Monday, November 29, 2010

Incredible M.O.M. follow up!

What an incredible experience and amazing privilege it was to participate the first West Coast Mission of Mercy event at the Convention Center. We as professional Dentists, support staff and volunteers from the community helped to provided 7,844 procedures valuing $829,119 to 1,554 patients in the two days. The Oregon Dental Association worked tirelessly to organize this event that would effect so many lives, more than could have been imagined. It was an experience that I have been having trouble putting words to, but one week later I have to try to express some of what this entire experience meant to me. 
As I rolled out of bed at 4:30 am I complained that I was "cold" because the heat had yet to kick on, since we normally don't rise that early. I was "tired". It was too early to eat, but I was "hungry". As we drove up to the Convention Center at 5 am I was stunned to see people already lined up around the large complex. Some, we were told, had been there since the night before in sub-freezing, raining conditions, and most arriving at 4 am with the hopes of having their dental pain and problems relieved. There was no guarantee that they would all be seen that day, but hopes were high. At that moment I realized a new meaning to the words "cold" ,"tired" and "hungry". 

 As I sat at the table welcoming in the prospective patients, and giving them their name tags, I was overwhelmed with emotion and totally humbled by the experience. Each and every cold, wet, tired person that stepped into the building,sighed with relief, knowing they had finally made it into the warmth of the convention center. They knew that they would be treated that day, was grateful, gracious and cheerful. They blessed us and praised us  for the time we were giving them to provide the much needed dental work. Some of the patients had lost healthcare and jobs due to the tough economic status of our state. Some where living out on the street. Some were struggling with drugs and alcohol. Many had small children and babies in their arms, having been waiting for hours in the cold. 

What a reality check for my own life and comforts! I do try to live each day honoring my blessings and feeling grateful for my truly wonderful and full life, but this day took me to a new level of appreciation and gratefulness. I know that even with my intent to live a grateful authentic life, things do slip by me in the day to day rushing, that I might not notice and be fully grateful for. What a gift and lesson I learned from the people who came into the Convention Center. There were thousands of people in line and we were only able to let under one thousand in the first day 12 hour day. Some people that were not able to be seen on Monday, remained on to wait in line, sleeping out, with the hopes of being seen on Tuesday, even though the temperatures were falling to record lows with freezing rain and snow. 

Some of the media chose to focus on the fact that not everyone in line was treated, or that standing out in the cold is akin to the pain of dentistry. I tried to see beyond that ignorant attitude and did go as far as to write a letter to the editor of the Oregonian, addressing that form of "journalism". Most of the coverage of the event was very positive.

I know we can all learn something from the attitudes of the clients that showed up for MOM. In the afternoon, I escorted patients to continue with their treatment or those who were already done for the day. Some patients where happy to have teeth extracted to relieve their pain, some had their long neglected teeth filled and others left happily with new teeth where no teeth had remained and left with smiles on their faces for the first time. They wrote comments on cards that were posted in the break room throughout the day. One women wrote, that she had been a victim of domestic violence and as a result had her teeth knocked out, and that now she could finally smile with her new teeth. The day was filled with tears of joy and sorrow for many of us. Everyone was treated with respect and everyone left with a feeling of pride. Some people now being able to eat with a comfort that they had never known.

I was filled with pride for my husband Michael and his trusty assistant Alvina providing 12 hours of dental care with barely a break, who are seen in this great picture taken during the day~~
I was also so proud to have been a part of such an amazingly important event. Next year we will work both 5am-6pm days. We went home this time after working just the Monday double shift, feeling incredibly exhausted but pumped with so much adrenaline, so many personal stories to share with each other as we had a wonderful, grateful, warm dinner together. The food tasted so much richer to us because our day's experience. We were filled with such a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and gratefulness, and such an array of emotions that I am still trying to process.I don't know of anyone on either the giving or receiving end of this event, that was not deeply effected. I for one, have been touched and changed forever having had the honor of working at M.O.M. What a Thanksgiving gift I have been able to receive through M.O.M.


Sparks of Spirit Glass said...

Incredible! Kudos to you, your husband and all the volunteer dentists and assistants!
What a gift you all gave people who were in desperate need of assistance. Your eloquent description is exceptional!
Give me a heads up next year. I would be honored to help in some small way!

Sherry Stewart said...

Wow. So uplifting to read this. Good for you. Sniff sniff does the heart good!!