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Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Get the latest updates from our programs in the field internationally and here in the United States.  

  • Mobile Dental Story: Hope for a Pain-Free Life

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 28, 2015


    Up and down both sides of Jesse’s face, there’s shooting pain that won’t go away.

    “Hot. Cold. When I’m sleeping,” said Jesse, a 43-year-old patient awaiting his turn in a Medical Teams International Mobile Dental Clinic. “I lose so much sleep with this.”

    The former arborist and logger is used to pain. But this is beyond the pale. It’s standing in the way of his ever kicking an addiction to heroin. Pain got him addicted in the first place.

    Eight years ago, Jesse suffered from a debilitating accident that forever changed his life. As he cut away the top of a tall tree, it snapped off and whipped toward him. His legs and back were pinned, 98 feet in the air, between the tree trunk and the top portion that had fallen back onto him. He broke his back and pelvis; his spleen ruptured.

    He underwent surgeries to repair his injuries and was prescribed opiates to numb the pain. Jesse said he was over-prescribed and that he became addicted to the pills. Soon, he turned to heroin, which was easier to find and cheaper.

    Jesse said he hates his addiction. He also hates the pain in his mouth. The pain, he said, is holding him back from crushing his addition once and for all.

    “I just want to feel normal, get a life,” Jesse said. “I’d rather lay down and die than do this again.”

    Inside Medical Team’s Mobile Dental Clinic, there was hope that Jesse’s pain wouldn’t be a life sentence. There would be a reprieve. Thanks to our donors — you! — volunteer dentists and dentists-in-training can provide life-changing services to people unable to afford dental care, or incapable of finding it. Because of your teamwork, donations and prayers, MTI can serve the most vulnerable populations.

    Jesse knows he has a life ahead of him, a family to reconnect with — four sons, five grandchildren. He'd like to go back to owning a small business. But first, he has to take care of the pain. 

    “This is a bad mindset to have,” Jesse said. “People need to take care of their teeth better. Dental pain is some of the worst pain I’ve ever had — and I had back pain.”

     Mobile Dental, Medical Teams, Clackamas  Service Center, tooth decay

    Jesse thanks you for helping.

     

  • Mobile Dental Success Story: An Unexpected Patient

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 23, 2015

     
    Patients of Medical Teams International’s Mobile Dental Program come from all walks of life, and sometimes they can be found in unexpected places.

    That was the case with Dorothy W., a resident of Seaside, Ore. She was working the front counter of a motel in town when volunteers and staff from a Mobile Dental bus checked themselves in for the night. Mobile Dental clinics often travel to rural or outlying areas, where they stay for two nights.

    As the volunteer dentists and hygienists were checking in for the night, they noticed that the pleasant and polite young woman behind the counter didn’t smile. It didn’t take long for them to realize there was a reason why Dorothy was so reserved.

    She was ashamed of her teeth, which were severely decayed.

    The clinic volunteers scheduled Dorothy, a mother of three, to see a local dentist who would provide treatment free of charge. Mobile Dental clinics often team with partner dentists capable of providing dental work too complicated to be completed in the mobile unit. The volunteer dentist completely restored Dorothy’s teeth and, in doing so, restored her outlook on life.

    Seaside, Mobile Dental,

    Mobile Dental, Seaside

    She had wanted to have her front teeth fixed to improve her smile because she is the first person to greet customers at the busy motel where she works. Her new teeth have made her a new person with a sense of confidence.

    Your generous donations lay the groundwork for such unexpected, life-changing miracles to happen. Dorothy thanks you!

  • Liberia Success Story: Family Members Survive Ebola

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 22, 2015


    With the help of Medical Teams International volunteers, several members of the Sackor family in Liberia survived Ebola. But, because few Ebola stories come with completely happy endings, there were losses.

    In the end, two of the family’s children died of the horrible disease, which has infected thousands in West Africa. Nonetheless, the Sackor family’s story underscores the need for well-trained, dedicated general community health volunteers who work to educate people about the threat of Ebola. Your generous donations are the fuel that drives that work.

    The Sackor family’s story began in October, when 5-year-old Ramsey became sick. His grandmother feared he had Ebola, and she was right. He was the first reported case of the disease in Polay Town, part of Sinoe County. At first, his parents refused to divulge the nature of his condition and didn't seek treatment. Eventually, a Medical Teams community health volunteer named Negba convinced the family to take the boy to a hospital. But it was too late for Ramsey, and he died.

