All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Well you saw how we played in Tonga but the work was just as fun!
Jumped in, gloved up and ready to go. We saw patients lined out the clinic doors eager to see the Pālangi or pretty much “hey look, a white person” an hour before the clinic opened. Although we had numerous amazing experiences that week I am going to share my THREE favorites.First off an explanation of the clinic, rotations, and hospital. The students could be working on extractions, restorations, flippers, or endo (the yummy root canal). They also had the opportunity to visit the hospital or go out to the village clinic. *P.S. no HIPAA in Tonga so I have pictures galore!
ONE: The first day was a blur as we worked on so many amazing cases. I met some of the strongest people that didn’t even flinch as we pulled massive teeth. Some of our patients had traveled so far to see the students. One of Cam’s patients was very old and was with her daughter. The daughter told us how they had traveled from a smaller island by ferry and then flew to the main island. They had spent a lot of their money to come and asked for all of the woman’s teeth to be taken out. Cam explained that we did not have resources to provide a denture and we were not taking any more patients for flippers. The woman translated to her mother and they agreed they still wanted all the teeth pulled. This was not a huge procedure because she only had 5 left. Cam completed the extraction and the woman got up smiled and was out the door.
I was so sad that I didn’t get a picture of the woman because I will always remember her and how much she sacrificed. But you can see a few of our other amazing patients.
TWO: Meet Annie! I am going to spoil the end of this story and tell you it didn’t turn out how we hoped. I am probably the only person that even liked this experience but hey, it’s my story and my blog so I get to share it 🙂
The first half of the day Cam and I were in endo. As you can see in the picture below, my assistant chair had my back to the lobby. We were working on this woman and I felt someone behind me. The shadow got closer and I felt her ever so lightly touch my arm and then my hair and then out of the blue… she licked me. YES! You read right, licked me! I started laughing as I am trying to suction and pay attention and she begins to climb all over me and hug me. Dr. Johns started laughing at my little shadow and snapped this fun picture. I had met Annie earlier in the day while waiting for our first patient and we had played ‘double double’ and ‘down by the river’ and all sorts of games!I learned that Annie needed to have some teeth pulled later that day. She asked if I would do it. “Oh honey you DO NOT want me to do it!” haha, I told her my husband could though. She was shocked that we were married and got all excited. So after lunch she was first in our chair. She acted so brave and we talked her through each thing we were doing.She was being such a champ as Cam got her numb but quickly I saw the fear she felt. She was smiling but the tears were building up. Cam went in to pull the tooth and she lost it. We tried everything. I pulled out my whole bag of kid tricks including bribery. Finally the professors called it and she left will all her teeth still intact.
A few hours later she was back. Pulling on my scrubs she promised she was going to be brave and not cry. Her mom was persistent about having the teeth pulled so we tried again. This time with me in the chair and her on my lap. Still she locked her jaw and refused to open. Cam’s teachers explained that they didn’t want to make her afraid of the dentist and it would be better for her to go to the hospital to be put to sleep for a quick and effortless extraction.
About 10 minutes after she left our chair she snuck into our sterilization room to apologize to me for not being good. It made me tear up. This precious girl that told me she trusted me was so sweet and innocent. I pointed her towards Cam and she offered her apologizes to him as well. I will never forget Annie because that six year old taught me to be brave.THREE: Cam got to go out with Afa into the village and our first stop was a school. The dental technician and school teachers called all the students into the court. The kids brought a water bottle and a tooth brush and the teacher put toothpaste on each one. Then she called out for them to brush top right 15 seconds and spit, bottom right…spit, until their entire mouth was clean. They rinsed and ran back to class without a care in the world.
Next we arrived at the health clinic that has a dental room, a “pregnancy room” for deliveries, a pharmacy, a doctors office, and a nurse’s room. Cam and Afa went straight to work and I got ushered down with the nurses. It was amazing to see how much work they do with limited supplies. Seriously I was just in awe at procedures and sterilization (or lack there of).
We then took a “water” break; outside a huge basket of coconuts waited for us. The lady took a machete and lickity-split opened one up for me to drink. She placed a woven mat on the ground and she asked all about America and what life was like in the states. She was so kind and told me that the Tongan people only need work, food, and sleep to be happy and enjoy life.
So this New Year’s that is my goal. Working hard, eating right, and getting enough sleep. I am going to add in family time because what is life without someone to share it with?
Now for your viewing pleasure a short video to show just how awesome Tonga is!