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“The Clinics Feel Like My Home”

Imagine the fright and anxiety you would feel if you discovered that one of your beloved young children had serious physical and developmental health issues. The necessary medical treatment could take years, perhaps be lifelong, and cost a fortune. Now imagine that, despite being a hard-working parent, you have no chance of raising that kind of money.

Fortunately, a contribution from you today will make Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC) available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. Most of our over 18,000 patients, cared for at our 4 medical clinics and 2 dental clinics located throughout south Santa Barbara County, are from hardworking, low-income families like that of Mayra and Juan Torres.

Julian with red hat

Because of amazing donors like you, patients like Julian can continue to receive quality healthcare.

Mayra, a student at Santa Barbara City College, and Juan, a painting contractor, are the loving parents of Juan Carlos, age 9; Julian, age 8; and 5-month-old Julieta. Mayra proudly shares that baby Julieta is “a good eater and not at all fussy,” and that Juan Carlos has been accepted into the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program at Washington Elementary School. When speaking of middle child Julian, she positively beams. “Julian is bilingual in Spanish and English.”

Julian has come a long way. When he was 4 months old, Mayra and Juan noticed that his left eye had begun to move erratically. They brought him to pediatrician Anupama Sharma, at Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. Dr. Sharma also noted that when his right eye was covered, Julian began crying and seemed very distressed. He was referred immediately to pediatric ophthalmologist Mark Silverberg, MD. A brain CT and MRI subsequently showed Julian had a congenital blood vessel defect that compromised his vision significantly. He was soon fitted with tiny glasses. Unfortunately, the prognosis for vision in that eye is poor.

Because of this major disability, Dr. Sharma referred Julian to the Early Start Program and the Tri-Counties Regional Center so he could begin physical therapy. Within a few months staff members and Dr. Sharma noticed that Julian showed signs of motor delays, i.e. he was not grabbing at objects and not sitting up fully without support as he should for his age. Neurologists confirmed delays in all areas of Julian’s development. Understandably, the doctors and family all wanted to know more, learn his exact diagnosis or syndrome – and the prognosis. The genetics team at UCLA helped out with this – genetic testing gave everyone the answer: 12p minus, a rare chromosome deletion disorder at chromosome 12.

This rare diagnosis explained all of Julian’s delays. And, with the support of Dr. Sharma and the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, his parents and caregivers have barely been hindered at all – this child with once a very unsteady gait, and who once could not use his hands, has been busy. Julian works hard at his physical and speech and language therapies; he is also learning sign language, making friends, and attempting any and all sports. He loves to cook with his mother, and is thrilled when his dad takes him swimming at the local YMCA. At a follow up with the geneticists a few years ago, they were thoroughly impressed with Julian’s progress! Now it is time for him to have another follow up at UCLA and Dr. Sharma is convinced they will not believe this is the same child.

As you may know, a child with special needs requires an ongoing teamwork approach from dedicated parents and doctors. Julian’s condition continues to be closely monitored by a pediatric neurologist and an orthopedist, along with Dr. Sharma.

When Mayra describes what SBNC has done for her family, her face lights up. “The clinics feel like my home.”

When Mayra describes what SBNC has done for her family, her face lights up. “The clinics feel like my home,” she says. “Everyone is happy to see us because they know our story. They want to know how we’re all doing.

“When I notice something new about Julian I call the clinics,” Mayra continues. “The medical assistants ask me what I’m concerned about. They talk with Dr. Sharma and call me right back. If Dr. Sharma thinks Julian should be seen right away, they make space for him immediately.

“It is hard for Julian to gain and keep weight on because of the way his body works,” Mayra explains. “His big brother Juan Carlos will eat 2 tortillas and Julian can eat 4 but Juan Carlos gains weight and Julian does not. Dr. Sharma knows that it is important to see Julian right away if he is sick. She cares, and she explains everything and educates me on the problems and options available.

“I remember one Christmas when I went to the clinic. Dr. Sharma asked me how I was, and the family. When I told her that we were okay but did not have money for Christmas presents, she called me later and told me about the ladies at the clinic who had made a beautiful blanket by hand. Dr. Sharma wanted me to have it. That blanket was the Christmas present for our children.”

“Mayra and Juan are an amazing couple,” Dr. Sharma says. “They work together to care for their three children and are extremely caring and loving as parents.”

Recently, Mayra says, Julian saw a friend playing baseball and he wanted to try it. So she and Juan enrolled him in the Little Challenge Dos Pueblos program for special needs children.

“They do a lot of exercises: run, jump, practice throwing the ball, and batting,” Mayra says. “The parents are involved and happy to see the children play. They say at Little Challenge that ‘Everybody can do everything.’”

julian, juan carlos, mayra, baby julieta, juan-support us page

Julian, Juan Carlos, Mayra, with baby Julieta, and Juan out for a boat ride.

Your gift to SBNC will help thousands of children and other community members of all ages and backgrounds. Please make a contribution now and you will help assure that no one in our community goes without the healthcare they need when they need it.

Thank you so much for your help.


Charles C. Fenzi, MD
CEO & Chief Medical Officer

Your generosity today makes a world of difference!

Together, we give those in need the most important gift ever — the gift of good health!

SBNC is a critical safety net for south Santa Barbara County. We are unique in the community by providing free and sliding-scale medical, dental and health education visits to people in need, regardless of their ability to pay. The average cost to deliver a patient visit is $150, but the average payment/reimbursement is $121. We rely on grants and private donations to fill this substantial funding gap of approximately $20%, which translates to $1.8 million for the over 63,000 patent visits we provide each year.
If you would like to donate, please email today!

Thank You!