By Madeline Dyche, as told to Andrew McChesney

The woman was grinning from ear to ear.

But hours earlier, she told me, she had been disappointed to learn that she couldn’t receive a free tooth cleaning at the Pathway to Health mega clinic in the U.S. state of Texas.

The woman had joined a long line of people seeking health care and other services at the sprawling Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth on Sept. 19, the first day of a three-day free mega clinic organized by Seventh-day Adventists. But when she reached the front of the line, she learned that no more dental openings were available for the day.

Hopes dashed, she began to turn away when a volunteer suggested that she chose another free service. She opted for a vision checkup.

After giving her blood pressure and other vital signs, a requirement for all patients, she sat down with an eye doctor.

The man looked at a printout of her vitals sign and asked a few questions. He thought something wasn’t quite right. Seeing a physician nearby, he asked for help.

The physician examined her, ordered a sonogram, and diagnosed the woman with hypothyroidism, an abnormally underactivethyroid gland. He asked whether the woman suffered common symptoms of the condition such as fatigue, irritability and depression, intolerance for cold, and weight gain.

“Yes, for six years!” the woman replied.

She had visited various doctors, but none had been able to diagnose her condition. Her medical insurance didn’t allow tests such as a sonogram, and she hadn’t been able to afford to pay for more than a medical consultation.

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