    Liberia, Ebola, Medical Teams International, Sinoe County, Polay Town
    Negba, a Community Health Volunteer in Sinoe County, disinfects his hands. He is responsible for educating people on taking measures to prevent the spread of Ebola.

    Even after Ramsey had succumbed to the disease, his family did not explain what actually happened to him. They told no one that their house could still be infected by the disease.

    Knowing others in the community were being put in harm’s way by the family’s silence, including the family members themselves, Negba intensified his educational campaign to convince the Sackor family to be quarantined for 21 days. The family eventually acquiesced to Negba’s request.

    It was during the quarantine that three of the family members — father Dioxin, his wife and their 10-year-old daughter Joanna — came down with symptoms of Ebola. They called nearby health workers for help, and an MTI ambulance evacuated the family, including the family’s 13-month-old baby named Anthony. Thankfully, the baby showed no signs of having been infected.

    Under treatment, Dioxin and his wife survived Ebola. However, Joanna wasn’t so lucky, and she later died from the disease. Thirteen-month-old Anthony was the only family member not to have been infected, and Negba’s persistence is likely the reason for that.


    Liberia, Ebola, Medical Teams International, Community Health Volunteers
    The Sackor family, including 13-month-old Anthony, survived Ebola thanks to the help of a Community Health Volunteer. They now take the lead in educating the rest of their community about Ebola prevention.

    Having already lost so much, Anthony’s mother called her baby’s survival “miraculous.” She now realizes that listening to Medical Teams’ community health workers was the difference between life and death. While she lost two children to the ravages of Ebola, Anthony’s survival is a blessing, and his life represents that there is hope even among death.  

    “I am happy to take Anthony in my arms again,” she said. “Thank God for MTI activities in Polay Town, (to) all those who help us to live again. We listened to Negba to still be alive.”

    Since returning from the Ebola Treatment Unit, Dioxin is now enforcing “infection prevention control” measures in Polay Town, using what he learned from Medical Teams’ volunteers. He encourages others to wash their hands regularly, and he asks people to seek medical attention early if they're showing signs of Ebola.

    And every morning, he makes Clorox water for everyone, so they can safely wash their hands when they come back from the farm or other places.

    Your gifts, support and prayers have lifted the Sackor family from a terrible low point and empowered them to lift others. Because of your benevolent support, baby Anthony is alive.

    - Jamaima Kollie, an MTI field staff member in Liberia, compiled this story of sadness and survival.

  • Staff Story: Everyday Heroes in Liberia

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 20, 2015


    Medical Teams International recently received the following essay from Andrew Hoskins, who is MTI's country director for Liberia. Since the Ebola epidemic exploded over the summer, fast becoming the most urgent international health risk since AIDS, medical volunteers and staff in Liberia have been laboring to quell the spread of the disease. Work toward this end has been accomplished by implementing triage techniques and reopening health clinics.

    The work continues.

    Hoskins writes from the front lines of Ebola, in Liberia, where he and his family live. Please take the time to read his eye-opening account.  


    By Andrew Hoskins 

    When I arrived in Liberia, I had no idea of the coming disaster, which would overshadow every aspect of life in this small country. I came to Liberia to manage projects intended to build the capacity of Liberian nurses and doctors, to empower rural hospitals and clinics to provide better health care, and to encourage communities to be involved in decisions that affect their own health. 

    Liberia, MTI, scrubs 2, Dec. 2014
    Work continues in Liberia to keep health clinics open in the face of the ongoing Ebola threat.

    This is still the work of Medical Teams International in Liberia, but everything has taken on new meaning now.

    I have been reluctant to share about my work in Liberia because there is so much fear in the general public. With new infections in America, Ebola is on everyone’s minds. Even as I am writing this, the regulations are changing regarding travelers returning to the U.S.A.

    It is not easy to have such uncertainty about what will happen when we return to the states. Yet while infections in Texas and New York are tragic, remember that this is a West African epidemic. America is incomparable to the situation in Liberia. No country could have been prepared for an outbreak like this, but the health system in Liberia was particularly poor. I have seen clinics run out of basic supplies like gloves. Compare that with the huge task of preparing clinics with the amount of Personal Protective Equipment that is recommended in Liberia for even a non-suspected patient, not to mention the training on how to use the new supplies.

    The numbers (4603 cases in our city of Monrovia alone) aren’t real until you put a face to a number. 

