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Milpitas: Tzu Chi free winter health clinic helps fill medical care gaps

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MILPITAS — Michelle Mauldwin has chronic migraines, but hasn’t had much luck in easing the pain with the help of doctors through her Kaiser medical plan.

“It’s pretty bad,” she said Sunday. “I just want to try to do whatever I can to prevent them.”

So the San Jose resident decided to explore different kinds of treatments, and came to the Tzu Chi Foundation’s winter community outreach health clinic in Milpitas, one of three similar clinics the international nonprofit puts on annually here.

“I’m excited to see all the different people in one area,” she said of the clinic.

In one low-slung building along sleepy Dempsey Road, the foundation brought together dozens of volunteer health professionals — nurses, dentists, eye doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors and even podiatrists — to offer free medical consultations, flu shots, and other basic treatments to anyone who walked through the doors.

Mauldwin wanted to see if acupuncture or acupressure might relieve some of her pain.

“I’ve seen a lot of doctors and nobody has been able to help me so far with traditional methods,” she said.

The Northern California chapter of the Tzu Chi Foundation – which was started in Taiwan by a Buddhist nun – runs similarly wide-open events at least once a year in cities all over the region, including Oakland, San Francisco, Merced and Sacramento, and also offers twice-monthly dental and acupuncture clinics at its Milpitas location for low-income people.

Many of the people who come to get treatments or evaluations are under-insured or don’t have insurance at all, and may not have seen a medical professional for a long time, Sherry Shih, the chapter’s spokeswoman said.

Ian Krajcovic, a registered nurse volunteering Sunday at the clinic, said he used to be uninsured and knows how valuable a service the clinic can be for folks who need to get a check-up, especially for people with risk factors like high blood pressure they may not know about.

“To be able to negate it earlier, stop it earlier, to prevent heart attacks and strokes,” he said.

In one fluorescent-lit room with narrow tables in a row and chairs on either side, people of all ages got their blood pressure checked, while volunteer nurses helped them fill out medical history forms. In another room next door, finger-prick blood samples were taken to measure blood sugar levels, where nurses like Krajcovic discussed ways to avoid diabetes or pre-diabetes with patients.

In a larger waiting room, doctors of all kinds were set up at tables around the perimeter, where patients could go through a medical cakewalk of sorts, and leave feeling more informed about their health, and sometimes even relieved of pain, like Thanh Nguyen, 55, of San Jose.

Nguyen came with his family, and got a dental cleaning in a mobile dental RV in the parking lot, and got an eye exam.

His daughter Jasmine, translating for him, said it’s been hard to find a good dentist with her father’s Medi-Cal insurance.

But Nguyen’s real problem was the shooting pain and numbness in his right arm. Jasmine said he came to see a chiropractor about the pain, because other doctors hadn’t been able to help him with it.

After just a few minutes in the private treatment area, Nguyen said his arm was already feeling better.

“The way that he treated me, I feel confident in it,” Nguyen said through his daughter.

The clinic also offers translators for many languages including Vietnamese, Spanish, and Cantonese, Shih said.

However, in the last year or so, with possible changes to the federal government’s “public charge” laws looming, and the Trump administration’s threats to undocumented immigrants, Tzu Chi volunteers said they have seen fewer Spanish-speaking patients coming in to use the free services, likely due to fear of deportation.

Shih made it clear the organization only asks for basic identification — not any kind of immigration paperwork — and does not share any information outside the clinic, and encouraged all who need medical help to come participate.

“It’s very important,” Shih said of the free services the clinic offers. “We are bringing health information, consultation, and treatment to the community because we want to bring up their awareness of their health.”

If they have more information about their health, they can be more aware of their health condition, and take good care of themselves.”

Source: East Bay Milpitas: Tzu Chi free winter health clinic helps fill medical care gaps

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