Surgery on Sunday: "We're serving a need that needs to be filled"

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - On a Sunday, inside a Lexington surgery center, at seven o'clock in the morning, there are 75 people working for free. "These people work every day in this field. This is what they do," explained Surgery on Sunday Clinical Coordinator Shirley Ramsey. Surgery on Sunday is a non-profit organization that provides essential outpatient procedures at no cost to people who are either uninsured or under-insured and do not qualify for federal or state assistance.

Kenneth Eades is too young for Medicare and said his insurance is too expensive. Doctors told him he would lose his sight within the year if he didn't have surgery. "Blindness," he told WKYT's Miranda Combs. "I mean, where was I going to come up with $30,000?" Eades' surgery wasn't a simple one. A surgeon was there just for Eades, to restore his fading sight.

The coordinator of Surgery on Sunday matches those in need up with the proper doctors and nurses to operate. The program has been around since 2005 and continues to grow. One Sunday a month, they do surgeries for people that can't afford insurance. "And even when they go to the emergency room for care and the hospital signs them up for healthcare; when they go home from that visit and the premium comes due and it's $500 to $700, to whatever amount it is, and they have to make a choice between paying the rent and buying groceries, or paying for the healthcare, they are going to pay the rent and buy the groceries," Ramsey explained.

On this particular Sunday in February, there were fifteen patients. Three were children. "We do have some kids that fall through the cracks and this is a great way to treat those kids," said UK Healthcare Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Joseph Iocono.

Five of the fifteen patients needed an interpreter. "The patients also have all these questions, and proper medical terminology is vital," explained Tony Reyes, a certified medical interpreter.

Dr. Iocono said about 20 percent of his practice is Spanish speaking. "I rely on the professionals who can get the messages to the families."

Dr. Iocono operated on a three year-old. His mother only speaks Spanish. "How important is it that he (the interpreter) is here?" asked Combs. "A lot. Totally. Because I'm more sure of what's going on with my son," she said.

It takes a total of 400 volunteers to keep Surgery on Sunday running. From doctors to interpreters to students. "We're serving a need that needs to be filled," said Ramsey.

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