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Volunteers ready for Wise County Ram event this weekend

Stephen Igo • Jul 18, 2018 at 7:30 PM

WISE — The 19th annual Remote Area Medical (RAM) Health Expedition opens Friday at the Wise County Fairgrounds. Registration begins at 6 a.m. daily for the three-day event. Patients are seen on a first come, first served basis.

The nation’s largest such event provides all comers with free medical, dental and vision care from hundreds of health care professionals delivering considerably more than $3 million worth of services each summer. The total volunteer force swells to around 1,600 each year including the small army that helps with setup, signup, food and water and a wide assortment of other services.

Volunteers finishing the setup at the fairgrounds on Wednesday included the likes of Virginia Department of Corrections Camp 18 offenders out of Coeburn doing their bit alongside volunteers from the Community Presbyterian Church of Clarendon Hills, Ill. U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S. Forest Service) Flatwoods Job Corps students were at it on Tuesday.

Chicago lads 15-year-old Jacob Marquez and 18-year-old Edison Hawkins, part of the Clarendon Hills church group, are volunteers attending their first Wise County RAM. They were busy Wednesday finding the experience not just work, but at their age a different sort of summertime excursion.

“I’m excited to be here helping people and learning about a new place,” said Marquez.

Hawkins said the pair arrived with their group on Sunday and he was finding the experience “awesome. Even though we can’t see it in action, yet, we still know we’re helping thousands of people.”

Michael Paccione, 27, is a first-time Wise County RAM volunteer as well, a greenhorn with his Richmond-based Magellan Complete Care of Virginia group that includes RAM veterans with nine years or so prior event experience.

“I’m really happy looking at the setup operations and just watching how things build up before it even happens,” Paccione said. “It’s special knowing people can really use this help and witnessing all the volunteers who come together to provide it. I am definitely excited to see everyone here (starting Friday) and see the operations in action.”

Wise County RAM is sponsored by the region’s Health Wagon in long partnership with Knoxville-based RAM, founded by Stan Brock.

All services, including a boggling array of medical, dental and vision care, are free. 

Dental services will be provided at the fairgrounds. A new wrinkle this year is that the Virginia Dental Association Foundation’s Missions of Mercy organization, a major player in prior Wise County RAM events, is staging a separate dental clinic at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise Convocation Center during the same three-day timeframe.

Regardless, both locations will offer free dental services. Wise County RAM also offers patients vision and medical care options as well.

Among RAM’s vision offerings, complete eye examinations will provided by ophthalmologists and optometrists. Opticians will make prescription eyeglasses on site. RAM’s fast track to eyeglasses targets those who have a recent lens prescription (within the last 12 months) to fill those prescriptions at the fairgrounds.

Wise County RAM dental care will include cleanings, fillings and extractions. Oral surgeons will also be available to perform biopsies and screen for mouth and throat cancers.

Hearing exams and hearing aids are included in Wise County RAM’s broad array of available services. Patients requiring hearings aid will be assisted to obtain them. Hearing aid fittings will also be made during the event and the devices returned at a later date.

Medical options are always vast. Medical personnel will conduct physical exams and complete medical histories. The range of medical services rivals those available at hospitals. A partial list includes prostate and testicular exams; ultrasounds and EKGs; a broad range of women’s health services; endocrinology; nephrology; otolaryngology; internal medicine; pediatrics; podiatry; urology; dermatology; cardiology; a lung clinic; and a foot and nail clinic with foot evaluations for everyone including diabetics, with assessments of circulation, sensation and foot deformities and a toenail trim if needed.

Patients are advised to continue taking regularly prescribed medications and to bring all prescription medications/information with them to the event. Bagged lunches and water will be provided all patients. People are also encouraged to bring sunscreen and an umbrella.

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