By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Martha James ignored severe pain in her stomach for months until Saturday.
Union County’s James knew she needed help, but with no health insurance, she didn’t have the means to go to a doctor. That changed on Saturday when she walked in the doors of the Tree of Life-Arbol de la Vita Clinic.
More than 100 patients stepped inside the new monthly free clinic that caters to those without medical insurance.
“Honestly, there is no way I was coming to see a doctor until I got on some sort of insurance,” said James, holding her stomach. “There was just no way I could afford it. This pain has been bad, but not as bad as a doctor’s bill would be for my family.”
The clinic doors opened at 9 a.m., but the line started forming shortly after 8. Some people, like Samuel Richardson and his wife Michelle, drove from as far away as Horn Lake.
The Richardsons were among all types of people – black, white, Hispanic, Asian and more – from 8 months old to 80.
Tupelo’s Michael Gonzales said to see so many types of people standing in a line to take advantage of free health care showed how bad the health care system is right now.
“I took off work to be here this morning because this may be my only chance to see a doctor and it not cost me anything,” he said. “All these people in this line share one thing in common and that’s the fact we have to be here because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t. I really thank the doctors and nurses who put this clinic together because this is going to save someone’s life.”
Clinic founder Dr. Joe Bailey said despite it being the first day, things ran smoothly. He plans to open the clinic at least once a month.
“Things went very well,” said Bailey. “We found some areas that we can improve in and we will for the next clinic. The patients were very thankful and grateful and many of them even signed up to volunteer. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience on the first day.”
Bailey said Saturday was a rewarding day for him and the staff. He said many people would have not been able to see a doctor had not been for the clinic.
When Bailey opened the doors of the clinic at 9 and welcomed everyone inside, James was one of the first people to make her way in.
Still clutching her stomach and walking tenderly, the woman turned to the man behind her and said, “I’m kind of scared to know what this pain is, but I’m glad that I’m at least going to have a doctor to tell me.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Free basic medical care for people without health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid. First-come, first-served.
When: Next clinic day will be Feb. 20.
Where: Dr. Mark Shepherd’s endocrinology clinic, 670 Crossover Road, Tupelo.
For more information: (662) 842-8788.