The south side of Milwaukee is the community that raised me. I moved around a lot as a kid, so my sense of “home” was attached to the south side rather than a single building. I love my community and growing up on the south side is something I will always be proud of.
My favorite time as a child was summer. I loved going on long walks and hanging out with my friends in the neighborhood. The smell of fresh air and good food, the sound of music and bells ringing on a paletero’s cart, the taste of pernil and arroz con gandules — all of these things remind me of home.
My siblings and I were raised by a single mom who worked hard to give us what we needed. Most of the time we did not have a car, and when we did, it broke down often. We walked or took the bus everywhere — this meant walking long distances or waiting in the cold at a bus stop. For my family, and many around me, this was normal and we were always grateful.
For the most part, I was a pretty healthy kid. My siblings and I only went to the doctor when we were sick, and didn’t realize that kids go to the doctor even when they aren’t sick in order to stay well. I didn’t have a primary care doctor until I was a teenager and we went to urgent care when it was convenient. When I got sick with strep throat, my mom took me to the emergency room because it was easy to get to on the bus. I did not go to the dentist as often as I should have because it was a long distance for us to go to a clinic on Lisbon Avenue.
As a teenager, I dislocated my shoulder at school and had to have surgery at Children’s Wisconsin. Before and after my shoulder surgery, I needed to go to a physical therapist at the Greenfield Clinic. When I did not have a ride to my appointments, I got a transport van or took the 45 minute bus ride there. I went two to three times a week for several weeks and missed a lot of school during this time.
Long bus rides, transferring buses, and missing school was the reality for me and my siblings when we needed to see the doctor. Now, as an adult with close ties to my community, I realize there are lots of kids growing up just like I did.
The Forest Home Library where the new Children’s Wisconsin Forest Home Clinic now sits, was a critical part of my youth. With my mom working, I had a lot of responsibility between home and school work. The library was the place I went for “me” time. I would read the newest issue of Seventeen magazine, redesign my MySpace page, and it was there where I found resources to apply for college.
You can only imagine the excitement I had when I learned that Children’s Wisconsin had an interest in opening a clinic at the old library. When I was then asked to be the project manager in the creation of the clinic, I could hardly believe it. The new Forest Home Clinic will honor and carry on the legacy of the old library as a critical resource in the community that supports families.
Families will be able to bring their kids in for their annual check-ups with our pediatricians. Urgent care will be open seven days a week to provide care for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries. If a child comes in with a broken bone, they will be able to get an X-ray from one of our radiology technicians. The dentists and hygienists here can do teeth cleanings and maintain kids’ oral health. If a family needs help finding resources to support their wellness, a community health navigator will be there to help.
Kids with lung issues, like asthma, will be able to see a pulmonologist without having to go to the hospital. Child and family therapy (behavioral health) and speech therapy will also be available. And for kids who recently had surgery, there will be specialists available to check on their recovery and progress — again saving a trip to the Children’s Wisconsin Milwaukee campus or another clinic.
To have comprehensive health care right in the neighborhood will create a healthier community — and when a community is healthy, everyone benefits. I’m humbled and grateful to be a part of bringing the services that every child and family on the south side needs to stay well. Children’s Wisconsin lives its mission every day that “kids deserve the best.” Bringing this clinic with all that it offers, will ensure that kids on the south side and beyond do get the best.