Early Friday morning the Remote Area Medical clinic in Wise County, Virginia opened its doors. Thousands of people are expected to get free health care over the next three days.
The Wise County Fairgrounds resembled a campground early Friday morning as people from all over the region gathered to wait for their chance to be seen at the Remote Area Medical clinic.
Some spent the rainy night in tents, others like Bobby Lamb in their cars. "[My son] wanted to go camping. I said well, we'll take the van to RAM and we'll go camping and sleep in the van. He enjoyed it," Lamb explained.
As the sun came up the dental chairs were full of everything from cleanings to oral surgery, all taking place under a tent.
Melodie Sturgill was having teeth removed. She says she's been coming for the last four years. "I go for dental and vision. I've had my glasses made here for several years," she said.
Sturgill is one of thousands getting care at no cost. Volunteer coordinator Dr. Teresa Gardner explains how it works: "Everything is free. It is for the [uninsured,] the under-insured. People have such high co-pays and deductibles this day and time, and it's absolutely free, no strings attached. It is what it is, it's free," she said.
Dr. Gardner coordinates the event and helped bring RAM to Wise County 14 years ago.
"Patients can take great services," Dr. Gardener said. "[There is] so much to benefit them. The dental care, the cleanings, the fillings and extractions, the complete eye exam. You can go away with complete prescription glasses, and a host of medical services that can really be life-saving."
Over the weekend about 3,000 patients will be treated. Some treaments may even save lives.
"There have been so many severe cases. Some people are taken out to the ER on a daily basis. We have diagnosed everything from brain tumors to dissecting aortic aneurisms."
All of the work is being done by volunteers. It's an effort that takes about 1,500 people coming together to do the work at no cost.
Some of the volunteers at the event are students from Virginia Commonwealth University. They're dental students who came to help out and get some training for their careers.
The goal is to not only to let the students learn and help, but hopefully have them come back as dentists for help at future RAM events.