Living in the eastern part of Cabarrus County, I sometimes find myself thinking of the world in terms of "right here" and "out there."
Right here, we have crossroads communities, small towns and cows. Out there are shopping centers, cities and traffic.
"Out there" is bright and exciting; "right here" is peaceful and quiet. So quiet, in fact, that I tend to forget that often the problems I associate with "out there" are also "right here."
Imagine waking up one morning suddenly unable to see because your blood pressure is so high. You're going to need routine treatment to monitor your condition, but you have neither health insurance nor the money to pay for medical care.
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That was the case for one Midland man, who asked that I not use his name. He hadn't seen a physician for years because he didn't have the money. He's thankful that, in his health crisis, he had a place to turn: the Community Free Clinic in Concord.
According to its mission statement, the Community Free Clinic "helps Cabarrus County adults move toward wellness by providing comprehensive health care and pharmacy services to those who lack the resources to obtain them."
Barbara Barrier of Mount Pleasant has a job that does not provide health insurance. Six years ago she was diagnosed with a hernia and turned to the Community Free Clinic for help. Since she started seeing a doctor, she also learned that her blood pressure was too high and that she was borderline diabetic.
With encouragement and support from her clinic doctor, Barrier has lost 150 pounds. She's beaten back the diabetes and has lowered her blood pressure enough to begin weaning off that medication.
Dr. Cheryl Sexton lives near Midland and has her medical practice in Mount Pleasant. She's been volunteering at the Community Free Clinic for about 15 years, since she moved to this area. She says her clinic patients range in age from 30 to 60 and are there for a variety of reasons.
Some are working adults without health insurance. Some are unemployed. Most have chronic medical problems such as diabetes or heart disease.
She also treats established clinic patients for more urgent problems, such as bronchitis. For these people, the clinic is an alternative to the emergency room.
The clinic also does "an amazing job" with pharmacy services, Sexton said, providing medication for people who otherwise couldn't afford it.
I asked Sexton why she is still so happy to volunteer at the clinic after so many years. She said it's part of the reason she became a physician: to care for the community. She sees people from all over the county at the clinic, she said, and through its Community Care Plan she also sees them at her office.
The Community Free Clinic is a great place to volunteer, Sexton said: a place that serves people from "right here," "out there" and everywhere.