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Clinic that provided needed care after Katrina still thriving with donations

by Meg Farris / Medical Reporter

Posted on August 27, 2010 at 6:05 PM

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After Hurricane Katrina, when people could not get back into the city for medical care they stopped off in Luling at a clinic where doctors from all over the country came in to help.

That clinic is still helping local patients with the kindness from outsiders.

The patients, who come to the St. Charles Parish Community Health Center in Luling, are still benefiting from a nonprofit humanitarian medical relief organization that came to help right after Katrina and never left.

“This has been a blessing beyond belief after Katrina. Everything was really, really bad and not long after that I was forced to retire with back problems and I lost my insurance for a period of time,” said John Wigginton of Hahnville.

Wigginton is one of the many patients who has benefited from the constant flow of medicines and medical supplies shipped in from Direct Relief International out of Santa Barbara, California.

The St. Charles Parish Community Health Center doesn’t know exactly how much they’ve gotten from Direct Relief, but they estimate it to be about $500,000 each year. So since Katrina, that would bring the supplies and medicines they’ve gotten from Direct Relief to $2.5 million.

“It’s been a constant flow of care from them for our patients and it’s been wonderful. We’ve had people break down and cry saying they didn’t know where else they could turn,” said the clinic’s Nurse Diabetic Coordinator, Peggy LaNasa Barrios.

Patients who have type-2 diabetes are learning to control it by going to classes. That’s where the donated blood sugar monitors have made a huge difference, especially to young children, allowing the medical team to keep track for their blood sugar.

“We’ve got 50, 60 pound overweight children that we’re looking at the signs and symptoms of diabetes. It’s a sad, scary realization that we need to make our public aware of, ” said Barrios.

Just last month, nine children were diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, the kind adults usually get.

“When we draw blood work, we’re finding a lot of the kids are having high cholesterol issues at 7, 8, 9, 10-years-old, a lot of pre-diabetic and a lot of kids that have shown up with actual diabetes that they had no idea they had,” said Michelle Comboy, a family nurse practitioner at the clinic.

And hundreds of thousands of dollars of hurricane medical supplies were shipped in, just in case there’s a storm in the future. Still, people come asking for treatment for depression from the past storms.

“You’ll see depression. We see a lot of behavioral health issues because of the trauma from Katrina. It’s not over and it never has been over. When people think that the water has receded and people come back and clean up, the emotional impact that this devastation has had five years later, our behavioral health department is exploding at the seams with patients that need to have emotional care,” explained Barrios.

The clinic in Luling takes patients on a sliding scale payment basis.

It’s for the uninsured, underinsured and people with insurance.

Link to national organization:

Link to the clinic:

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