RAM DAY 1: Wednesday, July 20th
RAM: Remote Area (Medicine) Clinic. It is an event that takes place in SW Virginia every year to provide much needed dental, vision, and medical services to people who wouldn't otherwise have access to them.
We've been preparing for this moment for months. The thirty or so of us picked for this job meet up at 7:30, a time that most of us would have otherwise been sleeping, and load up our cars. Still rubbing the sleep from our eyes, we drive over to the storage area, where we proceed to unpack two storage rooms filled to the brim with medical supplies and load them into a rental truck. The work is hard, and most of us are sweating through our shirts by the time we finish around 9.
Most of us then pile back into our cars and hit the road for the 5 hour drive down to Wise, Virginia. There are six people in our car: two second year medical students, a fourth year medical student, a CNL student (a master's level nursing degree), a third year undergraduate nursing student, and a undergraduate general volunteer. Throughout the trip, we vary between getting to know each other and actually trying to do something important (the second years were tasked with presenting a write-up of a patient to the fourth year in preparation for clinic days). We make a stop for gas and food on the way down, and make our way through the winding roads in the mountains of Southwest Virginia to finally reach Wise. When we arrive, it doesn't seem as bad as we expected: most of the homes are actually built, while most of us expected to see mobile homes and remarkable poverty. We were prepared for the worst, and this doesn't seem so bad in comparison.
We manage to make it to the fairgrounds where we will be setting everything up, and get a glimpse of life in this area. The fairgrounds (VA-KY area fairgrounds, because in Wise, we're closer to three other state capitals than we are to the VA state capital) are located in the valley between huge strip mines, where coal had been previously mined out of the hills. The buildings where we are setting up our equipment held horses and goats and chickens only a few months ago. The whole fairground is shorter than the length of the Lawn back at UVA, and it is hard to imagine it bursting with people.
By the time the truck is unloaded and the supplies stored in one of the barns for safe keeping, it's nearly five and time to head to the dorms. We caravan over and unload our luggage from the truck, then stand around and wait for 45 minutes or so for our keys to arrive. When they finally do, we swarm to the showers and change out of our sweaty clothes into something a little more decent and head to a local winery for dinner. The food was amazing (I'm going to have to find something similar to that poppy seed vinaigrette they had), and the wine was delicious. Also, much cheaper than the wines around Charlottesville; the most expensive bottle there was only $18, and most were around $10 each. The owners and workers were all amazing and gave us a tour of their small facility, and then we sat around and just enjoyed each other's company and the beautiful evening.
It was a long day filled with hard labor and lots of driving, but it was a nice start to our weekend.