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Not Leaving Her Health to Chance

Thirteen years ago, Pam Hawks faced a life-altering situation.

At age 20 – the age most of us are just learning how to navigate the world around us – Pam got pregnant. Alone, and with many difficult decisions to make, the only thing Pam knew for certain was that she could not give the baby the life it deserved.

“I didn’t think I could handle being a mom at that time,” says Pam, now 33. Weighing her options carefully, Pam considered adoption to be the best course of action.

Once the infant – a girl – was born, Pam opted to place the child in an open adoption with a South Dakota family.

Afterwards, with a newfound sense of responsibility for herself, Pam knew her health was something she needed to protect. Much like she trusted a loving family to provide for the child she birthed, Pam needed a health care team she could trust to provide her with optimal medical care.

She also wanted to make sure her health care team understood her circumstances and could offer her the compassion and support she needed. Money was an issue, too.

The decision came easy when she visited Sanford Health Downtown Clinic.

“I know I’m going to be treated with respect and that they’re here to help,” says Pam who still receives her health care from the clinic 13 years later. “I can be completely honest with the staff and there is no judgment. They allow you to open up and be who you are.”

A clinic. A career.

As a Title X family planning clinic, Sanford Health Downtown Clinic helps women and men in their reproductive years with general health care, reproductive health and family planning. Clinic staff also visits schools and youth programs, sharing with others the risks of sexual activity and how to protect themselves should they decide to become sexually active.

This openness is what first drew Pam to the clinic, and it’s what keeps her believing in the facility’s programs. She says it’s ideal when teens can talk freely with their parents about these topics. However, she says, that isn’t always reality.

“Coming here and talking to the staff, they tell you, ‘it’s okay. It’s okay to have these questions. Let’s answer them for you. Let me give you some information to help you with these questions,’” explains Pam. She is so passionate about the care she received as a young woman that she came to work for the clinic a year and a half ago. “I jumped at the opportunity. I just love working here.”

Affordable and confidential

Because Sanford Health Downtown Clinic is a Title X clinic, they can offer their services on a sliding scale based on an individual’s income. “Everyone worries these types of services are so expensive,” says Pam. “Not here. You should never let money hold you back from your health.”

And Pam says that’s why the services are confidential. It’s dangerous to leave a sexually transmitted infection untreated. “It’s important to know your body,” she says. “It’s important to know when something isn’t right and to know where to go to fix it.”

Young men and women under the age of 18 can seek medical help without a parent’s consent. The clinic still uses paper records, so nothing is electronic. And they work with patients on the best way to reach them. Mail won’t show up at their home without their permission and voice messages won’t be left. They take all measures to make sure they create an environment of trust for those who are there.

Ready this time

Pam speaks openly about her experience with adoption. And even though everything turned out “as it should,” she remembers how she felt at the time. “I was terrified. Every girl thinks ‘it’s not going happen to me. I’ll never get pregnant.’ Nope. It happened,” she recounts. She hopes that by working at Downtown Health in Sioux Falls she’s helping other young women and men make good choices and take good care of their health. Habits she hopes will last their entire adult lives.

Since she first walked through the doors of the downtown clinic, Pam has married and is now raising two daughters. “When it came time for me to be a mom, I was prepared and excited and could embrace it because I knew I was ready now.”

Posted Date: February 2013