Dear GraceMed: Happy 40th Anniversary from the patient you’ve served the longest.
I started my journey with you back in 1989. At the time, I was working for an employer who had no health insurance benefits. I was like a lot of younger people then who were trying to get by without insurance. But one day, I had a free screening that revealed I had high blood pressure. I immediately went looking for insurance but couldn’t afford the minimum $600 per month I would need to pay.
Fortunately, a friend at work told me that the United Methodist Urban Ministries had a health clinic that would take me without insurance. I made an appointment there right away.
When I first got there, I was both pleased and saddened to see that there were a log of patients there just like me who couldn’t afford their care or the cost of insurance.
There was only one doctor for all of us, Dr. Jana Nisly. She was clearly working with meager supplies and equipment, but always served each patient with a cheerful, compassionate and willing heart. She was my doctor for four years before she decided to go and serve in El Salvador. It always felt like I was being seen by a much younger version of Mother Theresa when she was there.
Then Dr. Robert White became my GraceMed physician. I remember how much he really cared for his patients. One time I was very sick with a severe infection. Dr. White told me I needed to be hospitalized, but I refused because I couldn’t afford it. That evening, he and his nurse came to my home and started an IV infusion right there in my house.
I had been a patient for about five years when Sandra Lyon, the clinic director, asked me to serve on GraceMed’s board. This was the time in which GraceMed was making the transition from it’s United Methodist affiliation to become eligible for federal funding support. Sandra knew that meant we would need our own board and that patients would need to make up 51% of its members. I was glad to have the chance to represent patients on the board and continued to serve there for the next 19 years.
We learned what it meant to be faithful during those years as we faced a number of financial challenges together. I got to see the heart of the people “behind the scenes” at GraceMed and how much it meant to them to keep providing this service to the community. It was in the midst of those trying times that we found new leadership. Dave Sanford was ready and willing to take on the challenge of rebuilding the clinic. And I watched as he built relationships, raised funds and pursued his vision for GraceMed’s growth.
Of course, the history I have been privileged to witness all these years has been made possible by God’s blessing. God brought us people like Dr. Nisly, Dr. White and Dave Sanford, people with the right skills and character for the time in which they were called. I was blessed to serve on the board with Kerin Smith who, with her husband, Jim share a deep love for GraceMed and have always given so generously of themselves to sustain and support the mission.
And all the while, I was still so happy just to be a patient. I think it’s because of what GraceMed represents to me. It’s not just a place to get healthcare. GraceMed proves every day that communities are sustained, not just by their wealth or industry, but by the people who care enough to serve those who can least afford it. I’ve seen how powerfully transformitive that can be in people’s lives, and it makes me proud to this day to tell others who think there’s no hope for the healthcare they need that they’re wrong. There’s GraceMed.