Champions for Health


As the mother of a son in remission from leukemia, Karla was a fierce advocate for her son, and was present when he rang the bell to celebrate the completion of treatment. However, advocating for herself was a different story. Karla was feeling pain and swelling in her hands and legs since 2019, but she always thought that in comparison to her son, her pain was nothing.

It was not until 2021, when treatment for her son was completed, that she realized that the emotional relief she felt did not lead to physical relief. “I thought everything bad that I felt was because of stress – I had a lot of swelling and redness moving up my legs.” Karla says her legs looked like she had red boots on, with continuous pain and easy bruising. “If I hit myself on something that would cause quite a bit of pain. Even a hug would hurt… a hug from my daughter at one time felt like someone hitting me with a hammer.”

One physician recommended ibuprofen, which did not help. Karla was feeling more and more desperate and saw another physician with whom she shared that her mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Additional tests confirmed inflammation and arthritis. She was so happy to have a doctor who listened to her and respected her.

Since Karla was uninsured, she was referred to Project Access at Champions for Health for her specialty care appointment with a volunteer rheumatologist. Karla recalls Evelyn from Project Access securing transportation assistance and medical interpreting for her appointments. “With Ms. Evelyn, she made me feel like part of the family, very comfortable.”

Karla says she was blessed to meet not only Dr. Rashad Ansari, the Project Access volunteer rheumatologist, but also the amazing team at his office. Karla was nervous about her treatment, but “when I met with Dr. Ansari, he is so busy, but he is always so kind.” Dr. Ansari, who has volunteered his services for 20 years with Vista Community Clinic and now with Champions for Health, adds, “The best thing about being a physician is helping people lead lives with less pain. You learn more from listening to people than talking to them. I ask questions and just listen as long as it takes to make sure that I help them.”

Karla had tears in her eyes as she shared about the compassion and commitment of Dr. Ansari and his team who stayed after hours for her consultation when the freeway between her home and the office was so flooded that it collapsed, making driving impossible. “My deepest respect is for the doctor. It is like he feels what I feel. I appreciate it so much. Becoming his patient was the best thing that has happened to me.”

Since 2008, Project Access has facilitated $27 million in care for 9,600+ uninsured patients just like Karla by providing free consultations and surgeries. Open doors for a Project Access patient so that they can hug their family without pain – contribute today

author avatar
Esteban Villanueva