When I returned from RAM, my friends, family and co-workers all wanted to know how it went. I was so excited leading up to RAM, I had been talking all of their ears off about this weekend of service in rural southwest Virginia. Each time someone asked, “How was your weekend?” I would have a different response. They received answers like “Amazing,” “Gratifying,” “Heart-wrenching” and “Humbling.” There were not enough words to describe all of the emotions that ran through my mind during those three days in Wise.
Upon first glance, Remote Area Medical truly is amazing. The fairgrounds are entirely covered with buildings, tents and booths completely devoted to helping those in need. Thousands of volunteers from all backgrounds donate their time and skills to patients who normally would never have access to such services. The fact that so many people want to help blows my mind every year.
Even though the setup itself is awe-inspiring, the patients attending RAM really make the whole experience what it is. Families camp out in their cars the night before just to get a good spot in line. Many will come all three days to ensure they can have all of their needs met. I think the best part, though, is their overall great attitude. No one is grumpy or upset about waiting. Instead, they are beyond grateful for everything the volunteers do. They wait patiently in dental and vision lines because for some of them this is their only chance for this type of care all year.
I think my favorite part, though, is the stories patients will tell you. Even after spending hours in line just to get to triage, they will open up for 20 minutes or more about anything and everything. You hear about a recent wedding, a new tattoo or sometimes a tragic accident. Hearing their stories always makes me take a step back and really appreciate what I have been given. These patients help me to enjoy more of the little things in life. Many of these people have next to nothing but cherish every ounce of what they do have. If one gets nothing else from RAM, you leave with a greater appreciation for your own life and an even stronger drive to enrich the lives of those in need.