April 30, 2008

What Have I Been Up To?

Well, I will tell you. I have been to Morocco to clean some teeth. I had the great opportunity to hook up with a group my brother Eric is in charge of called 'Share a Smile.' They have been several places providing dental care in the past. China, Russia, Belarus, Bolivia. This year they went to Zagora Morocco. They also took, for the first time this year, a crew of medical professionals. An opthamologist was doing cataract surgeries, a dermatologist seeing all kinds of intense stuff, and my super sister Shauna did cardiac care. It was truly an amazing experience. I hope to be able to go again sometime. And hope to convince Troy the neurologist to join me.

I knew it would be hard at times seeing the poverty, having to tell people no (for every patient we saw there were several who didn't have the papers to enter and were turned away), etc. But I wasn't prepared for how emotionally overwhelming it was, especially on that first day. I was in charge of triage for the second half of the first day and so it was up to me to decide who gets seen and who gets sent home. There was a cute little 6 year old boy with a completely rotted out mouth. Only one molar was even in tact in his entire mouth! It was everything rotten to the gums. He also had the complication of a swollen lymph node that could be seen visually without even touching him. I am not sure if he had other issues causing the swelling, but I suspected it was the infection in his mouth causing the problem. Yet, what was there to do? Not a single tooth seemed worth saving and yet to extract his 'teeth' would have also been a dis-service. How would he be able to chew then? We don't make dentures for 6 year olds. They would just grow out of them. I had to send him away. It felt awful. By the end of that day I was in tears. However by the end of our trip when you could see the looks on the faces of people in town waving good-bye to our bus and throwing us kisses. It felt pretty darn good. We weren't just tourists or possibly spies. We were the good guys.

One of the peace corps volunteers (Mike-from Texas) we had working with us told me a pretty cool story. He said that after being here for nearly 2 years he still hasn't always felt welcomed by his neighbors (he told me it wasn't uncommon for them to think all Americans are spies). Then the night after our first working day there, his next door neighbor, who's child had been seen in our clinic that day, invited him into his home and shared his dinner with Mike. Mike said at the end of the week that it had been one of his best and most productive weeks of his entire stay in Zagora. That really made me feel good!

It was also really great to spend time with my Brother Eric and his wife Jolynne, and with 2 of my sisters who also went. Shauna and Paula. Special thanks to my mother in law for taking care of the kids and to my father in law for coming along to help out and who fixed things around the house all week. The dryer now works great! I really had a great time, but was so glad to come home to my blessed life and the family that I love. I am so lucky!!!!