Northwest Dentistry readers met Moses Mwaura in September of 2010 in our cover feature on his medical journey to this country with his sponsors from the Edina Rotary. Eye surgery was donated, and the excellent Dr. Angela Wandera, pediatric dentist and native Kenyan, took care of his dental needs. We are continuously asked how Moses is doing, and are pleased to report he is not only thriving, but the “Moses miracle” has wrapped its arms around his family and, it seems, everyone this child comes into contact with.
Moses lives with his uncle now, just across the street from the Green Garden School, where he will move into the first grade in January. His report card so far is impressive … and reflects his highly individual personality, too. His English is “amazing”; he prefers to speak it with everyone everywhere, “even at home, where he issues commands in English”. His best subject is math. Then there is music:
“The noise level in my house has increased exponentially,” writes his uncle. “He loves the drums, and arranges cans, plastic bottles, and cardboard boxes, and plays as he sings for hours on end.” Uncle David has hired a local jazz musician to provide some training for such passion and energy.
Sports are huge for Moses, too. He is a “fearless” footballer (soccer, of course); gymnast – anywhere he goes, in perpetual motion; and runner. Green Garden had a competition this summer “in which Moses starred. He is so fast that he goes ahead, then waits for the other kids in order to overtake them.” He won the obstacle course. Think about that …
And then there is this: Moses’ sister and brother have entered Primary School. This means Moses’ mother does not need to divide her time between where Moses lives and the Mathare slum, and does not have to pay extra for the house there. The family is reunited, under one roof, and for each of them, life is opening a new door.
It was in January of 2010 we revisited the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center and its dental specialty unit, where we met Boomer, Saint Paul police canine officer whose bullet-shattered face was reconstructed by the doctors there. Boomer retired, but people have never stopped asking about him. Boomer’s partner, Officer Patrick Murphy, reports that “although [our hero] has been retired for a few years now, not a single work day goes past that he is not upset that I can no longer take him on patrol. When I leave for work he still gets excited, wagging his tail in anticipation that I might take him along. When it is clear to him that I am leaving without him, he barks that same series of barks letting me know that he is not happy. Just because Boomer does not ride around with me to patrol, I know for a fact he patrols our home when I am at work with my new partner.” And dentists, take a look at that awesome piece of reconstructive work.
A Votre Sante
Yvonne Hanley, D.D.S.
In the day-to-day practice of clinical dentistry, we learn to clutch onto any signs of appreciation from our patients. We celebrate the thank-you’s and compliments. Some days, one even has to embrace the departing words of, “Huh, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be”. Ah, such is our life as dentists.
I recently had Don, a 75-year-old long-term patient come in and ask for me. He met me with tears in his eyes and a huge hug. I’m thinking, “Okay, then, where do we go from here?” He said, “You are my angel, you saved my life.” Ah, now that’s a momentous day.
The story behind the tears and the hug is that three years ago, on a routine panoramic radiograph, I noticed radiopacities in the general area of the carotid artery. When I detect this on a panorex film, I show it to the patient, tell him or her it could be a number of things, including many structures in the area that could have calcified. However, it could also be calcified obstructions in the carotid artery, a life-threatening condition. I urge them to follow up with their physician, who can run the tests necessary to determine the diagnosis.
Don was a patient at the VA in Fargo, and he contacted them. After the necessary testing and evaluation, it was determined that yes, in fact, his right carotid artery was 75% blocked. He was told that their policy was to not treat these unless they were 80% blocked, so he would be followed yearly. Three years later, at his follow-up, it was determined that the artery was more than 90% blocked, and surgery was scheduled. Postoperatively, his surgeon informed him it was one of the toughest cases he had ever dealt with. Don is recovering, has most of his speech back, is no longer on thickened fluids, and he expects full recovery.
A quick review of the literature suggests that we can expect to see these calcifications in about five percent of our patients over 55. Interestingly, this percentage increases when the reviewers of the films have had training prior to reading the films. This information is readily available to us, and we owe it to our patients to at the very least inform them and urge follow-up with the medical experts.
It was Dr. Peter Dawson who I first heard say that we are “physicians of the stomatognathic system”. Here is yet one more example to confirm the scope of the practice of dentistry and the difference we can make in our patients’ lives. As time goes by, research gives us the information that observant practicing dentists have “known” all along: The mouth is the window to the patient’s overall health. I love this job!
Oh, and did I mention the bottle of homemade Nanking Cherry wine that Don brought me?
Until the Song is Done
Once upon a fair few years ago, before the Minnesota Renaissance Festival grew so big and dusty and noisy, my family was lucky enough to witness a quite amazing moment, and none of us has ever forgotten it.
One of the roaming characters, a musician/violinist, had stopped to play, and a small crowd had gathered, among them a mother and father with a little one of perhaps 10 months in a stroller. The violinist set the donation hat on the ground and began to play. As he did, he became aware that the baby was transfixed by his music, and slowly approached, until he could actually lean forward and down to the enraptured face, playing all the time. The audience had fallen so quiet you could hear a leaf hit the dry ground. It was then the baby reached up and put its hand on the violin. The musician kept playing. The baby’s eyes grew huge as the vibration flowed from the instrument, but he did not move a muscle. This lasted until the song was done. The violinist moved gently back, and then the baby looked up at the musician’s face with the same look of astonished wonder. The next sound was quiet applause, which grew and grew. And there wasn’t a hat in the world big enough to carry away all that was present in that perfect moment.
I chose to close with this memory of my own because it has been my privilege to see so many things like this in my day-to-day contact with the dentists of Minnesota, from the GP down on the operatory floor with a terrified patient, to the oral surgeon on the hospital ship headed to Haiti, to office after office making the best choices they could provide for their patients and their profession. My father used to tell us, “Whatever you’re going to do, don’t go empty handed.” I encounter no “empty hands” among the practitioners I meet, and keep meeting – talk about revisits! So we herewith dedicate “something beautiful” to those who, unsung and routinely, get up early, stay late, don’t wait to be asked, bring out their very best, run the extra 26.2, and think of all of us anyway, even when they don’t have to.
*“Thank you very much.”