The dental team
arrived in Vladimir, Russia at 2 AM, after traveling about 30 hours.
After a few hours rest, we went to visit the dental offices.
We found three chairs were in one building, but the fourth was in an
office about 10 miles away. "We need a volunteer." Dr.
Rick raised his hand. He would go to the second office, alone.
His assistant, Treva, and translator, Annya, accompanied him.
His bravery would pay off.
When we arrived at
the main clinic, we were shocked. We learned photos can lie!
The equipment was much older than appeared in the photographs.
Not all components were working, an amalgamator (the filling
shaker-upper) worked when it wanted to, and we had no suction!
If you are like us, we had no idea what this meant to the practice
of dentistry. Drs. Sam and Gerard took the 2 chair room with
all the problems. Misery NEEDS company! Dr. John's
office was pretty good, by Russian standards. Dr. Rick made
friends with the family of the dentist he was replacing. They
fed him the first day...we promised not to let that happen again!
Without exception, the team viewed the circumstances and purposed to
do the job God had called them to do.
We arrived bright
and early the next morning to make a difference in the lives of
these forgotten children. Circumstances only got worse. The
neighborhood surrounding the main offices was without water.
Next to suction, water is one of the most important tools in fixing
teeth. Taking it all in stride, the "Team from Texas" was open
Dr. Sergey had
triaged for pain and visible problems. The first van load was
vying for their turn in the chair. We knew most had never seen
a dentist, but the problem was the ones which had been treated.
We found, due to the shortage of supplies, only one injection is
given to numb the tooth. If it works, great, if not, hold
on...work goes forth. Our prayer had always been to make this
experience as painless as possible, not to traumatize the children.
We have a long standing relationship with these children. We
are coming back, we want to be greeted with love not fear.
Suppliers had given us enough medication, we should not have to hurt
Oh, yes, the lack
of water... Dentistry without running water is tough enough, but did
you know, without water, there are no toilet facilities? Not
only the team was without toilets, so were our patients. It
led to many comical (if it was not happening to you) and poignant
moments, as we had to provide help for sedated children.
Praise the Lord for buckets in the office. This is when Dr.
Rick received his reward for volunteering to be the Lone Ranger, he
had functioning toilets! We cannot stress enough times, we are
a blessed nation. As we reminded the doctors, we just knew
they would never again complain to their assistant if things were
not just right!
In spite of this
hurdle, our doctors proceeded as if the situation was normal.
At this point, we began to see the depth of commitment God had
placed in the hearts of these men and women. And do not
forget, these assistants were constantly improvising to meet the
needs of their doctors. Theirs is a forgotten job...but not by
Treasures. The entire team went forth in joy and love showing
compassion to our little charges.
The first day, Gail
Showalter was in charge of the hall (aka a bunch of energetic
kids). Sounds like a pretty simple job for a teacher. Add to
the job, she is the only one speaking English and they are speaking
Russian. Gail came with her "Stupid American" note (we always
make a note in Russian, with hotel information, in the event a team
member is lost) to say, "Next time add 'sit down, stay here, hot,
and cold' to the list!" The following days, we had hall translators.
Live and learn.
concern was borne out. One child out of the 70+ children had
no problems! The decay was so profound, some teeth had rotted
below gum level with the skin beginning to grow over the tooth.
The doctors said these were 80 year old teeth in 12 year old
mouths. Some needs were met with simple fillings, while many
others required multiple extractions. Some children had 5 or 6
teeth removed. They knew, on some level, this was the help
they had been waiting for. As they readily climbed in the
chair, little jaws swollen with abscesses, they were eager for
relief. With few exceptions, the children laid there patiently
while the doctors did their work.
Our team physician,
Dr. Charles Wilson, made "house calls" after the numbness wore off,
checking on pain management, to administer antibiotics where
Working at the
clinic in Vladimir, Drs. Sam and Gerard had not been able to visit
Barskoe. We made a last minute dash to the orphanage. We found
ourselves enjoying the fresh snowfall and fall colors, as Vanya came
to his new doctor, wanting his sutures removed. Dr.
Gerard and Oksana retrieved their instruments and removed them while
standing in the wind and cold. These Texas Power Team Dentists
continue to surprise us! The biggest surprise of all...they
want to return to Barskoe in 2 years! Praise the Lord!
discussion, the conclusion was, potatoes (the mainstay of their
diet) are the culprit. Starch from the potatoes turns to sugar
when eaten. The teeth and roots are strong, not lacking
calcium. The director from the dental clinic said the water
from the Klyazma and Nerl Rivers, in the Suzdahl region, may also be
a contributing factor. We had already planted an apple orchard
this trip, only to find apples are a natural cleaner for teeth.
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