Volunteers In Medicine HHI Patient Stories
Thank you for helping VIM to provide the quality healthcare that you and your family deserve.

Patient Stories

VIM HHI records close to 30,000 patient visits annually with an active patient base of 10,000 individuals. We always welcome those in need of health care to review the eligibility requirements and visit the Clinic during New Patient Registration times. Here are some of their stories:

William Drolshagen

To truly understand the impact that Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island has on the community, all you have to do is talk with William Drolshagen.

 

“I will tell you something,” William said. “If it wasn’t for these people, I would probably be dead. One of the things that has happened to me in the past 20 years would have killed me.”

 

William’s patient relationship with VIM began two decades ago following an accident in his kitchen left him badly burned. He dropped a dish he was cooking which hit the floor and splattered all over his leg. He wasn’t wearing anything on his lower legs and feet and suffered severe burns. Uninsured, he went to the emergency room, which referred him to VIM.

 

The doctors and staff from VIM went above and beyond immediately to make sure he received the care that he needed. “It was incredible,” he said. “Every week for a month or six weeks, somebody would come to my house to get me. I couldn’t drive. They would take me in to change my dressings. They made sure it was changed and that I always had fresh bandages. I honestly couldn’t believe their commitment to me—one patient.”

 

Over the years, William has faced many health struggles, and without fail, VIM has been there in his time of need. He was diagnosed with a hernia and VIM helped arrange for surgery for him at MUSC free of charge. On two separate occasions, he has also dealt with cancer scares.

 

When he was diagnosed with cancerous polyps in his digestive tract, VIM helped arrange surgery to have them removed. The surgery occurred within six months of diagnosis, which is frankly unheard of, even in private practice when the patient is already insured.

 

Last year, William contracted pneumonia which damaged his lungs. During treatment, more cancer was uncovered and VIM has facilitated treatment for that as well. In addition, he has always gotten assistance with prescriptions he needed—whether it was supplied by the clinic or not.

 

William also related stories of volunteers giving out of their own pockets to help pay for medications. “You really can’t believe what these people do. They’re there on their day off or their retired and giving so much of themselves, personally.”

 

William said that people need to donate to VIM. “Almost all the workers are volunteers and they get no money from the government at all,” he said. “I love that. The people give their time and the community helps fund the clinic. They have dances and auctions and fundraisers. They really deserve our support.”

Vince Green

The doctors at the Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island clinic are there for patients facing different types of medical issues. It could be as mundane as the common cold, or as serious as a heart attack.

 

Vince Green suffered a cardiac incident several years ago, and was treated at Beaufort Memorial Hospital in Beaufort. After he was discharged from the hospital, he was looking for follow-up care. Since his wife works in the Hilton Head area, he was eligible to be a patient at VIM. Over the past three years, he has been receiving after care for his heart condition.

 

“I have had some chest pain, but they were able to get me medicine to help treat it and it went away,” he said. “It comes back every once in a while but overall it is much, much better.”

 

He sought out treatment after his heart attack, because he “felt like he was too young to have gone through something like that.” Now, he’s in much better help thanks to the doctors and other patients at VIM.  Vince said that one of the most impressive and important things about the care he has received is the level of respect he receives from the volunteers at VIM.

 

“I’m so happy to be a part of the clinic because they make you feel better and give you more respect than a lot of other places will,” he said. “Sometimes you go to different places and maybe you feel like they look down on you because of your circumstances. That’s not how it is here. They make you feel welcome and they take care of you. I get all my medications from them and they treat me like I am special. They treat everybody that way.”

 

That’s why he said that anyone who has the ability to support the clinic with a financial donation, in-kind donation or as a volunteer. “The people here are just amazing,” he said. “It’s better than any other place I have gone to.”

Aurora Arevalo

Aurora Arevalo’s journey to Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island began in Mexico over a decade ago. When she lived in Mexico she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Once in remission she was required to have follow-up appointments every six months—very expensive follow-up appointments.

