Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dear friends,

I was in Seattle most of last week for my sister's wedding. To be honest, I needed the vacation!

When I left Cedar Rapids, I was so frustrated with our dental component - not the staff or volunteers, but specifically the extremely high no-show rate. In one week, every single dental clinic had at least one, if not two, patients simply not show up for their appointments. They all get reminder postcards, are required to confirm, and even receive reminder phone calls the day before - and then sometimes simply don't come. It's so frustrating to have a volunteer dental crew ready to help and sitting around doing nothing. There are so many people just waiting to be called.

Anyway, last week, I was ready to pack it in!

But when I got back to the office today, Michelle pulled me aside to show me before and after pictures of a few of our patients. "Look at these!" she said. "These patients can smile now." And as I looked at their new smiles, I realized that for THESE people we have made a big difference. Yes, every dental patient should show up for their scheduled appointment, but in the end lives are still being changed. And that's what counts.

Here is a before/after picture that just blows my socks off. This patient has a new upper partial denture; he'll get a lower denture in a few weeks. Can't you just imagine how much his life will be changed, simply by having a set of good-looking teeth?

And after!
In our line of work, it's important to focus on every success. That's something that can be easy to forget about in the day-to-day grind. But this patient - and many more like him - is a great success! Praise God for all the talented volunteers who make this possible, and the donors who fund it.

Thanks, and be well.

Sharon Patten
Executive Director

Friday, October 19, 2012

An afternoon at the dental clinic...

Dear friends,

As I write this, we are in the middle of a dental clinic. The patient is getting a full extraction, which literally means that the dentist is removing every single one of her teeth. She's not that old, friends - this breaks my heart.

And yet I am overwhelmed. First, I am amazed at the kindness of the volunteering dentist. This patient was understandably nervous, and he was so compassionate as he talked her through the procedure and gently explained everything he was doing. SHE has his attention, not just the teeth he is extracting.

And second, this patient still has the option of a full set of dentures. Anyone with dentures can tell you that they aren't ideal, but they are vastly better than a mouth filled with painful, useless teeth. One day, this patient WILL smile again. (And she'll never have to worry about cavities again!)

Our dental clinic has been open since February, and this has been and continues to be a learning year. For me, the biggest challenge is how to cope with the many names of people who need help now but won't get it for months. What do we tell them? All we can do is be compassionate, kind, and do our best to get to their name as soon as we can.

And we remember that every patient we help is someone who is getting the assistance they need. That is God's miracle for us - one person at a time.



PS- In the same clinic, another patient canceled, leaving the chair empty. It is a big challenge trying to fill a chair at the last minute! But praise God, we found were able to find a patient right away. She has been on the waiting list since May and was so excited to get our call! Praise God!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Healthy Living Program: Room taking shape!

Our renovation is almost complete! See the before and after pictures, above.

The kitchen and room will be used as part of the Healthy Living Program, starting soon. This program is designed to give our patients to education and tools they need to take charge of their health. We will have cooking classes geared specifically towards creating tasty, low-cost meals that are healthy.

All instruction will be by volunteers. Contact the clinic today if you (or a friend) are interested in teaching a Healthy Living Class! Some classes need experienced and knowledgeable educators, but for many classes we will give you the materials and training you need. Contact me if you're interested!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Health Care Reform: Upheld

Dear friends, This morning, in a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act. Now the question is: What does that mean for us?

We're not sure.

Like every free clinic around the country, the staff and volunteers at HH have been watching the ACA drama since it started in 2010. Obviously, this will affect us in a BIG way. Most of our patients still cannot afford medical insurance; they will simply be roped into an expanded Medicaid program. At that point, under the current Medicaid rules, our volunteer providers will be unable to treat them.

We're not sure what that means for us. Dental is not covered under the current Affordable Care Act, and neither is chiropractic care. We also know that there will be a lot of confused people thinking that they have free insurance somewhere but not sure how to access it. There will be a significant shortage of providers able to absorb the newly created patient volume. It will be messy.

How do we show the love of Christ in this mixed up situation?

Let me be clear, here. There is a lot of dissension surrounding Obama-Care - within clinic staff and volunteers, our partnering churches, even within some of our families. I think that disagreements like this are important, even healthy, in order to progress. But as a clinic, we have no official stance on health care. We simply want the best for our patients. We simply want to be where God wants us to go, speaking about His hope and love to everyone, insured or not. And what's great about His Hands is that we can unite behind that common goal and leave the politics behind.

So, what does the Supreme Court's decision mean for us? For the short term, very little. For all we know, it could be struck down tomorrow! And no matter what government does, there will always be people who fall through the cracks.

What it means is this: We pray, pray, pray for God's guidance - for us and for our government. And we keep moving forward.

