In early March, Mission of Mercy volunteer physician Dr. Carie Barlow saw a new 57-year-old patient who had been experiencing abdominal pain for about a year and had a history of kidney stones. He was also found to be hypertensive and was prescribed medication to treat this chronic condition. When the patient returned to review his lab results two weeks later, our clinic had shifted to a prescription-refill-only model because we needed to protect our volunteers – many of them with underlying health conditions – and keep them safe at home.

Dr. Barlow’s dedication to our patients is truly above and beyond. She could tell the patient was experiencing a moderately severe amount of abdominal pain and wanted to avoid a costly – and potentially hazardous – ER visit at the time of COVID-19. She donned her personal protective equipment and provided a basic physical exam in the parking lot and took his blood pressure. She was also able to access his lab results online, which showed some abnormal results, including high levels of calcium. His physical exam indicated that he also had fluid in his abdomen, likely from liver disease. 

Dr. Barlow started the patient on diuretics to decrease the amount of fluid in his abdomen, which provided pain relief. She also ordered a low-cost ultrasound of his abdomen, which showed a blockage of his left ureter and complete replacement of his left kidney by complicated cysts. She called the patient with the results and referred him to Maricopa County nephrology. 

At that time, she found out that the patient had lost his job and his wife had also been laid off due to COVID-19 closures. The stress of the situation resulted in a tearful conversation over the phone, and Dr. Barlow provided moral support and community resources for them to pursue. They were extremely grateful for Mission of Mercy’s help during this difficult personal time that has been compounded by the pandemic. Dr. Barlow will continue to follow up with him to ensure he gets the care he needs. 

Stories like this are the heart of Mission of Mercy, providing compassionate care to our community’s most vulnerable when they need it the most. We are eternally thankful for all of our volunteers who, like Dr. Barlow, dedicate their time and talents to restoring the health of those less fortunate.