By Steve Otto
From the “Tampa Bay Online”
The official name is Catholic Charities Mobile Medical Services. You would be better off just asking to see Sister Sara. Sister Sara is one of those people - and I sometimes figure there are about two dozen in the entire country - who makes things work just by doing them. They see a need and keep plugging until something gets done. The idea behind this program is to "provide free medical, health promotion and social services to the rural poor of eastern and southern Hillsborough County." It offers acute primary medical care, follow-up and referral, health screenings and exams for women.
The program isn't for the old or young, who fall under Medicare or Medicaid guidelines, but for the middle: people who have no insurance and are not eligible for any type of governmental assistance. There are plenty of them. They number in the thousands in the fringes of the county. Many of them work in the fields. Most have no transportation. And many have never had medical care of any kind. To deal with them, Catholic Charities bought a bus and brought in Sister Sara. Well, you don't actually "bring in" people like Sister Sara. If you're lucky, they just appear.
On the move
Sara K. Proctor grew up moving around. Her father was a building contractor, and the family went from project to project and town to town, mostly in the rural South. She attended seven high schools. It was in Portsmouth, Va., that she decided enough was enough. "My dad was ready to move to his next project in Charleston, and I decided to stay in Portsmouth and go to nursing school." Her next decision was to join the Navy.
"This was during Vietnam, and I saw plenty of badly wounded soldiers at the hospitals." By then she knew medicine was going to be at least a part of her life. She became a nurse practitioner and then a physician's assistant. Out of the Navy, she returned to the Portsmouth hospital, "Where some of the women I worked with were Catholic sisters." Not Catholic herself, she was impressed enough to join the Daughters of Wisdom, an old Catholic order that today has about 1,700 sisters throughout the world.
She was sent to Colombia and worked in villages for two years before coming to Ruskin to work with migrants at the Suncoast Health Clinic. From there it was on to Malawi, where she spent two years serving villages in a 150-square-mile area.
Sister Sara's bus
She was more than ready when she returned to Ruskin, where Catholic Charities was purchasing a bus to deliver medical care to the migrant missions across the county. There are volunteer physicians and USF students, but it is Sister Sara who four times a week drives the RV-size bus from Wimauma to Dover, Balm, northwest parts of the county and back to Ruskin. She treats all manner of problems, although many are irritations of the nose and throat from exposure to chemicals and dust in the fields.
She dispenses over-the-counter medication that most of the patients can't access.
It's good, tough work.
From the “Tampa Bay Online”