    Michael Blama has worked for Medical Teams for years as a medical supply distributor. He is a nurse, so his family looks to him as a source of knowledge. One day upon arriving home, he found his niece had come to his house from a different area of town because she was unwell. Because of Michael’s training through Medical Teams International on Ebola, he immediately took precautions. 

    He arranged the transport of his niece to a health facility and the test results came back positive for Ebola. She died the next day and Michael and his entire family were quarantined. At the end of the 21 day period, not a single member of Michael’s family contracted the disease. 

    The story is a sad one, but there is hope. The disease is stoppable.

    The heroes are the local health workers who live here and give their time, day in and day out, to serve their communities.  

    Florence Rogers is Liberian nurse who works as a clinical supervisor for Medical Teams. Her family is in Monrovia but she is working for us in Sinoe County, a full day’s drive on bad roads from her home. Since the start of the outbreak, Florence has put in long hours sometimes going out into the field starting at 4 a.m. and often sleeping in the communities that are far from the road in order to train and equip community health volunteers on Ebola awareness. She often works seven days a week and rarely gets a chance to come in and see her family in Monrovia. She cares deeply about the communities she serves. 

    For me, she is a hero.

    Because of supplies that were shipped in and donated from all around the world, Medical Teams International was able to reopen many clinics. These clinics had closed during the Ebola outbreak because health workers were afraid of infection. Many of their fears had to do with not having adequate supplies or equipment to protect themselves. 

    As one example, MTI visited the Goodwill Clinic on the GSA road in Monrovia shortly after it had closed down. After training, coaching and setting up follow-up visits, Medical Teams donated a two-month supply of gloves, chlorine for disinfection, face masks, aprons, rubber boots, and other items. With these supplies, the health workers gained confidence and reopened the clinic. Now, the community around the GSA road outside of Monrovia have access to health care. They now have a place where they can bring their children if they are sick or where their mothers can deliver babies.  

    This is my first experience living in what the United Nations has defined as a “full scale humanitarian disaster.” But one thing I’ve learned is that life must go on for all who live right in the middle of it all. For us that means homeschooling our girls since the schools are temporarily shut down. We are building a Swiss-Family-Robinson-style treehouse system in our back yard which gives us something other than Ebola to think about. We still go to the market and to the grocery store. 

    I know that God is still in control, even in the midst of disasters. Others may question it, but He has given us a peace about being here. Thank you for your prayers and support.

  • Mobile Dental Success Story: Kristine's teeth

    by Tyler Graf | Jan 20, 2015

     
    Kristine’s teeth are brittle. They’re breaking off.

    Above a puffy-pink lower gum line, shards of what are left of Kristine’s teeth jut upward at off angles, glaringly interspersed by large gaps. She is missing many of her teeth, but not by the hands of a dentist.

    “I hate meth,” she said. “I hate what it did to me.”

    Mobile dental, Kristine shows teeth 3, Jan. 2015

    Kristine’s struggle with drugs has taken a toll, and her lonely gum line is the physiological representation of that. It’s also reminder of what else she’s lost. As she holds back tears, she laments, “I want my teeth back. I want my life back … I feel so ugly without my teeth.”

    In January, she visited a Medical Teams International mobile dental clinic at the Clackamas Service Center, a first step in putting her teeth, and life, back together. The program provides care to children and adults who cannot afford or don’t have access to dental health care.


    Mobile dental, Kristine and dentist 3, Jan. 2015
    Kristine meets her dentist who will be performing the extractions. She is giddy with excitement.

    At the clinic, dentists-in-training from Oregon Health & Science University performed extractions to clean up the damage. The work is necessary so Kristine can have a healthy mouth and eventually bridge the gaps left by tooth decay.

    Your donations to those in need have given Kristine hope. She is now able to receive much-needed oral health care. For years, Kristine has suffered from low self-esteem, which has only strengthened her reliance on drugs. She calls it her “nightmare.”

    Kristine suffers from mouth pain and can’t eat many types of food. She can’t smile without feeling inadequate.

    She recalled meeting a woman at the supermarket and sharing a joke with her. In the moment Kristine laughed, flashing a broad smile, before feeling overcome by embarrassment. Kristine felt the other woman was judging her for her teeth.

    Even though she has worked hard to kick her addiction, she is too ashamed to look for employment.

    Kristine said your help is a sign that God is working in her life and that she has purpose. And, hopefully soon, that purpose will be evident on Kristine’s smile after her teeth are fixed. She said Medical Teams and the mobile dental program do great work healing wounds — both psychological and physical.

    She even smiled. “I like to smile,” she said.


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