April 29, 2016

Idaho Snowstorm Brings Patient to Free Clinic in Los Angeles

Paul Kincaid, a 75-year-old retiree living in the mountains of northern Idaho, never stays in motels.

But he had no choice when he got stuck in a snowstorm last February, so he reluctantly pulled into a motel parking lot.

Kincaid never watches television.

But he was bored in the motel room, so he flipped on the television set and saw Dr. Lela Lewis, president of Your Best Pathway to Health, and her husband, Chris, also a medical doctor, talking on 3ABN about an upcoming free mega-clinic in Los Angeles, California.

Kincaid rarely visits the doctor because of the cost, but this week he got a physical examination, an eye test, and other services from five Seventh-day Adventist doctors at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“It’s really unusual because I don’t usually stay in a motel, but I think God was leading,” said Kincaid, who took a bus to Los Angeles. “It was just that one night that I watched 3ABN and heard about this program. It’s awesome.”

Kincaid is among the thousands of people who have flocked to the sprawling convention center in downtown Los Angeles to receive free dental, medical, and vision services at the mega-clinic organized by Your Best Pathway to Health in partnership with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Boosted by local media coverage, the number of patients swelled to 3,334 on the second day, Thursday, after a total of 2,559 people received treatment a day earlier, organizers said. In all, 4,400 volunteers, including 2,500 medical professionals, still hope to provide $30 million worth of heathcare to 10,000 people by the time the event ends at midday Friday, said Costin Jordache, communication director for the event.

“We’re optimistic,” Jordache said. “Fridays have surprised us before!”

The mega-clinic, which was covered by Los Angeles media such as NBC television's local affiliate on Wednesday evening, made national television news on Thursday. CBS television featured it in a prominent report on its “CBS Evening News.”

Grateful patients, meanwhile, told of their faith being restored in both humanity and in God. At least one woman said she believed in God for the first time.

Read also: Crowds Line Up for Free Mega-Clinic in Los Angeles

Long Trip From Idaho

Kincaid, a lean man with rough, calloused hands and a white beard, may have traveled the farthest to reach Los Angeles for treatment.

Watching 3ABN, he scrawled down the telephone number that appeared on the screen, determined to learn more. 

He said he lacked the money and insurance to visit all the doctors that he needed to see, so a visit to the mega-clinic was just what he needed.

“I felt like I was falling apart at the seams,” he said.

Kincaid had to wait until his next trip down the mountain for supplies to find a phone signal that allowed him to dial the number on his cellphone. The person who answered gave him the details and prayed with him.

“I thought, ‘I got to find a way down there,’” Kincaid said. “I really couldn’t afford it.”

After making some more phone calls, Kincaid bought a roundtrip bus ticket for the 1,200-mile (2,000-kilometer) trip to Los Angeles. He arrived a day early and slept outside the convention center. He was among the first in line when the doors opened Wednesday.

Inside he met a nurse who had traveled even farther than him. While receiving treatment, Kincaid marveled that the nurse, Sanja Kitevski, from Australia, had traveled so far to volunteer at the event. But Kitevski, a soft-spoken woman with a kind smile, insisted that Kincaid was the real hero, making the long bus trip to southern California and roughing it once he arrived.

“He’s lovely,” she said.

One doctor told Kincaid that he would need follow-up care and connected him with an Adventist physician in southern Idaho who agreed to see him at no cost, Kincaid said.

He met Lewis and thanked her in person. Tears shone in his aged eyes as he praised God for the care that he had received.

“God had to have impressed me to be in that hotel at that very time when they were talking about this program,” he said. “Any other time I wouldn’t have been there.”

Mirian Munguia, left, praying with volunteers after receiving abdominal treatment. (Andrew McChesney / AR)

‘Angels From God’

Mirian Munguia, 34, learned about the mega-clinic on Facebook. But her responsibilities as a kindergarten teacher and single mother to two small sons, the younger of whom is deaf, seemed to rule out the possibility of getting away for long-delayed dental work.

On Wednesday morning, however, her elder son pushed her to go.

“Mommy, you always take care of us. Take care of yourself today,” the second-grader said.

Munguia wept as she recounted the conversation.

After arranging for her mother to watch the boys, she spent some time persuading her employer to give her the day off. Then she drove to the convention center from her home in Long Beach, California.

