The Flying Samaritans

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

The Flying Samaritans were in town for a clinic last week (October 2006). Regarding their visit the following article, written by Modesto Bee staff writer Ken Carlson, appeared in that publication.

San Felipe in Baja California has maintained ties with medical professionals in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Thanks to that relationship, 147 adults and children in San Felipe have clearer eyesight this week, allowing them to work or read their textbooks in school.

In addition, 60 patients walked away from last week's Flying Samaritans' clinic with healthier spines, necks and joints; others had health problems diagnosed and were referred for follow-up care. Those patients attended a clinic Friday held by the Central Valley chapter of Flying Satnari­tans, a nonprofit group that has brought medical relief to San Felipe since the mid-1980s.

Thursday afternoon, the team flew out of Modesto Airport with seven planes and 25 volunteers arriving in San Felipe that evening. They operated an all-day clinic in a physician’s office Friday, fitting glasses for patients and giving chiropractic treatments. The group returned Sunday.

San Felipe sits on the Sea of Cortez, and many of its 30,000 residents make their living from fishing or tourism.

This was not the first tine the Flyingm Samaritans offered optical care to San Felipe residents.
"There is a lot of glare on the water and exposure to ultraviolet light,” said Dr. Walter Schimon, a Modesto physician and president of the Flying Samaritans chapter.
"There is a huge amount of people who develop cataracts and other eye disorders. Many of them are almost blind."

The medical team included optometrist John Demshar of Stockton, chiropractor Kelly Mabe, of Turlock, pilots, nurses, Spanish interpreters and a few nonmedical volunteers.

Demshar brought about 1,000 pair of donated glasses, which had been marked with prescriptions so they could be matched with patients. The Samaritans also brought a donated auto­retractor to assist with eye examinations. Patients were given glasses that were as close as possible to what they needed.

Three Missions Planned for 2007
Azzitta Rhamani, a pre-med student at the University of California at Merced, helped by escorting patients from the waiting area to the exam rooms and having them read eye charts. Many patients, after receiving their glasses, were thrilled that they could read or see where they were walking for the first time in years.

"One man who was in his 60s was very quiet while he was waiting," Rhamani said. "When he came out with his glasses, he opened up so much. He tried to tell us any way he could how thankful he was."

Mabe noted that many of the patients he examined had degenerative problems of the neck, back, shoulders or knees due to hard living conditions. "They do a lot of physical labor, a lot of lifting," Mabe said. "They are going to wear out quicker because of their more difficult lifestyle and poor nutrition."

Mabe performed spinal adjustments and soft­tissue manipulations to relieve pain. Also, he taught exercises to patients to help them improve mobility in their joints. More intensive treatment will be offered on a future trip when the Samaritans have access to X-ray equipment in a San Felipe hospital.

Mabe, who owns a Piper Cherokee 235, initially volunteered as a pilot with Flying Samaritans but now does double duty on the relief missions. The Central Valley group is one of 10 Flying Samaritans chapters in California and, Arizona. The team previously made two trips a year to San Felipe, but is revving up for three missions in 2007.

Schimon said an ear, nose and throat clinic is planned in February. Specialists are expected to operate on a number of children with untreated tonsillitis.

Cataract surgeries are planned in May, and a third trip is being developed for later in the year. The doctors laid the groundwork for the 2007 trips by meeting with the new owner of an infirmary in San Felipe last week.

"We haven't been using the hospital because of some internal problems they had," Schimon said. "A new owner just bought the hospital and he invited us back to perform surgeries."

The 2007 clinics are Feb. 15-18, May 17-20, and Oct. 11-14.

This article about the October 2006 clinic was written by Rachel Winfrey.

Anyone interested in donating time, money or medical equipment to Flying Samailtans may contact Schimon at The group is in need of volunteer nurses. People with no medical training may also volunteer.

Photos from the October 2006 visit.

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