Doctors are on the front lines of the health care crisis in America. But when the local practitioners went to Tennessee to help out, even they weren't prepared for the desperation.
For 25 years the volunteer medical group, Northeast VOSH, has treated the needy in Central America.
This year, for the first time, they stayed in the U.S.
The experience has changed the course of their mission.
From lush countryside, to rolling, green hills, eastern Tennessee is a land of breath taking beauty.
And startling poverty. Thousands of people will sleep in their cars, camp out in tents and wait overnight; all for the chance to see the only doctor they can afford.
"I don't have the money to pay to go to a doctor," says Jackie Leatherwood.
Jackie Leatherwood can barely hear out of one ear. She has poor vision and at age 52, she's never had a mammogram.
"It concerns me sometimes," she says.
So much so she and her son, James, show at the Bristol Motor Speedway for a free health clinic, a full day before the gates open.
The parking lot fills with the uninsured, and underinsured, desperate for care.
As the temperatures dip to a frosty 30 degrees, Jackie does what she's always done: tough it out.
"I even went to the hospital because I was hemorrhaging at one point. They took care of it and sent me home because I had no doctor and I had no insurance," she explains.
On day one, tickets go out to the first 500 people, and Jackie makes the cut. Now she has to wait in more lines.
She enters this vast motor speedway, turned field hospital.
Free vision, dental and medical care. Even X-rays are provided. Eye glasses are made on the spot.
"We have everything here at our disposal that we would have back at our offices. When we go to Central America, we are limited on what we can ship," says Dr. Carl Sakovits.
This is a first for Doctor Carl Sakovits from Bristol, Rhode Island, and his group, Northeast VOSH.
For the first time in their 25 year history, they are medical missionaries to the United States; treating the burgeoning uninsured.
"There's something very personal when this is happening in your own country," Dr. Sakovits says.
"You see the people here waiting for hours, if not days, how long have you been here?" asks Karen Meyers.
"Five hours today, at least eight or nine yesterday," Dr. Sakovits answers.
You can sense the urgency, the anxiousness. Doctor Rocco Andreozzi, a family practicioner in Westerly, reassures patients who fear medical neglect has led to life threatening conditions.
He removes a concerning growth from a patient named Enis' back.
"I can tell you this. It's definitely not dangerous," the doctor says,"it's not cancer. It's not a tumor."
But sometimes the fears are well founded.
Doctor Sakovits breaks troubling news to Sally Shipley. She can't remember her last eye exam. Now she has macular degeneration.
"Yes, it's imparing your vision a little. Doesn't necessarily mean you're going to lose your sight," the doctor says.
Sally's nothing but grateful for the early warning, knowing her mom lost her sight to the same condition.
In fact, graciousness and appreciation have been showered on all of these doctors.
"When you say you're from Rhode Island, they want to get up and give you a hug or kiss," Doctor Sakovits says.
Back to Jackie and James, done with their exams. Linda Carpentier, and optician in Cranston helps pick out glasses.
"Those look better, I think," Jackie decides.
Jackie's mammogram is clear; a huge relief. She's had to give up health care to pay bills at home, and she is in danger of losing her trailer.
But she and James beam in their new glasses; they feel like they now have a chance.
"If you can't drive, you can't work. You can't get groceries. You can't do the things that you need to do to survive. So these new glasses are essential to my well-being and the well-being of my family," says James.
If you'd like to donate, volunteer, or get more information on Northeast VOSH, go to NEVOSH.com