When Dr. Harvey Lerner went to work Sunday morning, he didn’t pass the familiar potted ficus or the medical school diploma he keeps on his office wall.
In fact, there were no walls in the middle of Towne Avenue between 4th and 5th streets in downtown Los Angeles, only open tents where Lerner and other volunteers gave about 1,000 disadvantaged children medical attention that most families take for granted.
The 30 volunteer professionals brought together by the Fred Jordan Mission included pediatricians, optometrists, pediatric nurses, translators and an audiologist. They conducted health screening for families that can’t afford or don’t know where to go for checks of blood pressure, respiration and temperature--or free vaccinations.
One mother, who lives in a hotel, told a registered nurse that she only sought medical care when her children were sick, and on those occasions she took them to emergency rooms in county hospitals.
“There isn’t much money left for doctors’ checkups after these people pay the rent,” said Tom Jordan, son of the late founder of the Fred Jordan Mission. He said many of the families live in hotels on small government stipends, or on the streets.
“My 2-year-old daughter is safe,” he said, but “these kids will go back from here to the streets.”
Lerner, a Kaiser Permanente specialist in chemical dependency, said the health screening was not just “to find sick kids, but to get healthy kids involved in the county health structure.”
Registered nurse Peggy Wolfe checked off the minor complaints she had seen. “There are some rashes and things, a foot problem, an ear problem,” Wolfe said.
When the professionals encountered a more serious problem, they gave parents written referrals for free treatment at Los Angeles County health-care facilities.
Registered nurse Satguru Kaur Khalsa made one such referral for a child. She told the boy’s mother that the blackened, stitched cut in a finger needed fresh bandaging.
She told the child’s mother through a translator to use a plastic bandage that she offered. “It keeps the dirt off better.”
Although mission officials turned away no one, the targets of Sunday’s annual health screening and festival were homeless mothers and their children.
The long lines of waiting mothers and children didn’t discourage Dorcea Mayden, 33, who has lived downtown since June, 1979. “It’s beautiful,” said the woman who lives at the Alexander Hotel with her sons, Abraham, 11, and Gabriel, 9.
“They treat you good here,” said 12-year-old Salvador Medina of Los Angeles, who lives with his mother, two sisters and a brother in a one-bedroom apartment. But what most excited Medina were side attractions that included singers, free pizza, carnival games and pony rides.