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Saturday Surgery Day For San Diego Uninsured

Evening Edition

Victor Garcia is getting support from his soccer buddies and is just hours away from repairing a torn ACL in his right knee.

"No I'm not going to give up on that," Garcia, 21, said. He's talking about playing soccer, the same thing that blew his knee out twice in the past year.

"So now my knee is unstable and when I do a cut, it will go off to the side and pop," Garcia said in the doctor's office at Kaiser Permanente in Kearny Mesa. That was a year ago and Garcia had almost given up hope until he heard Project Access San Diego would pay the cost to fix it.

"We're talking about $30,000 including, therapy, medicine and surgery," he said.

Garcia represents the one in four adults in San Diego County who are uninsured. Today he will join nearly three dozen others at the Kaiser Garfield Specialty Center for Saturday Surgery Day. It's a partnership between the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation and various hospitals including Kaiser Permanete.

"It's about hope," Dr. Paul Bernstein said. He's a head and neck specialist. "It's about reaching out to people in San Diego that are in pain. That could possibly die of cancer. That have deformities they've had to live with."

He's been volunteering for the program four years now and helped remove a large growth from Simon John's forehead. John was unemployed, without health insurance and had no means to pay for such a procedure.

"It's frustrating you just have to live with the condition when you can't get any help from anyone," John said. Today John is one of the 1,800 patients eventually recommended to Project Access San Diego. His growth is gone and he's back to work.

The foundation says most of the uninsured patients only needed to see a specialist for treatment. But about 20 percent required surgery. About 120 staff and doctors at the Kaiser facility in Kearny Mesa will volunteer to provide free medical care to 35 San Diegans who've been hoping and waiting for a long time. The event is held two or three times a year. To qualify you must live in the county, be low income and ineligible for public health programs.

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