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Patients & partners

"Patients & partners" Continued...

Issue: "All-American adoption story," Nov. 21, 2009

What clinics like these provide that the federal government fails to provide is the personal touch. They are each striving to find local answers to local problems using local people. To them, healthcare is a ministry, and it's very personal.

That is made plain back in New Jersey as the clock ticks past the clinic's normal 9 p.m. closing time. The treatment list for the day has been long-­diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, infected bones, arthritis, glaucoma, asthma, and bronchitis, to name a few.

The Ecks say they each volunteer 12 hours a week, but you can tell it is probably more.

Why tonight's extended hours? The Ecks seem to enjoy talking to their patients. And most of them want to talk in the hopes of unloading some of life's anxieties, stresses, and fatigues. They want someone to hear their stories as much as they want medical treatment.

Mechanic Patrick Maylone, 52, has been coming here for two years after an accident left him with a herniated disk and no insurance. Since then he has been treated for diabetes and skin cancer. He says the clinic has become more crowded but that won't stop him from coming. He even one day dreams of making enough money so he can give a large donation to the place.

"You are not treated like an outcast here," he told me. "You are treated like a human being . . . not a patient. Hospitals should take lessons from this place."

At end of the day, Alieta Eck empties $136 from the optional cash box set up at the reception desk.

"When it is a government thing, people are not as thankful. They think they are entitled," Alieta Eck explains, thankful for the money. With 37 patients seen that night, it comes to $3.68 per patient.

It's half past 9 p.m. The clinic reopens tomorrow morning at 10.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee is WORLD's Washington Bureau chief. As a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, he was embedded with a National Guard unit in Iraq. He also once worked in the press office of Sen. Lamar Alexander.

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