Docs in a Box

These medicos make house calls, even when there's no house to call

No Tylenol.

No decongestant.

No cough syrup.

No over-the-counter medications at all. It's not in the budget. The patients can't get them at Parkland unless they are admitted.

Annie will continue to cough, spreading her germs to others in the shelter.

This Christmas, the 40 members of the HOMES staff did their usual holiday party. By tradition, they exchange white elephant gifts with each other and collect necessities such as OTC meds and socks. Some will sweep through a dollar-store to pick up pain and cough medications, sanitary pads and vitamins to build up a stockpile to hand out to their homeless clients.

Some, like Annie, are citizens of the street. Other patients are like the mother and four children who visit the brand-new van during a Thursday night clinic at Family Gateway. Aunesha, Christi, Porcha and Derrick are seen by nurse Debbie Phillips and Dr. Susan Spalding, a pediatrician who oversees the HOMES program.

The clinic does a lot of immunizations and physicals for children who stay at the Vogel Alcove, a day care for the homeless. There are children suffering from abuse or neglect, but for the most part, Spalding sees the usual childhood complaints: ear infections and lots of colds and fevers.

On this Thursday night, a father with a pre-teen autistic daughter comes aboard. The girl has a runny nose and congestion. After making sure the girl has no other symptoms, Phillips has to explain that they have no cough syrup, Children's Benadryl or even cough drops. He shrugs and eases his daughter outside.

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