual Remote Area Medical Family Health and Well-Being Clinic will be another godsend to the region’s underserved population. And a blessing to the volunteers as well, many of whom came away from last year’s event inspired by all the grateful patients, many emotional about finally receiving badly needed care. Kudos to the organization and the volunteers for all they do — and to the community unity this nurtures.
To the medically needy and families with unhealthy dogs and cats, mark you calendar.