Long lines of people greeted Munguia’s eyes when arrived in the late morning. The dental line was the longest, and someone told her that no more patients were being admitted for the day.

Munguia headed forlornly back to her car. As she walked, sharp pains shot through her abdomen, a reoccurring problem since a major surgery a decade earlier. She clutched her side.

A man wearing a white coat appeared at her side.

“Where are you going?” he said. “Look you are already here. You are in pain. Just go back.”

He led her back to the convention center and to a different waiting line. She didn’t see him again.

“I believe he was a doctor because he had a white coat,” Munguia said. “But I don’t know who he was.”

But Munguia wasn’t convinced that she should stay. The waiting lines looked so long. As she was led from one line to another to register and then receive treatment, she resolved to leave as soon as she got to the next line. But a volunteer appeared at her side each time she took a step to depart, offering encouragement and conversation.

“These were angels from God,” Munguia said.

Doctors treated her and arranged for a follow-up procedure. Munguia planned to return the next day for dental work.

Michael Allen, right, posing with the dental team that fitted his new crown. (Andrew McChesney / AR)

Air Ticket Cheaper Than Crown

Michael Allen, 64, bought a round-trip plane ticket from Spokane, Washington, to find a dentist who would replace his temporary crown with a permanent one.

Allen, who heard about the mega-clinic from an Adventist friend, said he hasn’t held a steady job since losing his home and ventilation-inspection business in the 2007 mortgage crisis. A military veteran, Allen has government-supplied medical insurance but no dental coverage.

Allen, tall with glasses and a trim brown beard, determined to travel to Los Angeles.

The cheapest round-trip air ticket cost $177 — a fraction of the expense of a crown — and it brought him to Los Angeles on Monday, two days before the mega-clinic opened. Allen, probably the first patient to arrive, had no place to sleep and no money for a hotel.

“I thought, ‘When I get here, the Lord will provide a place,’” he said. “I actually just slept in the parking lot the first night.”

The second night, on Tuesday, Allen slept in a waiting line of several hundred people seeking dental services.

Allen received the permanent crown, and he hoped to also get a haircut and massage.

“I’m working very hard to get my life back together in Spokane,” he said. “It really feels good to get away for a while. I think that the help that I received here and the time away will let me restart my life with new energy.”

He expressed optimism that he would be able to get back on his feet after he flies home on Sunday.

“I lost my home and a lot of hope,” he said. “This has given me a lot of hope.”

Nattha Chuangohawala explaining why she has been crying all day. (Andrew McChesney / AR)

‘I Can’t Stop Crying’

Nattha Chuangohawala, 29, raged as she drove the 45 minutes from her home in Orange County to the Los Angeles Convention Center.

“I don’t believe that You exist, God,” she said angrily. “If You exist, prove it to me.”

Chuangohawala, a vacation-home cleaner from Thailand, had learned about the mega-clinic on Facebook and immediately dropped all her plans for the day. She desperately wanted to see a doctor after living eight years in the United States.

Raised in a Buddhist family, she didn’t believe in God. But she had sensed a connection with a Higher Power in recent weeks, and she wrestled over the existence of God as she drove to Los Angeles.

Chuangohawala had no idea who was behind the mega-clinic when she arrived.

“I thought it was from the government to help people,” she said. “I never thought it was from a church. My tears have been coming down all day.”

Chuangohawala, who received the sought-after medical assistance, said she was weeping over the unexplainable kindness of the volunteers.

“When I wanted to drink, someone said, ‘I’ll get some water for you.’ And I’m like, ‘Why are people doing this for me?’” she said. “When I was hungry, a wonderful lady brought me food.”

The mega-clinic provided drinking water and box lunches to patients.

“I have never had this experience before,” Chuangohawala said. “People have such kind hearts. It has really touched me. I can’t stop crying.”

Chuangohawala said she now wanted to find a way to help others as well. She asked whether it would be possible to volunteer at the mega-clinic. She said she wanted to learn about the God who had revealed Himself through the kindness of the volunteers.

“I feel a good spirit around here. That is why I have been crying all day,” she said. “Just today I have accepted God.”

Hope Channel is broadcasting a 30-minute daily news program with highlights from event at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, Wednesday through Friday. A special Sabbath program will air at 10:30 a.m. The programs can be viewed online at HopeTV.org.