Every Saturday morning, I volunteer at a free medical clinic in Atlanta. Even if the weather is grim, people come from everywhere.
This is a unique health center that serves primarily refugees from war-torn countries and oppressive governments. In their own languages, they tell me: "I am sick."
Many patients arrive at the clinic with fear and discomfort, but most leave with hope and smiles. I love spending Saturdays there because I have the opportunity to assist nurses with triaging patients (taking their temperature, blood pressure, glucose levels, etc.) while listening to their stories about adjusting to American society. I can see the difference the clinic makes for the community.
However, things suddenly changed when COVID-19 came to town.
Fewer individuals volunteered. The city restricted gathering sizes for all services. Medical equipment and personal items such as masks and hand-sanitizer became scarce. But patients kept coming. Their numbers only increased, and a screening tent was set up in front of the clinic.
I wanted to help. I work in healthcare and I understand how deadly the virus can be. But I am not a doctor or front-line caregiver. I'm an administrator—someone who is typically far behind the front lines. So I was told to stay home.
I can be stubborn, and I occasionally like to question authority. Nurses and doctors need help, too. So I drove to the clinic just to get a sneak peek from my car of how many providers and patients were there.
When I arrived, there was a line outside the screening tent with a handful of nurses and doctors. And if I am honest, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. While my colleagues were frantically working, I was in my car watching. I could see how tired the providers were. I could see how worried everyone was. Yet I felt powerless. I work in healthcare but am not clinical. What can I do to help? What can you do?