 

Aurora was shelling out thousands of dollars for each of these appointments and they led her to financial ruin. She lost her house, and had to borrow money from her brother to help pay for the treatments. Eventually he could no longer afford to help pay for her care either. At that point in time, she made a very difficult decision to leave her family.

 

“My brother told me that if I was going to be able to pay him back, I would have to move to the United States,” she said. She wound up in the Hilton Head area and was looking for a way to continue with her post-cancer treatments. Her journey took her to VIM HHI.

 

Now, she has all the follow-up care she could ever ask for and she’s never required to pay a dime. “I have been coming for 10 years and I am able to have all my appointments and get all my medications and they are all donated,” she said. “I also had another tumor and they were able to arrange a surgery and have it removed and I didn’t have to pay. I also have a daughter who’s a patient. She has asthma and gets all her medications delivered to our home free of charge,” through a charity prescription service.

 

Finding the clinic after a scary journey to a new country has been a Godsend, she said. “I feel so safe and so happy,” she said. “It’s been a big blessing for us and people should support the clinic in any way that they can. It really helps people like me. I don’t make a lot of money but I don’t have to worry about my medical care.” This has been a life-saving journey for Aurora.

Sterlin Colvin

A few years ago, local musician Sterlin Colvin found himself falling on hard times—literally. Out of work, he lost his house and health insurance. He was able-bodied as well until an unexpected injury derailed his life even further.

 

“It was a freak accident,” he said. “A guy bumped his knee into my knee. I thought it was sprained.”  That’s where Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island entered the story. He went to VIM and they X-rayed it, and put it in a soft cast. After Sterlin went home, he was still in pain so he arranged to return to VIM for an MRI. That’s when things went from bad to worse.

 

“I was on crutches and the crutches got caught in the sidewalk,” he said. “I fell down and tore up my other leg even worse.” What was originally thought to be a sprained knee was finally diagnosed as a detached quadriceps. The fall resulted in the same injury in both of his legs. He found himself wheelchair bound. But thanks to VIM, Sterlin is back on his feet.

 

“Let me tell you something about the people at VIM,” he said. “They worked tirelessly for me. They went above and beyond. They worked it out so that I could get the surgery that I needed.”

 

Though he was confined to the chair for seven months, he is now back on his feet, performing gigs. Even though he is not running anywhere yet, he goes to the gym regularly and is building his strength. Sterlin knows who he has to thank for that—VIM.

 

“The process was so easy,” he said. “They didn’t make me go through a hard process to get their services.”  He said he considers it a miracle that VIM was there when he needed it. “I probably would have been in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” he said. “I didn’t have insurance. I had no way to get insurance. It’s a miracle that they were able to patch me up like they did.”

 

Colvin added that he can’t overestimate the importance of supporting VIM. “Anybody who can give, should give. The people at Volunteers in Medicine really go out of their way to help you and they deserve any support that they can get. It makes a meaningful difference in people’s lives.”

 

VIM’s services are so vital, he said. As long as you meet the financial criteria you can get services through the clinic. A small donation is accepted for services, but nobody is turned away if they meet the criteria and don’t have the ability to pay. Donor contributions and different fundraising events throughout the year make that possible.

Ryan Liner

As a parent, nothing can be more upsetting or daunting than your child having a medical condition that professionals can’t seem to diagnose. Unfortunately, life’s not usually like an episode of the television show, “House M.D.,” where a team of brilliant physicians sit around brainstorming about what’s wrong with a patient. However, for Darbee Harrison and her son, Ryan Liner, Hollywood drama came close to their reality, thanks to Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island.

 

Darbee works for a medical clinic on Hilton Head and found out about VIM through her office, which has referred patients who could qualify for VIM’s services to the clinic. When her son was no longer eligible for health insurance and couldn’t afford monthly premiums, it appeared his health situation was dire. He was suffering from a yet undiagnosed malady.

