I am recently back from my 3rd dental mission in the last 6 months and am still trying to get my head staight and get back into the business mode. On this last trip to Esmeraldas, we had a smaller group of docs, support help and volunteers and yet, the 20, or so, of us treated 600 kids over a span of 5 days and performed nearly 2000 dental procedures on the impoverished children of Ecuador. It's hard work and long, hot days but, once you get there and see those big eyes and smiling faces, it's not hard to remember why you are there. I spent my days getting things hooked up in the morning, getting them unhooked in the evening and getting the kids through triage and where they needed to go all day. Along the way I juggled, did some yo-yo tricks, danced, sang, tossed around toys and gifts and, mostly, I just reverted to my childhood and acted like a kid again. It's a tough job but, somebody has to do it and I can play the part well!! LOL. For me, it's really about getting the kids smiling before they have to sit in a dental chair-many for the first time.
But, these guys that I am with, they are the real deal!! They are docs, assistants, hygenists and other support staff that spend their personal time and money, taking time off from/closing their practices, and giving back to those that have very, very little. I see them working with older and substandard equipment than what they are used to back in the states. I see them in uncomfortable positions, to say the least, all day long, working with portable chairs and units, trying to figure out the best way to contort thier bodies so they can get done what they need to get done, with the tools they have and with the room being provided. It ain't easy, for sure. But, with translators translating, docs doing their thing, assistants assisting and volunteers helping out and pulling together as a team, it all runs smoothly and kids move in and out all day long with most days filled with smiles and feelings of accomplishment until the exhaustion sets in. Then, it's back on the bus to grab some late dinner, the 45 minute bus ride back to our lodging, and not some 5 star place with a pool and jacuzzi mind you, and then maybe a beer or two before the cold shower to close the night and then we're back at it again in the morning. All in all, with 2 days of setting up and tearing down, 5 days of treating kids and a few days thrown in for travel and to see the sites, you're looking at a 10 day jaunt off to do your part to help out those in need. I can't wait to do it all again!!