A tooth for a tooth

Harold Schmidt and Dr. Gary Kanemura, from St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lodi, CA, were going to come do their 2nd dental clinic at San Lucas in Anapra LAST May, until along came the swine flu. Then they were going to come in October 2009, but Harold lost his passport ;) So, I was super-excited when I got an e-mail saying they were coming THIS May...and the third time was indeed the charm. The two of them got into El Paso on Tuesday night after a 12 1/2 hour drive, and the clinic ran Wednesday through Friday.

Dental clinics require A LOT of equipment. We pretty much had the green van packed full, but Someone was watching over us and we had no trouble getting it all across the border--or back into the U.S. for that matter. It took over an hour for the Dr. to set everything up, but it was seriously like being at Vista Hills Family Dental or something, only we were in the kitchen at San Lucas. Dental work also takes a long time; I guess I didn't realize how few patients we would see (29 total). I don't mean any disrespect by that, I just had no idea what to expect. I eventually got really frustrated with people crowding around the door telling me sob stories of why they should be seen next, or arguing over who was there first, or who would have been there first if they didn't have to work, or whatever. I wanted to see everyone but we only had a finite amount of time, and there wasn't really a way to do so or even triage people in a way that would satisfy everyone. It was also impossible to tell how long each patient was going to take until the Dr. evaluated their needs. Lots of people who just came for a cleaning wound up needing much more.

Dr. Kanemura did an incredibly thorough job on each patient, performing fillings and extractions as needed per what the patients' complaints were, and giving cleanings to those who asked for one and/or had no other more pressing needs. He even had this one apparatus that could cut through bone, and he used it to cut molars in half and then extract them in two pieces. All the patients that underwent that procedure subsequently needed sutures to close up the wound and were also sent home with antibiotics. Everyone got to take home a baggie filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and dental floss, and all the extra goodies were left for the church to distribute. My Very Important Jobs, other than a little bit of interpreting (which there wasn't as much of as I had anticipated...duh, people can't talk when they are having dental work done), were to fill the syringe up with water since about the only piece of equipment the Dr. didn't bring was the squirty thing, and to run the autoclave--I didn't even know what that was a couple days ago.

The last day was the day we saw the most patients of all: 13. We started off the day with a screaming 6 yr. old, and ended by taking care of an emergency in which a woman needed three teeth extracted. All three were rotted all the way up into the gumline, which in turn was causing pain throughout her entire face. Our plan had been to stop by Cristo Rey on the way home so Harold and the Dr. could scout out what would be needed in order to operate the clinic there in the future, but all 3 of us were glad that we were able to attend to the woman's needs instead. She was too, even though two of the teeth she had extracted were her front two, so she asked us for a mask to wear home.

My professional looking uniform.

My spot was the empty chair in the foreground of this picture.

The kids decided they all needed masks one afternoon...

Only in Mexico!

I had a great couple of (LONG!) days learning about the world of teeth and gums, and also getting to know Harold and Dr. Kanemura. We made for a pretty hilarious trio sometimes, so I'm looking forward to their next visit--definitely next year and maybe in November too! I'm also looking forward to Dr. Kanemura sending me some new heads for my electric toothbrush that he said he had back at his office. He used my bathroom one evening when we got back, and his first comment was that a)my toothbrush is the old Braun model that was recently been updated, and b)it needs a new head!

Until next time, blessings!


tchrchill said…
What an interesting week that was! A really beautiful thing to do for people -- teeth and mouths NEED to be healthy. Thanks to the Doctors and you, Erin!

Word verifaction word: Phous: Don't make such a phous about my toothbrush!
Nicholas Ludwig said…
The less fortunate people are those who are not that skilled when it comes to proper oral hygiene. So these people need more care and attention, to help them have healthy smiles and excellent dental care.
Hertha Gearin said…
Somehow, looking at these pictures reminds me of my adopted daughter. I remember I used to brush her teeth a long time ago. It feels like it was just yesterday. Now, my baby is all grown up and I kinda miss those moments.
Unknown said…
Oh, I admire the sacrifices that your team did for these kids! From bringing those equipments and the hardwork that you did, they will surely remember you. It's great to share your blessings, right? That's a nice way to share it. :)

~Johnson Paola