His Hands on the news!

On KCRG last night... quick clip about His Hands!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Spirituality and Health

I listen to NPR every morning - and this morning, on my way to work, Talk of Iowa focused on spirituality and its affect on health. Apparently, a study done last year "found an 18% lower mortality level for patients who had higher rates of spirituality or religiosity." According to Charity Nebbe (and based on what I remember from the broadcast!), that's pretty close to the same percentage of benefit that you get with changes in your diet and exercise.

As Christians in healthcare, we KNOW that faith makes a big difference. We see it every day.

But it sure is nice to have some scientific support!

You can check out the broadcast here: http://news.iowapublicradio.org/post/religionspirituality-and-its-impacts-physical-health.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dental Grand Opening

Dear friends,

Last night, we had our Dental Grand Opening. What a great opportunity to share our new service with the community! We didn't have a lot of foot traffic - maybe 50 people total - but we had 5-6 dentists and several hygienists stop by. We're hoping that some of these professionals become volunteers. Praise God!

The Gazette did a great article about the event, and KCRG also ran a story about the new dental service on the evening news. Since then, our phones have been ringing non-stop with people wanting to get an appointment. We began Thursday morning with 120 people on our wait list - since then, we have added 50-60 more patients, all needing to see the dentist. Our waiting list is now 3-4 months.

The dental needs in our community are pretty dire.

Friends, it is hard to tell a person in pain that we won't be able to see them for 3-4 months, and yet - as I remind myself continually! - we cannot allow ourselves to become discouraged. Every person who gets an appointment gets the assistance they need - and hopefully they receive a small measure of God's loving presence and peace. Every patient who is put on our waiting list is given hope and assurance that one day they too will be given an appointment - and, hopefully, they too receive some comfort simply by sharing their situation with the staff or volunteer who takes their call.

Our God is bigger than the dental needs in our community. HE knows the need, and HE can meet it.

So, as I go home this Friday afternoon, after two long days of difficult and heart-wrenching stories, I have that hope: Our God is BIG enough.

Please keep this new clinic in your prayers. Pray especially for dentists, assistants, and hygienists.


Gazette article:


KCRG newscast: http://www.kcrg.com/news/local/Clinic-in-Cedar-Rapids-Opens-Free-Dental-Care-Facility-150116315.html

OR just go to our facebook site!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A thought for today....

Hello all,

As I write this, I can hear the pounding and thumping sounds of workers in the Fourth Bay (the un-renovated section of the building). They are tearing out old cabinets, taking down some walls, and basically gutting the entire area.

We are so excited to begin the program that goes in this room: the Healthy Living Program. I've blogged about this before, but in short it's a program that focuses on classes and education in an effort to encourage our patients to live healthier lives.

Honestly, sometimes I feel a little hypocritical when I promote this. Why should I encourage patients to make healthier choices when I know, for a fact, that my family doesn't? I have the same excuse that everyone have: life is so busy - who has time to exercise or eat healthier? It is very hard to make changes that focus on personal health - especially when you already have ingrained, unhealthy habits.

But here's the difference: when an insured person eats poorly and their health suffers (high blood pressure, acid reflux, weight issues, diabetes, etc.), they go to the doctor and are sternly told they need to change their habits, but in the end they receive what they need to manage those conditions: pills, insulin, etc. They can afford to be unhealthy, because their insurance will cover the gap.

For our patients, the uninsured,  the stakes are much higher. Bad habits lead to the chronic health conditions mentioned above; treatment for those conditions have costs that people without insurance simply cannot afford to pay while still meeting their other obligations (rent, utilities, food for the family, etc.). The clinic can fill the gap, to a point, but can't help in every case with every cost. But if the patient doesn't get the necessary treatment, the results can be very serious, even deadly.

We already know that changing one's lifestyle to be healthier isn't always fun, and it is never easy, but it is crucial in order to have a life that is less reliant on expensive maintenance medications. And that is why we are promoting this program.

Who knows? Maybe as a result, my family will begin to make healthier choices, too. Wouldn't that be a win-win??!

Prayer Requests for the Healthy Living Program:

  • that the renovations will go smoothly (and inexpensively!)
  • that patients will be eager to enroll
  • that we can find partners to teach classes/underwrite class incentives
  • that God will use the program to change lives

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fourth Bay Clean Up!

Last Saturday, Mar. 24, we had a group of people from Living Hope Wesleyan Church and some His Hands volunteers give up their Saturday morning to help us clean out our 4th Bay. This is the last part of the building to be renovated, and we are planning to put a basic kitchen and classroom space there for our Healthy Living Program.

You can see by the pictures that a lot of work was done! Some things were moved to the basement, some moved to storage, and others simply given away.

