Louisiana, United States
One morning, the staff of Total Family Medical – a free clinic in Robert, LA, serving a Rural Health Area – arrived at work to find an 18 wheeler in the clinic parking lot. The driver had been sitting there all night waiting for the clinic to open. The fact that this clinic was open at all sets this story in motion.
After the “Great Flood with No Name,” in August 2016, Total Family Medical relocated (that is another story) to a very busy corner about 2 miles down the road from a Walmart Distribution Center. In the course of a day, hundreds of hard-working drivers in their 18 wheelers turn at this busy corner on their route to drop off and pick up items that go to thousands of Walmarts throughout the South.
The evening before, the truck driver had eaten some shrimp and soon began to feel “funny.” As a teenager he remembered having an allergic reaction to some seafood but had never had another incident, so he didn’t think much about it. A little later he sensed something was not right, so he took an antihistamine he had purchased. While initially it made him feel slightly better, he had to continue taking more because he kept feeling worse as the night progressed.
Peggy Gautreau, the clinic administrator, goes on to tell the story.
“When we arrived at work, he was sweating and pale with a very elevated heart rate (almost 120 beats per minute). He reported that in the last couple of hours his throat had tightened, and he was finding it hard to breath. The team knew right away what was happening…
…He was scared, beyond grateful, and only kept saying, ‘I don’t know what would have happened to me if you hadn’t been here.’”
Peggy goes on to say, “While most severe allergic reactions that require the use of an EpiPen® occur very, very quickly, this gentleman had not gone into complete anaphylactic shock only because of all the antihistamine that he had taken throughout the night. The antihistamine, however, could no longer hold down this allergic reaction and had we not had the epinephrine, I don’t know if an ambulance could have arrived in time. “
“Our clinic, lost everything during the flood,” she said. “With 100% conviction I can say that today we are reopened because of Americares and what they did and continue to do for us. EpiPens are one of the most necessary medications to have in a clinic. We lost EVERY medication we had during the flood. We lost our ‘crash cart’ of emergency medications. We had just started to replace some of them, and on this day had we not had the medication for this patient, he would not be here. I think about how long that night must have been for him sitting in his truck a long way from his family, waiting for the sun to come up, waiting for us to pull into work – praying he would not die.”
“Finally, I think about what we could have done had we not gotten that EpiPen from Americares. How we could have only offered supportive care until hopefully an ambulance arrived in time. We may never see that particular patient again as he was just traveling through the area, but when he could finally speak, he asked, ‘What do I owe you? How can I ever thank you?’ When we explained to him that he owed us nothing as it was part of a donation of what we call ‘our care package from angels,’ he said, ‘Well, tell your angels they saved my life.”
Americares is the largest provider of medical aid to the U.S. health care safety net. Last year Americares provided over $117 million in medicine and supplies to a network that has grown to be more than 1,000 clinics and health centers. Total Family Medical is one of them.