Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Well, Carmen Sandiego contracted Chagas disease in her exploits over in Central Americas, lost her health benefits and her amazing salary so she’s at Frances Nelson Health Center. That’s quite unfortunate for Carmen Sandiego.
Luckily, that’s not the case for the people who get treated at Frances Nelson. I haven’t heard of a single case of Chagas disease. There’s honestly nothing amusing about working at Frances Nelson, but to work there you need to be lighthearted but with eons of compassion.
Frances Nelson Health Center is a governmentally subsidized clinic that provides healthcare for the uninsured (or self-pay) and for the bad insured (their insurance doesn’t help out much). Every patient this clinic sees is on a pay scale based on their monthly salary and how many dependents are in the household. Through this center patients are able to get appointments at Carle Hospital for specific procedures that the clinic can’t handle itself, and their pay scale stays. I don’t know how you may pay your medical bills, but if you have ever seen a bill without any insurance, you’ll understand that this pay scale is the reason these people are able to get healthcare.
The pay scale certainly helps the patients out, but there would be no clinic if there was no one willing work there. Every single employee there is a hero. They may not be wearing camouflage and fighting to preserve our freedom. They may not be secretly wearing spandex under their street clothes. In fact their wearing scrubs, t-shirts, jeans, dress pants, and dress shirts. From the girls at reception to the doctors to the triage lady to the people I don’t even know who work there, they’re all heroes. These women who work here (there are about 4 men who work there), are some of the most amazing people I've met. They are the embodiment of this clinic. Recently the clinic has taken too many patients on and is no longer accepting new patients, but when a little girl with many medical problems coupled with Down syndrome showed up at the clinic, she became a patient. This is only one example of their extreme compassion. But there are also times when we have to turn patients away because they showed up too late for their appointment.
Working at Frances Nelson is rewarding yet difficult. It’s difficult because you find out about everything that is wrong with the health care system and how people are being forgotten. I have learned that people come from drastically different backgrounds and only want one thing: to see a doctor. And, that is where it becomes rewarding. For the Spanish speaking patients, I am one of four people who make up the keystone. With out us translating, it would be weeks if not months before a Spanish speaking patient was seen, not to mention the doctors would have trouble figuring out what was wrong with them. I may only answer phones at the moment and translate at the front desk, but at the end of the day, I know that without me, that patient might not have been seen.
While working at Francis Nelson, I have met and talked to people with drastically different backgrounds. Of the Spanish speaking community, whom I work with most, there are immigrants, mothers fleeing their husbands, children who try to translate for their parents, teenagers who want to help out with the family and are giving up a college education and fathers who accompany their wife and children to their appointments. Seeing all of these people has opened my eyes. I have always read or heard about people like them. I learned about them in my Spanish classes in high school, in history classes, on the news, but never have I actually experienced (knowingly) someone from a drastically different background than my own.
There is a student in my Spanish class this semester who is very knowledgeable about immigration laws and has a very strong opinion about them. It wasn’t until a week ago I learned that his family is full of immigrants and have probably had to face similar hardships like the ones the patients are facing at the clinic. After learning this, everything became real. I could hear the emotion in his voice when he was talking about his family history. It wasn’t just another story for the news; it was his life, just like it is the life of these patients.
After working in Frances Nelson for a few weeks and listening to this student I have learned to open my eyes to the world as it is. My veil of ignorance is gone and that decrepit looking house down the street isn’t abandoned, that mother debating $1.09 for food isn’t just a penny pincher, that father sitting in the clinic with his kids isn’t just a father. Everything is more. That house is a home. That debate for food is a debate between feeding her children and paying a water bill. That father isn’t just a father, but a protector and the anchor that family needs to stay sane.