Editor's Note: This story was written for the 2018 Spring/Summer Arbor Light magazine, a bi-annual publication of Concordia University Ann Arbor. Catch the newest edition dropping in mailboxes at the end of April. For your free subscription of Arbor Light, email email@example.com.
Detroit native Turome Chandler (’18) knew he was somewhere special as he stood in the sanctuary-turned-exam-room of the Luke Project 52 Clinic and saw a young woman with her newborn baby, surrounded by a team of medical volunteers who were doting over her and her child. The clinic’s photographer was capturing the special moment, and balloons filled the space. But what really caught the Concordia University Ann Arbor nursing student’s attention was the mother, who was dressed in an unbelievably warm smile.
Only a month earlier, Turome had seen the same woman come into the clinic—afraid, untrusting, and closed off from anyone willing to help. Now she spoke to the medical volunteers with the same familiarity as her closest friends.
With plans of becoming the state’s first mobile prenatal clinic, the Luke Project 52 Clinic is providing free pre- and postnatal health care to hundreds of Detroit mothers. The clinic, opened in 2016, was born from the passion of pastor and pharmacist Brad Garrison, in collaboration with The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Michigan District.
It may be surprising to learn that, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Detroit’s infant mortality rate is 2.5 times higher than the national average (i.e., the same as a Third World country). Statistics show that 61 percent of women in the state don’t have prenatal care.
“The problem is not a lack of health care in Michigan,” Garrison states. “It’s an issue of relationship-building with women who have experienced serious issues, like domestic abuse. Our goal is to build a health care delivery system that is designed for the comfort and convenience of women in poverty, while building incentive for them to maintain appointments.”
And that’s exactly what Garrison and his wife, a nurse with over 40 years of experience in high-risk delivery and neonatal intensive care, created. They transformed a former sanctuary to include patient consultation rooms, an ultrasound room, and a reception area. They recruited volunteer nurses, midwives, and physicians to provide expectant mothers with needed health care every other Thursday evening. They also recruited volunteer nursing students, like CUAA undergraduates Stephanie Husted (’19) and Caitlyn Freshour (’19).
The CUAA student volunteers are gaining valuable experience for their future vocations, but they’ll tell you it’s not just about what they gain academically.
“It’s incredible to see how the patients are being impacted,” Caitlyn says. “Even after their care, they want to keep coming back.”
Beyond medical care, Luke Project 52 offers wraparound services that help meet the needs of the whole person. When women keep their medical appointments, they receive a ticket that allows them to shop at Benjamin Closet, an in-clinic store that’s stocked with free baby care items not provided by federal programs. Women are also encouraged to meet with social workers on site.
Meanwhile, an activity center provides childcare, and the church offers a hot meal at the end of the day, connecting the women with the church body. The medical staff continues to see the family until the baby reaches 12 months, which provides the clinic more time to build relationships and share Christ with the women. Since the clinic’s inception, three babies have been baptized.
In its second year, the clinic has already reached its capacity. Garrison plans to expand to another static clinic site in Flint, Michigan. Plans are also in place to build a 40 foot mobile clinic that will allow them to partner with Michigan churches and provide these services throughout the state. CUAA’s School of Nursing will begin sending students to the Luke Project 52 Clinic for official rotations beginning this summer.
For CUAA students, like Turome, and mothers in Detroit, the clinic provides hope. “It’s made me more of an optimist,” Turome says. “It’s confirmed my love for the community and restored my hope for humanity.”
If you’re a medical professional interested in volunteering your time or a church interested in supporting this ministry by providing time to share about the clinic or donations, please contact Rev. Brad Garrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-646-8206.
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