The culmination of a monumental organization effort came to fruition the first week of September, 2013 as loads of dental supplies and dentists descended upon EDM in anticipation of examining and treating the primary school population in Barron. The primary school was as we left it in May… out of power. The electric feed had burned through last fall and had not yet been fixed. The school principal had even sent a little girl to a conference attended by the Sinaloa Governor with a sign reading, “My school has not had power for 6 months!”. The Governor reportedly read the sign, talked to the girl and made a lot of promises that were not ultimately kept. So there we were, 8 dentist/hygienists in waiting, with no power. We ended up hiring an electrician who lives in Barron and works for EDM to temporarily rig it so the one wing of the school housing the computer classroom (the intended stage) would have electric.
Under the direction of head honcha, Deb Astroth, the empty room was converted into a real dental clinic.
We got started bright and early on Monday, scheduling the entire Sixth Grade from 8:30 am till 11:30. We got started a bit late, but all in all, things went pretty well. We saw 40 kids and their associated 1005 teeth. Of those teeth, we found 47 caries and 2 previously filled teeth. The statistics on how many fillings and extractions we did were not compiled, but they were many. The team worked amazingly smoothly and efficiently, considering the circumstances.
Tuesday morning was a different story. The first really big rainstorm that Mazatlan has experienced this season hit. Big rain and lots of lots of thunder so we were not particularly surprised when we arrived in Barron to find the electric was out. The dentists were scrambling but it was a classic case of “Ricardo to the Rescue!” Realizing that this was a real possibility, Dale and Dick had already purchased a generator and electric cords necessary to run the equipment. No AC or lights, but the intrepid dental team took hardly a note. On they worked thru the entire 5th and 4th grades; 739 and 538 teeth respectively. They discovered over 100 caries and 5 previously filled teeth.
The power came back on around 10:AM and with a little help from Maria Jose, Ana Isabel, Jesus and Uriel we managed to examine, treat and educate 55 more kids. Chi-Chi the Wonder Dental Dog helped us demonstrate correct brushing procedures and the kids had a lot of fun coloring pages and reading the posters.
Wednesday was supposed to be a half day with the entire third grade scheduled but things never work out the way they are supposed to! Each child was required a bring a permission slip and fill out a medical history. The history part took a lot longer than with the older kids. Try translating “heart murmur” to a third grader! So we decided to require that all kids be accompanied by their parent which doubled the chaos out in the courtyard. But inside the clinic, our dedicated dentist worked on, kid after kid after kid. Of the 236 kids seen, only about 50 had caries-free mouths. Some decay was treated and others not, depending upon a range of circumstances best explained by a dentist. Some kids with major extractions required the attention of 3 dentists while other sailed thru with just a fluoride treatment. Keeping track was my job, a labor which kept me up till all hours..
Thursday saw the Second graders scheduled, all 54 of them. By this time, word had gotten around that this was not necessarily a cake-walk and many of the second graders were really scared. I can’t praise the dental team enough as they tried to console little kids in another language. We did have lots of help but these kids were really brave… at least the little girls were generally very brave. The little boys were the ones crying and screaming. That was a long day. A full 12% of the teeth we saw were decayed, up from 4.6% of the 6th grade, 5.8% of the 5th grade, 11.3% of the 4th grade but less than the 18% rate found in the 3rd grade. Maybe that’s why Wednesday was such a long day!. We really though we were home free by Friday morning. All we had left was the first grade, only 35 kids! Easy right? WRONG! It rained again Thursday evening and the rain continued through the morning. What we didn’t know was that kids don’t come to school when it rains…even during a dental clinic. I am not sure what they were thinking, but less than half the class showed up! So, what to do?? Well, maybe we could go educate the kindergarteners! Right! Let’s do it. Well, not one kindergartener had shown up for school! So we got on the public address system and announced that everyone with a dental appointment needed to show up at the school. Little by little, and especially after the rain let up, kids and parents trickled in and were treated, 26 in all.
I can’t thank the team members enough for the dedication, good cheer and talents which they shared with the kids of Barron. Bob and Julie Wallace loaned us their condo which we used as a mess hall… Dulce and Claudia cooked us wonderful meals every night which we enjoyed. The Winter Park contingent of EDM (Lance, Pratt’s, Winey’s, Silk) provided free use of their condos to house the team and that was also much appreciated. We received cash and toothbrush donations from Baillon’s, Wallace’s and my sister Sue. Kim and Heather provided transportation and sweet rolls. Delicious! The school mothers and teachers provided us lunch daily as a means of thanking us. The kids were totally captivated by these wonderful gringos. They held no grudges either. Kids that were under the needle the day before came back to watch and giggle the next day and appreciate our efforts. I want thank every one involved and the list is long. A lot of the accumulated supplies have remained in Mazatlan in anticipation of a repeat performance sometime next spring.