Although this was my first year as a volunteer at RAM, it wasn’t my first time participating. In years past, I was a patient at the event along with some of my family and friends. Just like most families in rural Appalachia, my family was no stranger to the hard times that seemed to be targeting the area. Health services and resources were, and still are, scarce. And with the coal industries dying out, so was the money.
Anesa Hughes (left) and Chelsey Llayton working in pharmacy
If I were being honest, when I was younger I did not want to go to RAM. I didn’t realize what a great opportunity it was nor did I appreciate it. I was sort of embarrassed and didn’t want to be judged. However, I quickly learned that asking for help was nothing to be ashamed of, and RAM was there to benefit me.
Remote Area Medical became a sort of saving grace for us. It truly was a blessing for my mom to get the glasses she needed without having to worry about how she was going to pay for them. For me, a dentist appointment meant I didn’t have to worry about the fact that I didn’t have dental insurance for a little while longer. Along with the services provided by RAM, there was peace of mind.
This summer I was granted the opportunity to be on the other side of the fence. I was a volunteer, along with my fellow pharmacy classmates and VCU nursing students, at the Wise County Fairgrounds. I was thrilled to be presented with this opportunity, but of course I was very nervous.
As I had just completed my first year of pharmacy school, I didn’t feel like I had enough knowledge or experience under my belt to be of any help and felt an immense amount of pressure to do everything correctly. I didn’t want to let my team down, but I also didn’t want to let my neighbors down. However, when RAM started, all of my insecurities seemed to be inconsequential.
I fell into the work flow smoothly, and there was always something I could do to help. One of my favorite things was premedication at the dental tents. I actually felt like I was using some of the skills I had learned in my first year of pharmacy school, and even I knew more than I thought!
While premedicating, I tried to get to know the people I was talking to. I know my people and I know they are talkers, so in making conversation with them I knew it would help them feel more comfortable. I also remembered the shame I once felt when I first was a patient, so I really wanted them to feel welcomed.
Most of my patients really liked the fact that I was a “local girl” who had been in their shoes more than once. One woman expressed her gratitude and how she was thankful for every one of us. She let me know that no matter how small or big our efforts seemed, they meant the world to her. She also told me how proud she was of me for helping out my community.
I also enjoyed working at our makeshift pharmacy. I mostly worked at prescription drop-off and pick-up. I had face-to-face interaction with the patients. I was not only able to tell the patients about their medications, but I was able to tell them about other medical and dental services that are provided throughout the year for their assistance.
It really made me proud to volunteer for RAM. I felt that I was able to connect to the patients and make a difference in their lives. I have always wanted to give back to my deserving community and never dreamed of being able to do so through RAM. It was a great learning experience for me to be able to practice my clinical skills.
Not only was I able to educate my patients, they taught me multiple valuable lessons. My community stays strong and seeks to help one another in hard times, and it was rewarding to see them come together like this. I hope I am able to work the RAM event again in the future.
A professional and personal mission for someone who grew up in the area