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Rotacare's Medical Volunteer of the Year: Gloria Grafer

Gloria Grafer, a lifelong resident of Port Washington, was honored recently at the Fifth Annual Rotacare Dinner as one of Rotacare's Medical Volunteers of the Year.

Mrs. Grafer explained that the mission of Rotacare is to help those in greatest need. The organization facilitates free health care for the relief of pain and suffering to those who have great need and the least access to medical care. Initiated by members of the Mineola-Garden City Rotary Club in 1992 and working with representatives of the INN, the Rotacare medical facility doors opened in July 1993. At Rotacare, patients receive a full range of free primary and secondary care: medical, nursing, lab and pharmaceuticals. The entire medical staff is volunteer. Since 1993, 4,000 patients have received treatment for problems ranging from insect bites to life threatening illnesses.

Reflecting on the personal satisfaction she gets from volunteering her services to Rotacare, Mrs. Grafer said, "Rotacare patients are treated with respect, love, kindness and professionalism. The physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses do their best to treat the whole person, knowing full well that most of their patients' primary concerns are food and housing. For them, medical care is a luxury and suffering is accepted. How our patients persevere with physical and emotional pain is beyond my understanding. We learn valuable lessons from them every day."

Mrs. Grafer tells of a young mother who came to Rotacare holding the hand of her 3-year-old, while carrying her crying 11-month-old. "The mother's face told us she had endured many days and long nights with her sick baby," she said. "A physician examined the baby, ordered the needed medication, gave the 3-year-old little girl a lollipop, hugged the mom and assured her all would be better soon," she reported.

Another gratifying experience came when a man came to Rotacare after years of eye problems, says Mrs. Grafer. The physician treated his eyes, then referred him to one of the referral physicians in the area, free of charge. Two weeks later he returned to the clinic to thank everyone for helping him. "It was like a New Year's Eve celebration. He was smiling from ear to ear, shouting thank you, I can see. I can see. It was a major "tissue" moment for all of us," Gloria says.

Always working to improve the care the patient at Rotacare receives, Gloria adds, "If this work interests you, if you are an MD, NP or RN with a few hours to donate each week or month, please call me at 627-4997. We are especially in need of a social worker, Spanish interpreters and physicians to donate their excess medical samples and pharmaceutical manufacturers or distributors to donate needed medications, particularly insulin."

Gloria has an R.N. master's degree. She is married to her husband Dick. They have three grown children: John 28, Paul 23 and Lauren 19.

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