By the time our visiting dentists left they had seen 111 children and 116 adults. Throughout the day people were waiting as shown in this picture. Haiti doesn't have many dentists, only about 350 for its 10 million people. And most of those are clustered in the cities. In comparison, the US has twenty times that number per capita. A good inidication of this is that even our own staff were in need of dental attention and on the the last half-day, after the last patient was seen, our team worked into the night attending to our staff. .
Monday, March 12, 2012
Sounded simple enough. Just ship down a high quality dental compressor and we'll have a dental clinic running in no time. And sure enough, it worked great last year. But, just let a few months go by and it's a different story. Now the compressor doesn't cut off and the pressure keeps building until there's this busted hose flailing around the clinic and hissing like a viper.
What to do? There's probably a manual on it somewhere, but who knows where that got off to. A search of the compressor leads to a cut-off switch that appears to be pressure activated. Remove the cover and what you see is shown in the photo. Everything looks fine, except what is that dirt in the bottom of the switch? A closer look and, what do you know? - some insect has built a mud nest right in the switch. Now what? We certainly don't have a spare switch or a spare compressor. Well, for occasions like this, you call for the trip's MacGyver. Every team needs one. This is the guy who grew on a farm, or runs an excavating company, or who has owned six motorcycles, or was driving a real fire-truck when he was 15. Where do find these four people? Well in our case, it's just one guy who is also an EMT and is doubling as a dental assistant. Sure enough, our MarkGyver takes one look at it, says we've got to take the whole thing apart, does so, cleans out the pressure gasket, fixes the blown hose and in twenty minutes we're good to go.
It reminds me of a conversation I had once with a hospital administrator in Haiti. He said, "You know, I can get all the volunteer doctors, nurses, and medical people I want. They're all such good people and think nothing of volunteering in Haiti. But, do you know who I have the hardest time getting and is worth his weight in Prestige beer? - a good diesel mechanic." Or, in our case, a good MacGyver.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Since we teased our dentists in the previous blog, it time to make things right and show the reality of how hard the team works when they come to the clinic. Here is short clip of what it takes for two dentists to work in one un-airconditioned room in Haiti, with the help of assistants and an interpreter. Dr. Betsy (on the left of the room) has a real dental chair with all the equipment to do restorative dental work. She mainly sees children 14 years and younger. On the right of the room is Dr. Larkin, who is working on adults, most of whom need to have extractions. Assisting is Stacy and Mark, along with interpreter Johnson. They all start early and don't quit until the sun has set. They've had to deal with intermittent electricity, a shortage of supplies because most are still on a shipping container in Port-au-Prince, and even patients with extraordinarily high blood-pressure. In the first three days they saw 82 patients, many of whom needed work on multiple abcessed teeth. Out in the hallway are just a few of the patients waiting to be seen. Most of the patients are on the back porch.
Friday, March 9, 2012
This week our unrelenting children's dental team has returned to Visitation Clinic to lure unsuspecting children into their clutches with the promise of toys. Even though their parents are sitting right next to them, the kids are wary of these pale strangers called dentists who smile a bit too much. However, a toy truck with real wheels is a powerful inducement and the kids are lined up on our back porch most of the day. Most aren't sure what it means to see someone called a dentist, and are rather unhappy to discover it means being turned almost upside down in a big chair and having someone mess around with your teeth. But, these are tough Haitians and they quickly regain their composure and none have left their new toy behind yet.