Two small windows and 3 bare bulbs, hanging on twisted cords, light the surgery (one of the bulbs is broken).
We have set up clinic in a village pre-school. An occasional wall painting decorates the sparse interior which is infused with red dust. Keeping the dirt out is impossible, especially after two thunder storms. A chalkboard in the admin room tells an unknown story in Arabic. A few small wooden chairs and desks have been arranged for our triage area. An excited crowd of adults and children jostle for position by the entranceway. A buzz of Arabic, Berber, and French fills the airwaves. We are the only ones speaking English.
The equipment is basic – 3 portable, non electric, dental chairs set up in a row. The kitchen has been converted to the sterilising room – with washing bowls, an ultrasonic cleaner and portable autoclave. There is no hot water and one toilet.
All instruments and materials have been donated – no option to be fussy about what we use. Such is the amity of the team that we manage remarkably efficiently and jovially.
Egos cannot exist in this setting.
The patients are so grateful: their alternative is a visit to the market where a cheerful man multi tasks as Barber and Dentist. Perhaps you have never seen an old dental chair in the open air amongst the fish, meat and clothing stalls? Instruments are old and sterilised by flame. No anaesthetic is used … too much information? Frankly I think you should all hug your dentist with relief for what you have.
hug your dentist with relief for what you have
I need to confirm numbers but yesterday we treated 250 patients and today we were busier. Tomorrow is our last day in this village, hopefully everyone in need will get to see us.
(This is a diary excerpt from April. I went with the organisation Dental Mavericks. The image above is a colleague having a shave in the village, with the same person and at the same venue that dental work is done. Notice the hairdresser in the distance.)