Seattle King County Remote Medical Clinic

We started the morning at 5:45 am; sleepily finding our way through the fog, the rain and yes, even the crowds.  Patients had been camping outside Key Arena since midnight last night, waiting for their chance to register and receive a number that would allow them to obtain treatment from the various health care providers volunteering their time today. As with any first-time event there was a little bit of chaos trying to find out where providers checked in or where the patients could register.  I was grateful to have my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Diane Sherwood-Palmer texting and calling and coaxing my way to the correct location. 

Once we arrived, we were welcome with open arms by the medical community.  As you may suspect, this is not always the case when Doctors of Chiropractic meet allopathic Medical Doctors and we were pleased with their warmth and camaraderie.  After an overview and training we were escorted by the Medical Director to our individual suites at the Key Arena where we had mini private offices set up to receive our patients.  There were five rooms specifically dedicated for Doctors of Chiropractic and five for Licensed Acupuncture Clinicians.  In addition there were Naturopaths, Osteopaths, Dentists, Optometrists, Family Practice MDs, Registered Nurses and Radiologists. 

We initially met with the Triage team to explain to them the type of conditions Doctors of Chiropractic treat.  As with most individuals they understood that we treat neck and back pain but we also reminded them to send us their patients with headaches, joint pain or problems in any extremity.  Patients were welcome at Triage at 7 am and it took a little time for them to be funneled through the process to the DCs.

My first patient of the day was, Christopher, a 35 year old homeless construction worker.  He had neck and low back pain that had worsened with the recent cold and rainy weather.  He politely called me ma’am and thanked me for every minor act of kindness.  I asked him where he lived and he told me he had an arrangement with a local business owner that allowed him to sleep on his porch.  He said, “it’s not ideal but it is safe and dry, I am grateful he allows me to do so”.  I adjusted his mid and lower back then did some soft tissue mobilization on his trapezius muscles.  I asked him to turn onto his back for a manual adjustment to his neck but when I touched his spine he tightened up and said, “Ma’am, when you live on the street, you never allow anyone to touch your neck like that.”  We decided the activator method might be the best approach for that area.  We parted company with his profuse thanks and gratitude.

The day continued much in the same way.  Many of the “working poor” who for one reason or another didn’t qualify for the group plan at work or couldn’t afford the plans offered by the ACA.  Some had plans with high deductibles or didn’t cover things like chiropractic, acupuncture, dental or vision.  Several patients were mothers with small children, working hard to provide for their families and keep them together.  Yes, there were drug addicts, mentally ill and individuals with HIV and hepatitis.  There were people who worked hard but lost their jobs and small business owners who were more concerned with taking care of their employees then buying health insurance for themselves.  All of them were sincere, polite, articulate and grateful for the services provided. 

We went to lunch around 1 pm, only to find our triage coordinators tracking us down and saying, “Um, we really want you to enjoy your lunch, but we have a long line of people waiting to see you chiropractors.”  We ate quickly, grabbed some coffee and got back to work.  As they day went on and patients tapered we also treated the volunteers who spent the day escorting patients to us.  By 5:45 pm we packed up our tables and headed home. 

Today was Thursday, October 23, 2014.  The clinic will continue tomorrow and through the weekend.  I came home tonight and emailed my colleagues, asking that they sign up to participate for the crowds sure to come through the weekend.  Trust me, it will remind you why you chose chiropractic as your profession and the community as your patients.