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Phil Ehret, a dentist from Manchester, Vermont USA, assisted by his wife Anne provided dental care at St. Helene orphanage from March 18th-22nd. Their journal relates, “Sunday was a day of getting settled in, acclimating to mile- high elevation, and trying to locate the key for the new lock on the dental clinic door. With Monday was the anticipation that when the carpenter arrived we’d be able to get in the clinic. That didn’t work out, but as luck would have it, there was a Swiss mountain climber who was also volunteering that week. Without our even realizing what he was doing, he’d climbed a ladder as far as it would reach toward a window that we thought might not be locked, climbed up the rest of the way, went through the window, and opened the door from the inside to our surprised faces! Hurdle one!
We proceeded to get things set up. Phil checked out equipment. All was working except no water to his handpieces (drills) which meant they couldn’t be used. We did start seeing patients in the afternoon – just for exams. Tuesday morning Phil and two men from maintenance worked on the equipment and got the water going to the handpieces! Hurdle 2. By mid morning we were up and running taking care of the line of patients!
With water running now, we started using the suction which suctions the water out of the patient’s mouth. Pretty soon it started talking, then gurgling; we barely limped through the day. Opening up the suction showed a large split in a big plastic part. Yes, it was duct tape time! It did help, but, alas not for very long. By midday Wednesday, Phil came to the conclusion that we’d just do exams, simple extractions, and minor procedures that would not need the use of the drill. It was not all the care that he would have liked to provide, but folks were still very appreciative of the care he did provide. Since the children had had their annual dental exam in the fall, the focus was primarily on providing care for staff and their families. All totaled, dental exams were provided for approximately 30 children and 70 staff, two children and four staff had restorations put in their teeth and/or teeth extracted.