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Don’t regret a missing Chance

Posted in: Blog, by Bridge2Aid Team, on 10th October 2013 | 0 comments

by dental volunteer Elaine Warner

I have had one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions which have made a huge impact on me and hopefully made me a better person.

I have been married for 31 years and have 3 adult children and with their support I set off to Tanzania where I volunteered for 2 weeks on DVP, Bridge2aid’s Dental Volunteer Programme.

Nothing could have prepared me for it. I had no idea the impact it would have on me or the feelings it would leave me with. Naively I thought I would go and work and then come back and feel I had done some good. And I do feel I have done a lot of good but the people we treated have left a much bigger mark on me and have done much more for me than I could ever have done for them. I loved every minute of it.

I have never worked with such a wonderful team of people or worked so hard.

We left our hotel at 7am and travelled 2 hours there and back every day over dirt track roads to what seemed the middle of nowhere and this would be our workplace for the next three days. When we arrived at 9am as well as the 5 clinical officers that we would be training there were already about 80 people waiting.

Please don’t think the setting up was too fancy. The nurses room consisted of three tables, a dirty area which had two bowls one with soapy water to scrub the instruments and the other with clear water to rinse, a second table which had 2/3 pressure cookers where the instruments  were pressurised for 20 minutes. They then were put onto the clean table ready to be returned to the dentists. We also made up the local anaesthetic there which came in small bottles which we had to draw it up into the syringes.

The dentist work stations were just as basic. There was a kitchen chair, a table for the instruments which consisted of forceps and elevators and a plastic bottle for the sharps and a torch to see in the patient’s mouth.

When we were ready to begin, the dentists would call in the patients by their number which would be marked off the chart. A medical history would then be taken which at times could prove very difficult because of language barriers and the fact that many patients don’t know much about their medical issues.

The only treatment here is extractions even for a young 22 year old girl that had caries in 4 upper anterior teeth. In many cases it was extraction of roots and the people had been suffering for years. Sometimes even after several anaesthetics total anaesthesia could not be achieved due to infection so I can only imagine how painful it must have been for them.

On the third day which was our last day at this hospital (which our team leader had informed us we were very lucky to be in as it had electricity and running water) my admiration for the people I was working with went even higher which I didn’t think was possible.

We had stopped for lunch and after only ten minutes one of our team decided he was going back to work to see as many patients as he could before the clinical officers returned and he was quickly followed by the rest of the team. Nobody wanted to stop until they had seen everyone because we wouldn’t be back.

We managed to see 90 patients that day and you cannot get a better high than working with such a great team and relieving so many people of pain.

The next three days we were in an even more remote place where there was no running water or electricity. There were the same crowds of people when we arrived who again would wait patiently to be seen.

By the end of the 6 days we had not only treated 524 patients but during that time had trained 5 clinical officers that are now able to return and provide that treatment for their patients.

The patients were a delight to work with. They were so patient – some had maybe sat for up to 7 hours to be seen. No one ever complained. After their treatment they would often take your hand and repeatedly thank you.

The organisation of the trip and the support from the on site Bridge2aid team was wonderful. From arriving at Heathrow airport until I returned I did not have to think for myself, everything was taken care of. We were well looked after and they could not have done more for us. It is a dedicated organisation. They not only treat the pain that is there but teach the skills for others to do it when they have gone.

If anyone has ever considered doing it and they are at a stage in their life when they are able to. I would say to them to do it. They will never regret doing it but they may in time regret not doing it. In life I don’t think we regret the things we have done it’s the things we haven’t done and the chances we have missed that we regret.


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