We are so excited about the Healthy Living Program. Too often, our providers end up treating patients for issues that could have been prevented, like high blood pressure, hypertension, and obesity. We also have found that there are few educational options for patients newly-diagnosed with diabetes. The Healthy Living Program will focus on preventing some of these diseases, and educating patients about diseases they have.

But the room has to be renovated first! So, a special thank you to everyone who helped out!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Miracles in the Dental Clinic

I wanted to share a small miracle that happened today.

We opened our Dental Clinic on Feb. 24, and since then we've had 7 clinics and assisted over 20 people with their dental needs. As I write this, we are finishing up a dental clinic in which both chairs are being used: one for the dentist for dental work, and the other for cleanings.

One thing we are learning is that with dental - even free dental - there is a high no-show rate. We confirm with patients one to two days before their appointment, and even call them if they are late on the appointment day - but still people simply don't show.

This morning, the last patient of the day didn't show. We called her, and she had completely forgotten. Janet, the supervisor for the morning, said 'okay' and started cleaning up the clinic.

A few minutes later, a man - Ted - walked through the doors. He was on the dental waiting list and wanted to know how much longer he had to wait. I gave him the standard spiel - 'We schedule according to need, our Dental Coordinator will give you a call' - and then asked what his need was. Ted shared that he had an abscess in one tooth, completely rotted out, and was in a lot of pain. He pointed to his cheek and said, "This area is completely hard. I just want to know what's going on."

I started thinking that we'd need to get him in the medical clinic, but then Bethany, the receptionist that morning, reminded me of the cancellation we just had. I tracked down Janet and asked if we could get Ted in. Right now, he is sitting in the chair, getting the assistance he needs.

How like God to take the inconvenience of a no-show patient and turn it into a blessing! And the blessing has been multiplied - Ted was blessed, I and the other volunteers were blessed by seeing everything work out, and hopefully now YOU are blessed by seeing God's hand at work.

Have a great weekend!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

State’s mental health reform may ease Linn’s budget woes

State’s mental health reform may ease Linn’s budget woes

Interesting article about mental health issues in Linn County. His Hands Clinic refers a lot of patients to the Abbe Center (referenced in the article). We have many patients come to us for depression and/or anxiety issues. Often, these patients need the ongoing care of a single psychiatrist, something we simply cannot provide at the free clinic. But we help where we can.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Dental Clinic - EVER!

It's official: His Hands now offers dental services!

On February 24, Dr. Akey (His Hands Dental Director) saw our first patient ever. (See above picture.) That day, he assisted 4 dental patients - and His Hands offered approximately $850 of services absolutely free of charge.

Praise God!

Michelle Retter (Dental Coordinator) and I taught a Sunday School class last Sunday (Feb. 26) about the need for dental in our community and country, and some of the statistics really surprised me. Did you know that 23% of adults in our country have untreated tooth decay? Tooth decay leads to abscesses (which bacterial infections in the center of the tooth), which are very painful. So, to extrapolate, 23% of adults in the US are either in extreme tooth pain or are headed for it. Wow!

And here's another not-so-surprising stat: 4 out of 10 hiring managers admit that a job candidate's bad teeth would influence their hiring decision. That's 40% of employers - and those are just the ones that admit it.

Bad teeth affect a person's health, job, and employment future. It's an area that desperately needs to be addressed.

In the grand scheme of things, our little clinic doesn't seem like much. But to the 4 people who got assistance last week, it meant a great deal. In our little corner of the world, we are doing what we can to help.

Please continue to pray for us: that we schedule the right patients, that we get the volunteers we need, that we find a steady funding stream for dental, and that the scheduled patients actually show up.

And.... if you're in the area, stop by! The clinic looks terrific.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dental starts next Friday!

"It's awesome!" That's what I heard Dr. Akey, Dental Director at His Hands, say when he came to do a walk-through with our new dental equipment. And he's right: it IS awesome!

Dr. Akey and our Dental Coordinator, Michelle, (both pictured above) have been hard at work to get everything ready to see patients. We are still waiting on one more letter of approval, and then we are good to go.

God has really confirmed this decision to start dental. At the beginning of January, we sent letters to area dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants, asking for volunteers. To date, we have heard back from 7 dentists and 1 oral surgeon, 8 hygienists, and 11 dental assistants. Wow!

Please keep this new ministry in your prayers. There are so many patients that need dental assistance - pray that God will lead us to the people that need the help most. Pray that we would find the volunteers that we need for the dental clinic, and that they would come when they are scheduled. Pray that we will offer the services that people need most, and that we will structure our program in the way that serves God - and our patients - best. And continue to pray for funding! Dental is an expensive undertaking.

