Deep within the city of tents freckled throughout Gainesville’s woods, a 22-year-old traveling Catholic missionary finished disinfecting a suspected case of gangrene that had taken over a resident’s toes.
His only medical training comes from lessons his father, a former field medic in the army, taught him when he was young.
“I practice sort of like an anarchist doctor,” Alex Templeton said. “I don’t have any statewide licenses or federal licenses, but I use a God-given talent and ability to provide what the people need without restrictions.”
Templeton arrived to Gainesville by bus after doing similar missionary work in Yuma, Ariz. He said he plans on continuing to travel, fulfilling a lifetime dedication to conduct missionary work and participate in social protest where he feels needed.
During his three months in Gainesville, Templeton gave haircuts and served meals to the hungry and homeless community. He spent his Tuesdays gathering gauze, Band-Aids, tapes and salves for medical expeditions he’d take to Tent City.
On March 4, many of the camps were vacant, and Templeton was busy mending a broken nail when he heard about a man deep in the tented woods who possibly needed his toe amputated.
Without hesitation, he set out along the dirt path through the trees to find three-month Tent City resident Roosevelt Anderson and, according to Templeton, a bad case of gangrene.
“I was never afraid,” he said. “My friends would be straight up bleeding sometimes and I’d jump in there and be the one to put my fingers in it to stop it. I’ve never been real blood-shy or anything like that.”
After spending half an hour sitting in Anderson’s camp, exchanging small talk and filing away at the infection, Templeton fastened the last ribbon of gauze and handed the man his sock.
“There’s the finished product partner,” he said to Anderson. “Field dressing.”
“You don’t know how much we appreciate that,” Anderson’s wife said. “About four days ago I flipped my truck three times and we haven’t had a way to get him to the doctor.”
Templeton gave Anderson his personal cell phone number and encouraged him to call any time he needed more help, no matter the time.
He said he does not believe in breaking laws for the sake of being rebellious and that he only treats what he knows he can handle, like cleaning wounds and providing relief from pain and swelling.
“You have to educate yourself,” he said. “You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’ve got a man that’s bleeding to death in front of you and you have no idea how to help him.”
According to Florida Statute 768.13, anyone who “gratuitously and in good faith renders emergency care or treatment” in areas without access to medical equipment or in a state of emergency should not be held liable.
Karen Driscoll, who has practiced as a licensed medical doctor in Florida for 28 years said that she could not imagine someone having a problem with Templeton’s practices as long as he is not writing prescriptions, preforming surgery or collecting money.
“There’s lots of people who don’t have insurance or a means of getting to a doctor,” she said. “You can’t wrong someone from wanting to help people because they don’t have a degree.”
“They’re people just like us,” Templeton said. “So I go and visit them because that’s the dignity that they deserve. I will uphold that until there is no more breath in my lungs.”
On Monday, March 17, Templeton boarded a Greyhound bound for Washington D.C. to continue his work.