Sjon Scarborough is friendly and outgoing as he mingles with staff and visitors outside the Sumner Community Food Bank in western Washington. He’s here today because he saw a notice at the food bank that Medical Teams International would be on site offering its free, mobile dental services to uninsured and underinsured community members. The volunteer-driven program, called Care & Connect Mobile Health, also provides critical medical screenings, vaccinations, and more to people throughout the Pacific Northwest experiencing barriers to health.

It’s an unseasonably hot afternoon in September and everyone is seeking shade except Sjon, who seems a stranger to no one as he moves from person to person in his electric wheelchair. His sense of humor and quirkiness show that he tends to look on the brighter, lighter side of life. He shares openly that it hasn’t always been that way however.

Sjon Scarborough sitting and smiling
Undaunted by the heat, Sjon’s outgoing personality shines through.

Sjon’s journey

Sjon (pronounced “Shawn”) was born in Tijuana, Mexico in 1965 and raised in San Diego, where he enjoyed surfing, staying physically active, and connecting with his family and many friends. As a young man on the southern California scene in the 1980s, he appeared in a few television and print advertisements. He then forged a career in commercial real estate, which was lucrative and eventually led him to relocate to Las Vegas. Over the years, health issues emerged, and he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

On a seemingly ordinary day in 2018, a bad headache hit Sjon. He treated it the way he always had — he took a few aspirin and decided to lie down and rest. When he woke up, he got out of bed, took two steps, and fell hard onto the floor. He then realized he felt nothing in his right arm or leg, and he could not move them. He was able to seek help and get to the hospital, but it was too late. Sjon had suffered a hemorrhagic brain stroke, leaving the right, dominant side of his body paralyzed. Frustration and depression soon followed as he attempted to adjust to his new reality.

Sjon acknowledges that perhaps he was not as attentive to his health and the warning signs of the stroke as he could have been, but he refuses to dwell on the past. He has had extensive physical and occupational therapy which has helped his mobility and performance of daily tasks. Sjon’s right leg is in a brace and his right arm curls up closely to his body. His right hand is clenched in a fist, as if angry with the world and his circumstances. But strangely, he’s not.

“Do you want to know the secret?” asks Sjon dramatically, with a long pause as the sun beats down on him.

“A positive mentality, it’s the only way to live life. My faith in God is what gives me that mindset and gets me through the hard times.”

Compassionate care

The dental assistant swings open the door to the mobile clinic. They are now ready for him. Sjon slowly but steadily lifts himself out of his electric wheelchair and, with assistance from Medical Teams staff, carefully makes his way forward. He has limited mobility but is able to shuffle forward. Together, they navigate the steps to ensure he gets into the mobile clinic safely.

A dentist and dental assistant performing a procedure on Sjon Scarborough.
Medical Teams Clinic Manager Hakim Halimun and longtime volunteer Dr. Urback work on Sjon.

Once he’s aboard, Sjon meets Dr. Steven Urback, a longtime dental volunteer with Medical Teams. Sjon then describes to him his dental problem — he has sensitivity and some pain in a back tooth. As soon as Dr. Urback takes a look at the molar in question, he knows that a filling is in order. Problems like this one, when left untreated, can worsen and pose greater dental problems and other health concerns. Those living with disabilities or chronic illness are often at even greater risk.

Sjon undergoes treatment and is very glad that the tooth can be saved. So glad, in fact, that that he poses for several light-hearted pictures with Medical Teams, including one with the Tooth Fairy, who made a special appearance for the pediatric dental appointments also underway from a local partner at the clinic.

Sjon Scarborough poses next to a woman dressed as the Tooth Fairy
Sjon and the Tooth Fairy

Sjon enthusiastically thanks Medical Teams staff and volunteers:

“Without you, my tooth would have only gotten worse, and I definitely could not have paid for treatment, says Sjon. “Disability benefits only provide so much to live on. Dental care is out of the question. I’m really grateful to Medical Teams for offering this today.”

For more than 30 years, Medical Teams has provided free dental care through its fleet of Care & Connect Mobile Health clinics, which travel to communities around the Pacific Northwest. Medical Teams seeks to remove such barriers for people who have been pushed to the margins. People with unmet health needs. People like Sjon Scarborough.

A nurse uses a thermometer to check Sjon Scarborough's temperature.
Medical Teams staff perform health screenings for patients like Sjon before receiving care.

The clinic Sjon attended was made possible through MultiCare Health System and the generous funding of the Arcora Foundation and the Pierce County Local Impact Network. The Sumner Community Food Bank will be offering the dental services on site once a month in 2023.

Volunteer or donate today

Throughout Washington and Oregon, Medical Teams International serves anyone for whom urgent dental services and basic health screenings are out of reach. We rely on the generosity of individuals and funding partners who believe that a stronger community benefits everyone. To donate, volunteer, or learn more, visit Care & Connect Mobile Health.

photo of Karen Piatt



Karen Piatt
Communications Manager