Feel free to stop by see our new space!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Income Divide in Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Help Restore Fairness to the U.S. Health System - The Commonwealth Fund

Note: We are NOT wading into the debate about healthcare reform. But this article has some great statistics about the relationship between income and access to healthcare. (Did you know that 22% of adults with higher incomes (just under 400 percent of poverty, or $89,400 for a family of four) are uninsured???)

Obviously the article has a political slant, but it still contains some interesting stats for free clinics. Check it out:

The Income Divide in Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Help Restore Fairness to the U.S. Health System - The Commonwealth Fund


Monday, January 30, 2012

Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa Makes Donations to Area Free Clinics

Hello friends,

I reviewing my old emails, I saw this article about PCI's donation to Cedar Rapids free clinics. Their donation to us paid for our new dental unit (2 chairs, opening in mid-February). What a blessing!

Check out the article: Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa Makes Donations to Area Free Clinics

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Healthy Living Program

Dear friends,

Last week I met with Gary Witter, a contractor who sits on the His Hands board of directors, to talk about the renovation of the last chunk of our building. We call this space the '4th bay'. (Originally, the building was subdivided into four store-fronts. We've renovated the northern 3 'bays', but as you can see from the photo above, the '4th bay' is being used as a storage right now, and it is still pretty rustic!) Gary had some great ideas for how to maximize the space, and already I can see it starting to come together.

Cyndi and I have so many plans for this part of the building. There will be a big open space for orientations, meetings, and volunteer gatherings. it can also serve as an over-flow area for a future Physical Therapy ministry.

But what has us most excited is that the 4th Bay will give us space for the Healthy Living Program. This program focuses on educating our patients about how diet, exercise, and basic 'healthy living' can lead to healthier, productive lives. We want to help patients free themselves from monthly maintenance, learn how to control their diabetes, and find ways to take control of chronic illnesses.

In the back of the 4th bay, we want to put a basic kitchen, similar to what our patients have, so that we can have nutrition classes and teach patients how to eat healthfully within their budget. We are also thinking about how to implement a weight loss program similar to Weight Watchers - something that can encourage our patients and give them accountability.

This is such an exciting time, and I wanted to share it with everyone!

We are still waiting for some funding to come in, and of course every new program we add takes funds and staff time to implement. Please keep this renovation in your prayers!!

(Executive Director)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dental Coordinator

Please let me introduce myself. I am Michelle Retter, the new dental coordinator for His Hands Ministries. I am so excited to be a part of this ministry and use my skills as a dental hygienist. I have been a hygienist for almost 30 years and have mostly worked part time. I currently work for Dr. Tim Michels on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays and will be at His Hands on Tuesdays and Thursdays and some Friday afternoons.

I am married to Mark Retter and have 3 children--Ashley Parham (27), Brad Miller (24), and Dylan Miller (14). My daughter is married and lives in Marion. Brad lives in Des Moines, and Dylan is still at home.

I have been busy working on finding volunteer dentists and have a handful who are interested in helping out. We are waiting for the final touches to the units and are getting close to ordering all our supplies. Please pray that all the final details will fall into place. There is such need for this service as the medical clinic gets at least 2 calls a week with people who have tooth pain and infections.

I will update this to let you all know our progress and opening date.

Monday, January 9, 2012

God's Abundance!

Hello all,

Just another quick note to share that God has been gracious to us this year! We have had a lot going on - the capital campaign to move us into our new building, our actual move in August 2011, my leaving on maternity leave during November and December. In all of that, we have been simply trusting that God would take care of us financially.

And He has!

So far, end-of-year donations have added up to almost $70,000 - that's almost half of what we budgeted! I feel like these funds have already been spent - we have a new ministry (dental) to support, another staff person (the Dental Coordinator), more of the building to renovate, and so many projects to tackle. What a blessing!

Continue to pray for God's guidance and we seek out His paths for this ministry.


Sharon Patten
Executive Director

Dental at His Hands: Soon to be a reality!

Hello friends,

We've been talking for months now about adding dentistry to the list of services we can offer our patients, and I am so pleased to share that that will soon be a reality! Because of gifts from our donors and Physicians Clinic of Iowa, we were able to begin ordering dental equipment and furniture in early fall. Since then, we have hired a Dental Coordinator to oversee the new service and manage the volunteers. Above is a picture of the dental room so far.

As with our other ministries at His Hands, our Dental Clinic will be staffed entirely by volunteers. We are actively seeking dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants who can volunteer their time to make a difference. Also, we will need receptionists and prayer supporters at these clinics, and administrative volunteers to help with collecting data. There is a place for everyone!

We will try to update this blog often to keep everyone in the loop. God has been so good to us - and we like to share it!


Sharon Patten
Executive Director