 

Ryan sought answers from different hospitals, and underwent different diagnostic tests to no avail, until he went to VIM and brought the test results with him. Here, the team of doctors put their heads together and came up with a diagnosis, one that has turned out to be correct.

 

“They came up with a possibility of what it could be and put him on a medication and it seems like it’s working for him now,” she said. “All of these other doctors couldn’t figure out what’s wrong and the people at VIM were able to.”

 

The volunteer physicians at VIM Hilton Head Island are frequently retired doctors and specialists from some of the finest hospitals and practices in the country, and provide a quality of care that is hard to match, even at other medical centers and practices.

 

As Darbee said, it’s close to impossible to put a price on peace of mind. “I left the clinic crying happy tears,” she said. “Very often when a lot of patients are seen by a practice they can get lost in the shuffle. Yet, these doctors who are volunteers really took an interest in my son and his case and came up with his diagnosis.”

Jan Temple

Jan Temple is a perfect example of the type of person that Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island was created to assist. Temple, who was uninsured for many years, operates a bicycle rental business on the island. The service workers that help make vacationers experience on the Island are exactly the underserved population targeted by VIM.

 

Over the past dozen years, the clinic has been there for Jan in her time of need, most recently when he was diagnosed with breast cancer. VIM arranged treatments for Jan and helped her get help in other ways. One of those was a cancer support group that was formed at the clinic.

 

They meet monthly and Jan said that it has been wonderful for her to be able to connect with other people who have shared experiences. The group meets for lunch or in another setting and the members bond with one another. It’s just one example of how VIM goes the extra mile to provide assistance to its patients through its volunteers.

 

“Everyone who is there wants to be there,” Jan said. “They really demonstrate a level of caring that goes above and beyond what you would expect from anybody. I worked in a physicians’ office for 30 years and the level of commitment from the volunteers is greater than anything I have ever seen in private practice.”
The patients and volunteers often create personal connections with one another that extend beyond the clinic setting. “One of the staffers named Julie knew that my cat had died of cancer while I was being treated for breast cancer,” she said. “She took in two strays and held on to them while I got better and until I was ready to take care of them. Now I have adopted both of them.”

 

Jan said that different VIM staff members have given her their personal contact information and she has been able to reach out on different occasions for advice and other help. She lives on her own in the area with no nearby family.

 

“One Christmas Eve, a volunteer came by my house and gave be a basket of goodies,” she said. “I have lived in a lot of places—Atlanta, North Carolina, on the farm, but I have never seen the level of commitment of the volunteers at VIM. They deserve to live in paradise and they deserve the public’s support.”

Howdy Letzring

The level of commitment of the volunteer medical and lay professionals at Volunteers in Medicine Hilton Head Island is always evident to patients like Howdy Letzring, Howdy and his late wife, Jacqueline, have been patients at the clinic for over ten years.

 

Howdy said that the people at VIM helped him with his wife’s life and her recent passing. She had been under hospice care for quite some time and he thought there was a plan in place for after her passing. Life, as it frequently does, presented some complications.

 

He said that he and his wife had made arrangements to donate their bodies for scientific research. In the end, at the time of her passing, his wife was dramatically underweight, and therefore the organization that was going to accept the donation, was not able to do so. In a panic, Howdy contacted VIM, and representatives at the clinic were able to assist him with finding a company that provided compassionate, dignified funeral services.

 

That was just a culmination of the assistance VIM provided Howdy and his wife, Jackie. She became gravely ill several years ago. At that point he had to give up work to provide care for her. As a result, he had to forego his own health insurance. At that time, and ever since, the clinic was there, as it has been for so many, to take care of him in his time of need.

 

Those are just some of the reasons why Howdy believes that our community should support VIM wholeheartedly.

 

“If I ever came into some money one of the first things I would do would be to make a donation,” he said. “Imagine if somebody was able to just write a check for $100,000? It would make such a difference. You know the money is going to be used for the people that need it the most—the patients.”