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A Child's Ear Surgery, A Family's Migration: Health Network in Action

Young girl gets ear inspection


By Luis Retta, Health Network Associate

[Editor’s Note: Migrant Clinicians Network’s Austin office -- a house converted to office, really -- lies south of the river, with a view of Lady Bird Lake, where for decades, we’ve watched the changing downtown skyline. Right off the kitchen, there are five desks arranged around a room painted ocean blue. Phones are ringing, and faxes are pouring in, and Health Network Associates are on their headsets and typing notes into the database. This small room is where our Health Network Associates are doing something that no one else in the world is engaged in: they find health care for people who need it but can’t access it because they’re on the move. Whether patients are moving to a nearby town or to the other side of the world, whether they’re moving once or every three weeks for work, Health Network will find a clinician who can help them at their next location. For any health condition that requires follow-up care -- be it an earache, a pregnancy, TB, or cancer -- Health Network Associates are ready to bridge the gap.  Amplify our efforts this week: Support Health Network through #AmplifyATX, today through March 1st. Learn more and donate now at]

While Health Network is available for any patient regardless of age, sex, race, or ethnicity, and for any health condition, it’s rare that we receive an enrollment for a young child. This case is about Gina*, a brave seven-year-old who has grown up her entire youthful life so far only knowing the life of a migrant. Both of Gina’s parents are mobile seasonal workers; their medical records show their pattern of travel, from one Southeastern state to another, as they follow the availability of work.

Last year, Gina and her family relocated from Georgia to North Carolina, where her parents brought her to a local health center for an earache. She was only five years old.  It would turn out that Gina would need surgery on her right ear.  Gina was first enrolled into Health Network by her health center. We spoke with Gina’s parents, determined where they were next moving, and were then able to help find a surgery team at her next location, and we sent Gina’s medical records to a hospital in Virginia, where her family was next planning to move. This helped ease the transition from clinic to hospital after the appointment was made to have her surgery. This was especially important due to the fact that the family had plans to travel and would have to do the surgery in another state.  With this prompt response from Health Network to set the appropriate appointments and to maintain a consistent follow-up between the physician and the patient, Gina was able to successfully undergo treatment for her condition.


MCN Chief Medical Officer meets with HN associate

[ MCN's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Laszlo Madaras meets with Health Network Associate Nestor Reyes ]

Not much over a month later, Gina’s mother informed me that the family was now in Florida. The constant moving is definitely a factor for post-op care but wasn’t a choice for Gina and her family to make. Gina would have to follow along with her parents as her parents worked in order to maintain a safe and sound environment with basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter. The most important and crucial part, however, was the great job the parents did to seek out the appropriate resources for follow-up care.  The parents understood that Health Network was a reliable resource and they used it so. Gina’s mother and father were great at providing the Health Network team with updates on both Gina’s condition as well as their whereabouts, if they were not in Virginia to follow up with the hospital where she had surgery.

After a successful initial surgery and post-op follow-up, Gina now has a cochlear implant in the treated ear. Furthermore, the parents are confident enough now to not currently need Health Network’s assistance with being able to set appointments for Gina when needed. Should the time ever arise, however, the parents feel a little more at ease knowing we are only a phone call away in order to assist, should there be anything that we can help Gina and her family with. Our goal is definitely to be able to guide parents, or any other patient for that matter, to be able to be a little more worry-free about if and where they will be able to see someone for medical care.

Help Luis and our other Health Network Associates link patients like Gina to care: Donate to MCN today.

*Names and locations have been changed to protect the patient’s identity.

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