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Jamaica Mission 2016 Part 4: Shock and Awe

By September 29, 2016June 27th, 2023DMC News & Events, Michael's Operatory, Outreach

This is the fourth blog about our second dental outreach trip to Jamaica.  Here’s the first blog, wherein I mainly talked about preparing to go down and how much better we were at it (compared to 2015!).  In the second blog, I talked about clinic set up, equipment failures and how we had to adapt.  In the third blog, I talked about how we worked hard and played hard.  In this blog, I’m going to talk about some of the shock and awe that we saw at the clinics.  In the next blog, I’ll discuss reverse culture shock.

Shock and Awe

Dental hygienist Nina Nguyen:

“What definitely shocked me was the line up on the first day outside our door.  There were so many people.  I guess it was my first experience with something like this.  I didn’t know that there would be so many people.  When I heard that so many of them had been there at 6:00 a.m. and we only got there at 3:00 p.m. to start setting up.  It’s a long time to wait in the heat.  I felt emotional just seeing that.  Seeing all of these people so desperate to seek dental care.  And knowing that they wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise.  It made me very eager to help.  It made me appreciate how good we have it.  I felt emotional just watching them.  I guess I’ll always remember that.”

Outside of Grange Hill community centre

Outside of Grange Hill community centre on day 1

Outside of Grange Hill community centre on day 1

Outside of Grange Hill community centre on day 1

Dr. Irish Malapitan:

“The kids.  That’s what shocked me.  When they opened their mouths, I couldn’t believe how rampant the decay was.  How could they have it for such a long time and not be in a lot of pain?  Either poor education, treatment not being available, too expensive.  It also seemed to be cultural: the mentality is once it’s broken, I don’t need it anymore.  People seemed to function with gums.  One older patient had only 1 tooth!”


Patient Appreciation

But what also shocked the dentists and hygienists was how appreciative patients were.

Dental hygienist Jazz Chohan:

The thing that touched me the most were how appreciative they were.  My first patient was 80.  She had to save up USD60 to get 1 cleaning – basically 1 week of salary.  She saved up and did it once.   She told me: ‘The fact that you are doing this, thank you.  Lots of people wouldn’t do anything like this.'”

Dr. Millie Calko:

“Patients were really grateful.  A lot of them would say ‘ what can I bring you?’ One lady left and came back and brought me an exquisite candle holder.  I did some work for her; she was so happy and made me feel like I literally changed her life.  She was jumping out of her skin with gratitude.”


Baby Mathew

We can’t use the word “AWE” without mentioning baby Mathew over at Grange Hill.  Basically, Christine Martel was working as patient check out.  She left her spot near the door and the next thing everyone knew, she showed up with a cute little baby!  That got our attention.  Here are some great shots with 5 month old baby Mathew:

Baby Matthew with Christine Martel and Dr. Joseph Fava.

Baby Matthew with Christine Martel and Dr. Joseph Fava.

Tashi Malcolm with baby Matthew

Tashi Malcolm with baby Matthew

Interesting story: my wife Parastou Carabash had brought down a baby Bjorn baby holder (pictured above).  We didn’t really have a use for it (our pudgy 7 month old Daniel had outgrown it).  I noticed that Mathew’s mom, Tashi, was lugging this cute little guy everywhere.  He was not light 😉  I couldn’t believe they didn’t have some kind of strap or stroller, etc.  So I gave her this thing and showed her how to use it.  I was so happy the baby passed out while she was wearing it.  I hope it makes her life easier!

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