Guatemala Dental Trip (November 21-28, 2015)

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Update #3

almost 5 years ago

Concluding A Worth While Trip

Thank you everyone who bothered to read this. Hopefully it is enjoyable to hear a little about my trip. We saw about 250 patients in one week in Guatemala. I’m sure we took out more teeth than that as well as a huge number of fillings and cleanings. We made a point to be as productive and efficient as possible. We worked much harder and with much more joy than we usually do.

My favorite aspect of the experience was being able to provide my skill, dentistry, without any of the baggage – legal/malpractice considerations, useless note-taking, no insurances to deal with, no payments necessary, etc. They come needy, often with long-standing pains and toothaches. They wait all day long. We treat them, and they sit diligently. They want it very badly. And then they leave smiling, often beaming with happiness and relief. It’s a wonderful experience.

I would like to reflect for a moment upon an event that occurred last Wednesday, when a bus driver was shot just outside our clinic. Gang members and extortion, requiring bus drivers to pay a portion of the collected money to them instead of the city. Otherwise, face the consequence of death. But it’s by no means just in Guatemala. Poverty and injustice is everywhere, in our hometowns and in every country across the world. The events in Paris on November 13 was another reminder of just how ugly it can get. There is a lot of good that needs to be done in the world. And it’s in my opinion that good people need to stand together against poverty and injustice, stand for basic human rights and needs. I think we need to treat every single human as family. Apparently not everyone agrees and I can’t figure out why. I don’t mean to soapbox. It’s just that this bus driver being shot really struck a cord with me. I hope as we move forward, every one of us on a big or small scale, stand for what we know to be right.

Lastly, on that small scale I was just referring to, dentistry has taught me something that I’d like to share quickly. I get frustrated that I can’t make a bigger difference in the world. I went into the wrong profession if wanting to make a big difference, because I have to operate tooth by tooth, person by person. But this is the way the world works, by and large. I think we should take pride in every personal encounter and do our best to make every effort count. Dentistry is one of the things I use to help out in this broken world. It’s a constant struggle on a daily basis, as I try to make every appointment count. For you, I’d just humbly suggest we all reflect on the little things we do everyday to make the world a better place. And do those intentionally. We need more people treating others like family – improving general human rights, human needs and more – to build a better world.

Well I’m sure I should call it quits about now, feel like I could write forever. If you got through all that, I commend you. Thank you for listening. Being somewhat in debt, I am still hoping to cover costs if you feel like chipping in. I’d appreciate it. No worries if not though. I try to not worry about money too much anyway ; )

Thanks again. Until next time,
- Kevin

See below/hit 'view all 3' to read a story about a cute little boy!!

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Kevin Schwandt posted a new update:
almost 5 years ago

Update #5

Concluding A Worth While Trip

Thank you everyone who bothered to read this. Hopefully it is enjoyable to hear a little about my trip. We saw about 250 patients in one week in Guatemala. I’m sure we took out more teeth than that as well as a huge number of fillings and cleanings. We made a point to be as productive and efficient as possible. We worked much harder and with much more joy than we usually do.

My favorite aspect of the experience was being able to provide my skill, dentistry, without any of the baggage – legal/malpractice considerations, useless note-taking, no insurances to deal with, no payments necessary, etc. They come needy, often with long-standing pains and toothaches. They wait all day long. We treat them, and they sit diligently. They want it very badly. And then they leave smiling, often beaming with happiness and relief. It’s a wonderful experience.

I would like to reflect for a moment upon an event that occurred last Wednesday, when a bus driver was shot just outside our clinic. Gang members and extortion, requiring bus drivers to pay a portion of the collected money to them instead of the city. Otherwise, face the consequence of death. But it’s by no means just in Guatemala. Poverty and injustice is everywhere, in our hometowns and in every country across the world. The events in Paris on November 13 was another reminder of just how ugly it can get. There is a lot of good that needs to be done in the world. And it’s in my opinion that good people need to stand together against poverty and injustice, stand for basic human rights and needs. I think we need to treat every single human as family. Apparently not everyone agrees and I can’t figure out why. I don’t mean to soapbox. It’s just that this bus driver being shot really struck a cord with me. I hope as we move forward, every one of us on a big or small scale, stand for what we know to be right.

Lastly, on that small scale I was just referring to, dentistry has taught me something that I’d like to share quickly. I get frustrated that I can’t make a bigger difference in the world. I went into the wrong profession if wanting to make a big difference, because I have to operate tooth by tooth, person by person. But this is the way the world works, by and large. I think we should take pride in every personal encounter and do our best to make every effort count. Dentistry is one of the things I use to help out in this broken world. It’s a constant struggle on a daily basis, as I try to make every appointment count. For you, I’d just humbly suggest we all reflect on the little things we do everyday to make the world a better place. And do those intentionally. We need more people treating others like family – improving general human rights, human needs and more – to build a better world.

