Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Day at the Dentist: Honduras

The House of Hope, where we lodge in Puerto Lempira, was started by a dentist from Allen, TX.  It is a great facility with a home for orphans, a dental clinic and lodging for missionary teams. 
This year our team was there at the same time as a dental team. What a blessing that turned out to be!

 There was Summer who is a hygienist, Terri a Dentist and Terri's husband Rob. They were awesome!
Wednesday of that week it was agreed that we could bring all of Mama Tara's kids over to have their teeth cleaned/worked on. We were to bring them six at a time. 

That afternoon Adam and I took the second group of kids 
Four of the kids in our group were new to Mama Tara's and had probably never seen a dentist. Judging by the looks of their mouths they had quite likely never seen a toothbrush.

Faviola, our sponsored daughter, was one of the seven in our group. 
She agreed to go to the dentist if Adam and I went with her but still she wasn't happy about going.
The mile walk to the House of Hope seemed a lot longer that afternoon because they just weren't excited to get there. I ended up carrying one child almost the whole way! Yeah, it was a long walk!
Maylin holding Faviola's hand on the way to the dentist. It is fair to say that Maylin learned an important lesson in why you brush your teeth EVERY day! 
Adam Trying to help keep this little one calm.
 This precious girl was the first in the chair. From what I understood of her life story she had been hit by a truck before she ended up at Mama Tara's and her teeth were badly damaged as a result. She had to have 6 teeth pulled. It was not pretty... she screamed and cried and fought with everything she had which did not give confidence to the rest of the children waiting their turn.

 When she was finally done. They sat her up on a stool to bite on gauze but she was so exhausted from screaming and crying that she was falling asleep while sitting up. It was heartbreaking to watch. She eventually staggered over to the other dental chair, crawled up and fell fast asleep.  She stayed there for a long time. None of us had the heart to move her.
There is a lot going on in this picture. Adam is comforting two girls, one in the chair, one on his lap. He is making jokes with a little boy, while one sweet little one sleeps off the trauma of having 6 teeth pulled.  There is another keeping her distance trying to figure out what was about to happen to her.
And so it continued... Child after child, that is just how we rolled.
 Then it was Faviola's turn in the hygienist's chair. I sat by her side and held her hands trying to comfort her/keep her from reaching for the dental tools. At the same time I held a sleepy little boy and tried to get him to nap. He was definitely more interested in watching than sleeping.

 Faviola wasn't a fan of getting her teeth cleaned but she did a good job. She was brave. Even when she saw the blood she stayed brave.  I was so proud of her and so sad for her at the same time.
(I have to give credit to this dental team! They were so patient and sooo kind with the children!)

 If I remember correctly, of the 5 kids in our group who actually made it to the dentist chair that day 12 teeth were pulled. From what I could see there seemed to be much more work that could be done.  But how? If you pull all the rotten teeth what quality of life do they have? If you leave the infected teeth the kids continue to be in pain...
There was MUCH screaming, crying, hand holding and hugging this day.  Believe me the crying wasn't just from the children. It was heartbreaking to see inside their mouths. Many of their molar teeth were rotten to the gum, infected and gray. The smell of infection was strong. Before this day I didn't know what an infected tooth smelled like... I do now.
At one point Summer, the hygienist, even had to get up, step into the closet and cry. It was traumatic.

 Perhaps the most heartbreaking for me personally was after Faviola, our sponsored daughter, got out of the dentist's chair. (she had one tooth pulled.) She sat up and told me she was mad at me. She said it in Spanish but I understood enough to know what she was saying and she meant it.
I could see the look of hurt and question in her eyes as if she were questioning why I would allow this to happen to her. My heart sank because I feared the trust we had developed had all just vanished in that dental clinic.
How was I to communicate to her that I loved her and that is why we took her there. How do you explain to a child who doesn't speak your language that this temporary pain was for her own good.  Just as my heart sunk and tears welled up in my own eyes she said again "I am mad" however this time she slumped off the edge of her chair, into my arms and cried.
 ...I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry too.

While it was a heartbreaking situation it was beautiful to be able to hold her and comfort her. I knew in that moment that she was probably still mad at me but she still trusted me enough to let me comfort her. My heart was full of so many emotions... Joy that she trusted me, sadness that she was in pain, Joy that for just a few moments I got to give her the comfort of a mother, deep sadness that in a few days I had to leave her yet again.
 This little beauty sat outside and waited her turn patiently. (She is one of the new children who's teeth were in very bad shape) When it was nearing her turn Adam went out and sat beside her. As he sat there she began to cry... she began to wail.
She was terrified. She leaned on Adam's lap and cried and cried and cried.
He tried to comfort her but there was nothing to be said. She had heard the cries of the other children, members of her own family. She understood what was to come...
While she didn't end up in the chair that day, thankfully, she did come back the next morning with Linda, the house mother at Mama Tara's, and got the needed work done.
So it began the next day... The remaining children got their teeth cleaned, filled and/or pulled.
This was an experience that forever bonded my heart with those children.
It was emotionally exhausting, sad, and painful to watch yet it was such a privilege to be trusted enough to comfort them.

Now each time I brush my teeth or urge my kids to brush their teeth I think of these children. I think of them and pray they have enough tooth paste. I pray they have a clean toothbrush. I pray they are brushing their teeth and that they are now free of pain.

In this Thanksgiving season I am thankful for the House of Hope as well as Summer and Terri! May we all be thankful for our dentists!


Summer Kyser said...

This post is amazing! I love the moments that you were able to capture with your photos, i was so busy working on teeth I didn't get to see it from your perspective. These children are such an amazing blessing!! Thanks again for this post,

Saundra Shultz said...

I was blessed to be back at House of Hope when my precious sponsored boy, Brandy, was to sit in the dentist chair. He asked for me and I was able to go and hold his hand while Terri filled a molar that was very deep. She wanted to save the tooth is at all possible. I pray that it does not become too sensitive for him and won't have to have it pulled at a later time. He was so brave - I was so happy to be there with him.