Michiana Chronicles: A True Story, Word For Word As I Heard It, Too

Nov 7, 2019

Elma Bautista
Credit Sid Shroyer

The story is well known. In 1988, Sister Maura started the Chapin Street Clinic in a vacant garage, to provide health care for people who are uninsured. She nurtured its growth into a modern building across the street in 1998, and then lent it her name in 2006. Thousands of patients, and hundreds of volunteers and employees have benefited from her vision.

Twenty-eight years ago, Elma Bautista started working at the Clinic because she had to. When I visited her there at Chapin and Western in September, Elma told me, it was a court-ordered community service requirement, after  “a DUI that resulted in a death.”

    It was tragic, she said, most of all for the other family, “But it turned my life around.”

    If it wasn’t for the people that believed in me, you know. Now, I also get a chance to believe in other people and maybe make a change in them.

    Not long after she started, Elma said, Rita Van Namee, the first Chapin Street Clinical Director, encouraged her to get a nursing degree at Ivy Tech.

    And she says, “Well, Ivy Teach offers a very good program for a year-and-a-half, and I tell you what, if you go, I’ll hire you part-time and work around your schedule.”
    And this is 28 years ago.
    
    Elma became a Licensed Practical Nurse and she stayed at the clinic.

    There’s just a magic at this clinic and Sister Maura started it all. There’s a lot of fulfillment in this clinic. It’s a great place to be at.

    We serve people that do not have any health insurance, providing their medications, providing testing, that they probably would have never even tried to get if we wouldn’t be here for them.

    Where would they go? I think most of them would just go without anything. I think a lot of them would just learn to live with their diseases, and you know, whatever happened, happened. I think that there would be a lot of, a lot more emergency room use. I don’t think they would have anywhere else to go.

    There’s so many giving people in this community. Of course there’s the doctors, you know, that give their time and their efforts.

    Some people have insurance still can’t probably afford to see some of the specialists with some of the extra co-pays and whatever they have and we’ve been very fortunate that they have been very generous with the clinic.
    And dental. I can’t forget the dentists. The dental clinic here has come a long way from when they started. They have good people in dental and that goes hand-in-hand with medical. Yeah, we’ve been fortunate enough that this is a whole community effort and they’ve been great.

    I know a lot of people that can’t say that they go to their job and say, “You know what, I really love my job.”
    And I think that from the beginning that has been the reward for me, that I can say, “Yes, I love my job.”
    It’s like my son used to be always telling me, “Mom, you know you can make a lot more money at blah blah blah or at a different place.”
    And I say, “You know what? When you grow up and you get your own job, you’ll find out that it’s more, that it’s sometimes it’s more important that you are happy at your job.”
    That’s my gratification, that it’s not so much financial, but it’s more that you’re content and happy and feel fulfilled. And I feel that way with the clinic. Because there’s so many people we have helped.
    At one point we had been trained to do clinical breast exams. Of course that’s changed because now we’re not allowed to, but I was able to palpate a lump on someone doing an exam and I would run into this lady all the time, and she’d be like, “Oh, that’s my savior, that’s my,” you know, “She’s the one that helped…”
    And there it is, Can you think of, really, I mean, I’m not a doctor, but you know, but I did have a part, a big part in making sure that lady had been….
     It was caught.
    That has been the reward for me and I can say, “Yes, I love thy job.”
    
    Elma Batista, a Licensed Practical Nurse is one of the employees, who along with the volunteers, serve ten thousand people a year at the Sister Maura Brannick Health Center in South Bend. Sister Maura started the clinic when she was 62. She died October 18 at the age of 96.