Well I’m sure I should call it quits about now, feel like I could write forever. If you got through all that, I commend you. Thank you for listening. Being somewhat in debt, I am still hoping to cover costs if you feel like chipping in. I’d appreciate it. No worries if not though. I try to not worry about money too much anyway ; )

Thanks again. Until next time,
- Kevin

See below/hit 'view all 3' to read a story about a cute little boy!!

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Kevin Schwandt posted a new update:
almost 5 years ago

Update #3

Carlos: Just A Little Story

For me, I by no means expect anyone to enjoy coming to the dentist. It’s nothing to exactly look forward to. Same goes for caring about oral health. Hard thing to be all that passionate about. I get it, not a big deal. In my innermost mind, I succeed in my job when I give someone a good experience that they genuinely enjoyed instead of the miserable alternative. It’s not an easy job…stabbing someone in the face with a needle, cutting apart their tooth, prying and yanking a tooth out, giving them cotton mouth, suffocating them with bright-colored goop…you get the idea. Somehow despite all that, I can still get hugs and smiles. It’s times like the following story with Carlos when I feel like I was truly successful in doing my job..

Carlos, an adorable 5 year old boy, peaked hesitantly around the corner at the entrance to our clinic in Guatemala. With much apprehension, he hopped up into the dental chair. He caught sight of the sharp metal instruments and dental drills on the tray. He let us take a look inside his mouth for only a few seconds before screaming out in terror! Crying bloody murder, he balled. Tears literally spurted form his eye balls. All attempts at reassuring him were futile. We gave him a beanie baby and assured him down from the dental chair. He would have to try again another day, hopefully he has few cavities but probably not the case.

His mom patted him on the head and she got into our chair for her turn. We got going with a few fillings right away. Carlos sat pouting in the corner. Midway through her treatment, Carlos walked curiously over to me to see what we were up to with his mother. I was assisting while my good friend Tyler was drilling out the three molars. I gave my attention to the little boy, grabbed him some of our cheap Ray Ban like sunglasses. He looked cool. He crawled up on my lab and tried putting another mask on me. I put it on it on him. He looked at what we were up to on his mom.

He wanted to help! He grabbed the suction with me and pointed it where Tyler was working, wonderfully helpful! Desiring to teach him some proper infection protocol (…or just to complete his outfit of cuteness), I gave him a set of gloves. He put them on immediately, ready to do some dentistry.

After mom’s filling were done, she stepped out of the chair. Carlos immediately hopped into the chair for his turn!!

…My hope is that Carlos goes on to let another someone like myself, another dentist, care for him. I hope that he somehow finds a way to not mind being at the dentist. And if it’s not too much to ask, that he cares just a little bit more about his teeth and caring for them on his own. That’s what it’s all about for me. It’s not easy keeping your teeth healthy, it requires some help and expertise. Hopefully he’ll be ok receiving that help and care as he grows older. We made some jokes about him being a future dentist. Though unlikely, every now and then, it happens. And Guatemala could use them.

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Kevin Schwandt posted a new update:
almost 5 years ago

Update #1

Back in college, I took part in a service trip to Ecuador to help out the orphanage Casa de Fe. We helped lay the foundation for a new school, built them a bike path, played with them and did some volunteering at the local volunteer-run hospital. I knew back then that I would someday want to use my career in dentistry to do something similar. Well, friends and family, that time has come!

It’s with great excitement that I am going to Guatemala over this Thanksgiving to serve the impoverished community in Antigua with free dental care. The rich-poor gap is very significant in Guatemala and these people have little to no access to dental care in their city and country. As such, these people have very little dental education and deteriorating oral health. Can you imagine having never been taught how to care for your teeth and they just gradually break down without you being able to do anything to stop it? How miserable. Most of what we will do because of this will be extracting decayed and broken down teeth, taking these individuals out of pain and discomfort. Additionally, we will be restoring many teeth with fillings and providing cleanings. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be providing my abilities for free for desperate people in need. This is something I would like to do throughout my dental career, this being the start, my first opportunity!!

Before I left for Ecuador back in 2011, a wise older man had me ask for donations for my trip. I don’t like accepting money from others; I don’t know what it is but something about it feels slightly uncomfortable or perhaps embarrassing. Nevertheless, that wise man convinced me that donations allow friends and family a way to get involved and participate in the cause as well as hear about the trip and what I’m up to. As such, I’m just as excited to tell you about it as I would be to actually receive money from any of you. This is something I am incredibly passionate about (obviously right, I went into this profession haha) and I’m excited to share my experiences with you.

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