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Humberto’s Story

Project Access Patient

“I am very satisfied with Project Access because they coordinated finding a specialist for me, which I would never have been able to find or afford by myself. Project Access returned my hopes.”

Originally from Ecuador, Humberto has lived in our community for 11 years.  He works as a painter and enjoys lively conversation with his co-workers, family, and friends.

Since coming to the United States, Humberto has faced cultural, linguistic, and economic barriers to accessing medical care. When a lesion developed on his vocal chords, making it difficult to speak, he didn’t know where to turn. “When I first found out about my diagnosis I was confused and upset,” Humberto recalls, ”I thought that I will not have any chance of getting better, and I thought my life will end because I would not be able to speak again.”

The problem started as occasional hoarseness, but grew steadily worse until Humberto could barely speak. As it became harder and harder to communicate, his anxiety over losing his voice intensified until eventually a friend referred him to Holy Cross Clinic in Gaithersburg, where he learned about Montgomery Cares—a public-private partnership that provides primary and preventive care to low-income, uninsured adults in Montgomery County, including people who are not eligible for coverage under other state and federal health insurance programs.

As a patient at Holy Cross Clinic in Gaithersburg—a clinic participating in Montgomery Cares—Humberto was quickly referred to Project Access to receive specialized attention for his vocal cord lesion. Project Access is a specialty care referral network administered by the Primary Care Coalition, and composed of a dedicated group of health care specialists, local hospitals, and diagnostic facilities. The Project Access staff triaged his case and put him on the waiting list to receive treatment from a volunteer Ear Nose and Throat specialist.

The demand for specialty care from Project Access is high, and so Humberto had to wait three months before he could be seen by the specialist. “I could hardly speak and it was very frustrating for me,” said Humberto, reflecting on the suspenseful wait time between his referral and his first appointment, “but I knew that three months is the time frame to see a volunteer specialist…and I was happy to know a specialist could see me.”

Finally Humberto was seen by an ENT specialist and underwent surgery to remove the lesion in his larynx. In the lead up to the surgery Project Access staff worked with a local hospital to secure an operating room, and coordinated with the surgeon’s office and testing centers to make sure that all of the necessary pre-operative tests were done.

Now that he has is voice back, he is singing the praises of Project Access.

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