All week we’ve been happy to help children who have desperately needed dental intervention, yet, at the same time, we’ve been somewhat disappointed about the number of patients that we’ve been able to reach. That changed dramatically today. Our numbers were outstanding; 344 children were seen, 180 of whom required dental treatment. Some 200 baby teeth were extracted while 40 permanent teeth were extracted too. Everyone had fluoride and/or varnish treatments.
Leaving Phnom Penh at 6 am under a tired full moon, we headed southwest past the airport to Stella’s village. Stella is a Dutch woman who lives in Belgium and travels to Cambodia regularly to oversee her several NGO’s.
Like COLT, Stella’s groups are well run without the corruption so common in this country.
And, as we’ve seen before, the children who have had previous regular care have beautiful, healthy teeth. The youngest new patients have the greatest dental need. If they are local school children, they will decline our treatment despite their obvious discomfort. If we are lucky a teacher or parent may be able to convince them to take advantage of our care.
Today I was lucky to have Sross as my translator. She is a 14 year old who lives in the Unacas Orphanage with her brother and sister. She quickly understood the dental concepts and was able to not only translate for us, but also explain to the children why our treatment was so necessary. Most children walked away smiling, confident that we would be able to help them.
While I am exhausted, I am unbelievably proud of my mentor, Dr. Bob. For those of you who visit my office, you’ve probably heard how me tell how this energetic 72 year old man walked on a misdiagnosed broken hip for a month and a half. His surgery was a couple of weeks before this trip and his rehabilitation consists of sitting in his wheelchair examining some 100 to 200 patients each day. I am floored by his stamina which is fueled by his desire to help needy children.
Our trip is winding down, tomorrow is our last day. We will visit another village that Stella oversees. We’ve had some very difficult experiences, a young woman who came to our clinic didn’t look well. A group of Australians who are helping us took her to a hospital today and have found that she has typhoid. It’s a very hard life here with a much shorter life expectancy than we enjoy at home.
But there are many happy moments too. Last night we had a long laugh when we realized that our Israeli friend, Eli, was not talking about a Russian doctor who would arrive next week, Letitcooloff, but rather, warning us not to burn our mouths.