Written by Doug Theisen
While our operating rooms are busy this week with surgeries, there are other important Faith In Practice activities, including dental and audiology services.
The dental clinic has three chairs and provides for a range of work from teeth cleaning to filling cavities and all the way to extractions. Dental patients often travel many hours for much needed dental work to be done.On Monday, one particular group left their town in Santa Rosa, near San Rafael, (an area known to produce coffee, onions, tomatoes, and wheat) at 3:00 a.m. to arrive at the clinic by 6:30 a.m.
The group was made up of 10 people, all neighbors, who got into the same bus heading to Antigua Guatemala. The first patient was a 14-year-old girl too young to have so many problems with her teeth. Her case was common to several other young girls in the group. Decay and infection put many teeth at risk of either requiring a root canal or extraction. Often, dental patients from this part of Guatemala have extreme dental problems due to factors such as diet, lack of education and access to dental care.
The next patient was a six-year-old soccer player named Derby, who had two primary molars that were badly decayed and needed to be extracted. The brave boy was tolerant of the first removal, but when it came time to do the other side, he had expressed his displeasure and would not allow the work to be completed. His mother is planning to bring him back on another trip when his mood is better. Another boy, Macario, a 13 year old (with aspirations of getting a major in finance so that he can work for a bank), was there to have some fillings and a good cleaning.
At the end of the day, the Santa Rosa group was preparing to catch the bus to make their way back home, when they approached the dentist, Dr. Mary Kim. They wanted to give personal thanks for her efforts to help everyone in the group, offering handshakes, hugs and blessings. The Guatemalan people are consistently appreciative of the work done by the Faith In Practice teams and do not hold back on expressing it. While giving thanks, Macario was sporting a ‘Fighting Illini’ sweatshirt from the University of Illinois, fittingly the alma mater of Dr. Kim, where she did her undergraduate studies. The next day a second group from another part of Santa Rosa arrived at the dental clinic with similar conditions and needs.
Down the hall, across the courtyard, up the ramp and around the corner at the Obras Sociales hospital is the audiology clinic. Here, two audiologists, with their interpreters, examined and fitted patients for hearing aids. One special moment was when an elderly gentleman with severe hearing loss was being fitted for a hearing aid. Once it was in place, he was delighted that he could hear so well, and even asked how to turn the volume lower! The audiologist patiently explained the basics of insertion, nighttime storage, and battery conservation, and gave him extra batteries that will last for the next few months. The user manual for this brand is in English, but he was proud to say that he has a grandson who can help him read it!
For most people, it’s just another day in Guatemala. For these precious souls, it has been a day of blessing and joy!
Doug Theisen interprets for Mary Kim, DMD
Katie Pardue, Audiologist, confers with Rachel Shannon, interpreter