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This article was included in the "Your Community, Your Self" Community Benefits Report for Spring 2012. View the complete index of articles and content, or download the full PDF (four pages).

Paying it Forward

Free Medical Clinic patient returns to pay for life-saving treatment

Terry Robinson (right), a patient at the Greater
Greenwood United Ministry Free Clinic, said she
owes her life to volunteer caregivers Dr. Alfred Gitu
(left) and others. She had a tumor removed from her
esophagus after a 2006 visit to the clinic. An annual
grant from Self Regional Healthcare, along with free
office space in the hospital-owned and -maintained
building, helps make the ministry possible.

Lives are not only changed, but also saved, at the Greater Greenwood United Ministry Free Medical Clinic.

Just ask Terry Robinson of Epworth, who says she would not be around today had it not been for the volunteers and free medical services at the clinic, located at the corner of Epting Avenue and Edgefield Street just across from Self Regional.

An annual financial contribution from Self Regional Healthcare’s community outreach arm, along with free office space and maintenance provided by the hospital, plays a major role in reaching out to the medical and dental needs of the more vulnerable and fragile individuals in Greenwood’s population.

In addition to the annual grant and building, Self Regional provides lab and imaging studies free of charge for patients referred from the Free Medical Clinic, which served 1,632 patients like Ms. Robinson last year. Many of the volunteer physicians, nurses and lab technicians at the clinic are Self team members.

Ms. Robinson was suffering from a severe sore throat, shortness of breath, laryngitis and back pain when she visited the clinic one day in 2006. Unfortunately, her jobs at a convenience store and restaurant did not provide her any health insurance.

“A friend of mine had been to the Free Medical Clinic and told me about it,” she recalled. "Otherwise I would not have gone for medical attention. I had no income and no money. The clinic was my last resort.”

At the Free Medical Clinic she was examined by Dr. Alfred Gitu, today a family medicine hospitalist but then a family medicine resident at Self Regional’s Montgomery Center for Family Medicine.

After an examination and diagnostic testing, Dr. Gitu found a mass blocking her esophagus. She was immediately referred to Dr. David Isenhower at Greenwood Ear, Nose and Throat and strongly encouraged to quit smoking, which she did.

The mass turned out to be a tumor which Dr. Isenhower found to be malignant. The cancer was removed and Ms. Robinson has not only been much better physically, but also eternally grateful.

“They saved my life,” she exclaimed. “I would not be alive without the Free Clinic.”

Her medical condition would not allow her to return to work, so Ms. Robinson applied for disability. After a lengthy process, her disability was finally approved in May 2011. It was then and there that she showed up at the Free Medical Clinic with a surprise that shocked Donna Trapp, the clinic director.

“She handed me $1,400 in cash,” Ms. Trapp said. “Terry said she wanted to say thank you to us for saving her life. I’d say that she sure did pay it forward!”

Ms. Robinson said the monetary donation came as she received her back pay from her disability benefits. “The good Lord laid it on my heart to give the money to them,” she explained. “They saved me!”

In addition to an annual grant and office space from Self Regional, Greater Greenwood United Ministry receives funding from sponsor churches in Greenwood County, local civic clubs and organizations, businesses, memorials, gifts and other private and
individual contributions.

Health providers from the hospital, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists and others, volunteer their time and talents to the Free Medical Clinic on a regular basis.

“It’s important to have a servant’s heart,” Dr. Gitu noted. “I bring my teenage daughters here to volunteer. They need to understand there are people living close by who are not able to get everything they need or want.”

The Free Medical Clinic is open Tuesdays from 1-4 p.m.; Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and later from 2:30-4:30 p.m. for new patients and eligibility interviews; and Thursdays starting at 3 p.m. for physician visits. Prescriptions are refilled at the Free Medical Clinic from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays. A dental clinic is held the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 3 p.m. A crisis ministry is available from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

For additional information about the Free Medical Clinic, go to www.greatergreenwoodunitedministry.org.

 

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