OUR STORY Midlands

With no access to adequate healthcare, extreme tooth pain and the inability to speak English, a 3rd-grade student at Brennen Elementary School in Columbia desperately needed assistance.

In October of 2018, Healthy Learners Midlands staff first met the young boy after a referral from the school nurse due to extreme tooth pain. The staff escorted the student to his first dental visit where he was diagnosed with 11 cavities resulting in an immediate extraction of one primary tooth. With many of his teeth too decayed to save, Healthy Learners staff spent the next 14 months transporting him to numerous dentist appointments for multiple tooth extractions, fillings, crowns, and a pulpotomy.

With one last dentist appointment left to address the final few cavities, Healthy Learners Midlands Program Manager, Melanie Alphin, received an emergency call from his school nurse who suspected he was suffering from a left eye infection. He had visible swelling and redness around the eye and needed to see a doctor quickly in order to attend a class field trip to Charleston the very next day. Before calling Healthy Learners the nurse contacted the student’s father who was at work and unable to leave and his mother who did not have any transportation. The nurse knew that Healthy Learners Midlands was providing dental services for this student and hoped they could assist and also provide medical care assistance.

This field trip was a big deal for the student because he had never been to Charleston. Melanie knew this was an opportunity the student could not miss. She dropped everything and reached out to Healthy Learners Midlands’ partner, Five Points Pediatrics, for a same-day walk-in appointment. She picked the student up from school, transported him to the appointment where he was diagnosed with a left eye infection, filled his prescription, obtained doctor’s clearance to attend the field trip, and transported him back to school.

With his eye on the mend and a pain-free mouth, the student was able to visit Charleston and see the ocean for the very first time!

In addition to health issues, this student did not speak English and faced a language barrier when communicating with teachers and healthcare providers. With a growing Hispanic population in the Midlands, there are many other children facing this same challenge. This led to Healthy Learners Midlands hiring a bilingual Student Service Coordinator, Yesenia Bunting, to help remove the language barrier to health care for this child and many others in the community.

During a recent dental appointment, the young boy eagerly told Melanie about the field trip and described how he had not only been able to see the ocean but to touch it!

Defining moments like this is what Healthy Learners Midlands strives for – to bring a glimpse of hope to a child’s life. Access to healthcare is directly linked with success in school, and inadequate medical attention for this third-grader could have prevented him from engaging in learning with his class on their field trip. We are so excited about this student and the bright future ahead of him.

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