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Patient Stories

The Magical Power of Sharing

By July 12, 2023April 12th, 2024No Comments

For seven years, Nancy had been battling severe anemia, uncontrolled hemorrhaging, exhaustion, and indescribable pain. She was in the hospital twice for blood transfusions, once with a three-day hospital stay. Nancy lost cleaning jobs in hotels and private homes due to frequent and uncontrolled bleeding and weakness. She was always afraid of leaving her home for too long because she would have an episode while away. Nancy would isolate herself with her children to not risk being embarrassed in public. She had years of feeling anger, frustration, and hopelessness as she dealt with her severe medical condition.

When Nancy was connected to Project Access and Dr. Kimberly Washkowiak, she saw the hope and possibility she had lost. Dr. Washkowiak is an ob-gyn at Scripps Clinic La Jolla. Nancy describes her meetings with the doctor as informative, warm, and assuring.

Patient Nancy and Dr. Kimberly Washkowiak
Top: Nancy M.
Above: Dr. Kimberly Washkowiak

“My doctor — she is a beautiful human being, she is sweet… I felt her warmth, her appreciation, her concern for me,” Nancy explains.

After an initial consultation and imaging, there was a discussion about the possibility of surgery. “The doctor explained everything so well to me,” Nancy continues. “She explained it would be for my good, she told me the advantages and disadvantages. Of course, I was scared, but she gave me options.”

Dr. Washkowiak adds, “It gives me great pride to volunteer for Project Access. I am so happy to provide patients with relief from their pain, which affects their quality of life so greatly. They wouldn’t have access to medical care otherwise. I would wholeheartedly recommend volunteering because it grounds you and brings you back to why you started in medicine. You can do amazing things for people.”

Nancy happily recalls the surgery day and the days of care afterward. “I felt important, cared for, like a queen when [Dr. W] checked on me,” she says. Nancy says sometimes she cannot believe where she is now. “Now here I am, sharing my story and I would love to have the magical power to share my feelings of being grateful directly to the doctors, to give them my gratitude, to share this feeling I have in my chest because I am alive, I am here … I am here.”

“No one in my family is in medicine — I am the first doctor,” Dr. Washkowiak explains. “Educating women about their bodies is very rewarding. The best part about being a physician is the long-term relationships developed with patients.” She believes in doing everything in moderation to have balance in life. She is married, has three children, and Zoe, a pit-lab mix who is the gem of the family. Kimberly’s bucket list includes becoming a pilot, seeing the northern lights in Alaska, and learning to play the ukelele in Hawaii.

Since 2008, Project Access has facilitated $27 million in care for 9,600 uninsured patients just like Nancy by providing free consultations and surgeries — all thanks to the dedication of our volunteer specialty physicians.