The third National Association of Free Clinics' New Orleans C.A.R.E clinic Monday drew thousands of patients and volunteers from across the nation. About one thousand patients and almost that many volunteers traveled to the New Orleans Convention Center seeking medical care.
Nia Lassere woke up early just to get a good spot. "The early bird gets the worm and I got here at 8 o'clock," said Lassere. She blacked out recently while driving and desperately needed medical attention, said Lassere.
New Orleans native Darnell Jones lost his job recently and with several heart surgeries could not afford to be without health insurance.
"I have eight stints and I just had two put in two months ago," explained Jones.
His cardiologist prescribed him several medications to keep his cholesterol low and his heart pumping properly, but without insurance he could not renew those prescriptions affordably. Jones said he feels tightness in his chest and is often short winded, which are both signs of continuing heart problems.
"I guess I'm a survivor because I've been working through pain all my life," said Jones.
Physicians Assistant Jody Manuel from Abilene, Texas, said, "it's very important that Mr. Jones is extremely proactive in coming here today. A lot of patients are not so…If you start getting a gap in coverage then it's pretty much like starting right back at the beginning."
He left the clinic with a 90-day prescription renewal which he said should hold him over in the interim.
Executive Director of National Association of Free Clinics Nicole Lamoureux said, "patients have to come to a convention center to get access to the health care that they need. So many patients just need their medication to continue on a healthy lifestyle."
This is a problem Dr. Judy Riley thinks is not just reserved for Louisianians. "I would say nationwide there's a great need for this type of clinics," said Dr. Riley.
More than 900 people including a group from Southwest Louisiana donated their time and skills this year. Louisiana State Representative A.B. Franklin led a group of several volunteers from the lake area hoping to gather ideas for another free clinic in Lake Charles.
"We don't have anything on the north end of town where people can go to get the healthcare, so we're trying to do our best to try to have it on both sides of the city of Lake Charles on an equal basis," explained Representative Franklin.
The New Orleans C.A.R.E Free Clinic was organized by the National Association of Free Clinics and funded only by private donations.