By Lisa Morehouse
In 1999, in the tiny town of Five Points, 29 farmworkers accidentally entered a field that had just been treated with dangerous organophosphate insecticides. They started vomiting. The labor contractor in charge bypassed local hospitals and brought the crew to his own doctors 50 miles away in the town of Firebaugh. He simply trusted Marcia and Oscar Sablan more.
“We have seen a lot of other cases,” said Oscar Sablan, an internist, “and so we were familiar with the symptoms and we knew what to do.”
They had lots of atropine on hand, a drug used to treat poison victims if they go into respiratory or cardiac arrest. The farmworkers stripped and lined up to rinse the pesticides off in the clinic’s shower, built just for this type of incident. But with so many patients, Oscar Sablan had to recruit help.
“The firemen in town were able to get a kiddie pool and at least wash the people down,” he said.
Firebaugh is surrounded by crops, and the Sablans estimate that 75 percent of their patients work in the fields, like that labor contractor.
Marcia Sablan, who specializes in family medicine, explained, “He knew he could come here. He knew that we would take care of him, so be brought those 29 people over here.”
Patients have relied on the Sablans and the Sablan Medical Clinic for more than 30 years, since the couple moved to Firebaugh as young physicians in the National Health Service Corps. They say they wanted to practice where they were needed. Continue reading