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Manassas free clinic is lifeline for sick

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He came to the clinic hungry, dressed in worn clothes. He was sick and tired of trying to manage his diabetes. He felt so overwhelmed he wept in the doctor’s office. So the Mother of Mercy Free Clinic in Manassas gave him food, clothing and medical care. 

“He needed a lot of care, and he got it,” said volunteer Anne Geiran. “He was so grateful and he made us all cry with his gratitude. He was a beautiful example of how this clinic is helping. He gets holistic (care) here.”

Diocesan Catholic Charities’ Mother of Mercy Clinic, which opened last year, serves nearly 500 uninsured or underinsured residents of the Manassas area. They provide primary care two days a week and offer specialty care three days a week, said Clinic Director Alexandra Luevano. 

The clinic runs with the help of nearly 200 registered volunteers from nurses, physicians and translators, to specialists such as cardiologists, a chiropractor and a physical therapist. “I’m excited about the way the clinic has grown in just a short period of time,” said volunteer Barbara Vassallo.

As a nurse practitioner, Vassallo is able to assess symptoms, physically examine patients and diagnose illnesses. She may prescribe medication, send patients to get lab work, or refer them to a specialist. That’s where volunteers such as Geiran come in. As a dietician, she works a lot with diabetic and prediabetic patients, both individually and during monthly classes. “To really change their lifestyle takes a lot of care and follow up,” she said. 

Geiran and Vassallo, parishioners of All Saints Church in Manassas and St. Thomas à Becket Church in Reston, respectively, both enjoy volunteering. “The ability to be able to use my nursing education and practice experience in helping the less fortunate was like God's blessing,” said Vassallo. She also is glad the clinic works with Catholic Charities to tackle other problems the patient may be experiencing, such as food insecurity. “It’s a very much a team approach to try to address all their needs,” she said.

Geiran describe her time at the clinic as “fantastic. It's a very beautiful, loving environment. The patients have said to us that they feel very loved here. I'm like, why doesn’t my husband get this good care?” said Geiran. “We do it for Christ and it’s a great privilege. It's not hard at all — I run here.”

Barbara Vassallo, a nurse practitioner, volunteers at the Mother of Mercy Free Clinic in Manassas.  ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

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Miguel Hernandez, 45, was one of the clinic’s first clients. By happenstance, he and his wife were driving by on opening day and stopped in. Hernandez, who works as a bricklayer, doesn’t have insurance. Whenever he fell ill, he would buy whatever medicine or supplies he could from the local drug store. 

A few years ago, he was injured on the job and received a year of workman’s compensation. Then he was on his own. Sometimes, his aching was so acute that he would come home and just lay on his bed, unable to get up unless aided by his wife. The ibuprofen he took barely made a dent in the pain.

At Mother of Mercy, he saw an orthopedic doctor for his back pain, and learned he also had high blood pressure and arthritis. After treatment, he’s feeling much better.  “I don’t have a lot of words, but the help has been tremendous,” he said through a translator. He and his wife told several of their friends and relatives about the clinic and they now go, too.

 “Can you imagine how we would be if we didn’t have this?” he said. “Thank you for everything and may God pay you back, because we can’t.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018