Concepción Valenzuela, 53, felt something lumpy on her right breast. She touched again. It hurt and was big. She was concerned but went to work at the restaurant.
Later that day she spoke with her daughter, who told her to go to the doctor. They both were afraid of the same thing, but neither wanted to say the words.
"Which doctor?" said Valenzuela. "I don't have a doctor! And I don't have the money either!"
But Lida, Valenzuela's daughter, was not about to give up. "We'll find one. I'll help you pay for it."
One problem, Lida did not know where to look for that either. So she called her own doctor, who told her there were clinics and health centers with programs to provide free and low cost mammograms and medical care in general. The doctor gave her one number to call: 1-800-444-6472.
When Lida dialed the number, she did not know where she was calling, but a friendly voice on the other side asked how can she help and she went right on to the point:
"I think my mom has breast cancer. She doesn't have a doctor or insurance. She doesn't have money to pay out of pocket. Somebody said you can help. Can you?"
The Information Specialist on the other side of the line perceived the desperation on the caller's voice, and proceeded to reassure her that there are ways to get her medical care.
"Who diagnosed the breast cancer?" asked the Information Specialist.
"Nobody! I think she discovered a huge lump on her breast," said Lida.
"So, she has not seen a doctor?"
"No," said Lida.
"Ok, then we have to start there. She needs to go to the doctor. You may be worrying for no real reason. Where does she live? Can you give me her Zip Code so I can locate the health center closest to her home?"
"Queens, New York. I don't know the zip."
"It doesn't matter."
"Does she speak English or prefer Spanish? Will she prefer a woman doctor? Does she have Medicaid or Medicare? Has she applied for it?"
The Information Specialist walked Lida through the process and offered to mail a couple of publications in Spanish about breast cancer for her mother and some for Lida in English.
Using the Community Health Center Locator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), she gave Lida the information on three clinics in the area that provide services; one offers free mammograms for uninsured women. The Information Specialist insisted in faxing that information to her office, to guarantee the accuracy.
Lastly, she told Lida to give the number 1-800-444-6472 to her mother in case she runs into trouble or need any clarifications.
"But my mom doesn't speak English," replied Lida.
"No es problema…Yo hablo español," said the Specialist.
"Wow! Sorry to ask, but what is this place?" asked Lida a bit surprised.
"Well, we are the Office of Minority Health Resource Center. We are your guide to better health. Actually, I'll mail you something about us too, so you can pass it around to your family and friends. We are the only number you need to remember for health information, so call us at 1-800-444-6472."
"You bet I will!" concluded Lida. "Thanks so much!"
A couple of weeks later the OMHRC received a nice postcard from Lida Valenzuela. It reads:
"Thank you so much again for your help. My mom went to the clinic and our fears were confirmed: she has breast cancer. But they referred her to a specialist and are also working on treatment alternatives. It seems we caught it a bit too late…I wish we had known about OMHRC before. Now, I pass your number around to everyone. Your service was awesome, Muchas gracias."
OMHRC: We are here to help you.
Call us at 1-800-444-6472 or visit www.omhrc.gov.
Isabel M. Estrada Portales is the OMHRC Director of Communications.
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