It rained really hard today. Everything was wet but nothing was hindered. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go to land and triage with one of our dentists. People had crammed onto the covered porch of the healthcare building in Morobe Station. As we approached we called out to everyone that we met, “Teeth! Problems with teeth?” Anyone who said yes was assessed by our dentist who would make sure there was a problem and not a loss in translation. All the dental patients then got a colored ticket so we could know who needed to go to the ship and when they would go based on color.
Back on the ship, I helped organize the patients. One of the previous ship volunteers developed an app specifically for YWAM ships to serve as an electronic health record that updates patient info on all the ipads in the dental clinic on live time. As patients came and sat on the deck we would input their name, age, and village. Then it was just a matter of waiting. One of the other volunteers brought out Jenga, which became a big hit! We all were Jenga experts by the end of the day.
Waiting with the patients gave me and some of the guys I was working with the unique opportunity to have extended one on one conversations. We got to know a woman named Dorothy and her daughter Nora. Dorothy is a school teacher in the local school. She eagerly engaged with us and asked for resources to teach her students the basics of health promotion. She told me that she became a teacher because she knows that education will improve the community and open up opportunities for her students. We were able to give her a few posters about hand washing and tooth brushing. Nora had come to the boat because she had four cavities in her front teeth. Her cavities made two circular holes in her smile that she was very self conscious about. Yesterday the dentist was able to fill two of the cavities on the right side. Today the job was finished and Nora had a whole new smile free of holes. She is so beautiful. She and Dorothy made beautiful bags out of colored fishing string for the dentist and dental assistant who worked on their teeth. They had such joy that just radiated from them. When we took them back to the shore, there was a huge group of people waiting to have the chance to be treated on the ship. Dorothy helped us to triage them by translating for us. It made everything so, so much easier and the people were sorted in half the time it would have taken us alone.
During the second half of the day we went through a flip chart about proper day-to-day dental care. Everyone listened undistracted. A big thing to do here instead of drinking or smoking is to chew this plant called beetlenut. The beetlenut causes increased tooth decay, tooth staining, and eventually leads to mouth cancer. We taught them about this and encouraged them to eliminate, or at least decrease, the their chewing. After we had finished teaching, one girl pulled me aside and asked some more questions. She was there with her little sister and her cousin. Their names are Carolyn, Titopane, and Kimberly. Carolyn and I talked about life for a little while. I learned that she and her siblings spend a lot of time studying at the encouragement of her parents. She has the dream of going to Lae for college to become a lawyer. When they left us she gave me a shirt that she had been wearing. I was so humbled and touched by such a gift. I hope to see them again throughout the week.
We ended the day with a birthday celebration because today is one of the dental assistant’s birthday. However, when they called her up to be sung to, they also announced two other birthdays, one, for one of our ophthalmic nurses and the other was my own. The whole ship sang happy birthday to us and we got to eat chocolate cake. It was a real treat. The night concluded with board games in the lounge.