Lan and I are long time friends, we are both artists, members of East Tennessee Art Association. When I went with Lan and her team on a dental mission to Vietnam I was given the job of sterilizing the instruments for the dentists since I am a retired registered nurse and a willing volunteer. Even though I did not know the name of a single instrument to begin with, it did not take long to learn what each was used for as I tried to keep them cleaned and ready.
My post at the first clinic was next to an open window. The children would peer in and smile. There was one little boy who learned from someone how to say," Hello, what's your name?" and he kept coming by to watch us work with bunch of other kids.
One of my most poignant memories is of a pretty young girl, about 13 years old, who came in with large cavities in 2 of her upper front teeth. Dr. Jean Arthur attempted to fill the cavities and we all hoped to see her beautiful smile restored. On closer inspection one of the teeth had extensive decay and large abcess, it had to be removed. It was heartbreaking to see a teenage girl without a front tooth and without the chance to have the tooth replaced in this rural village. Our dental relief operation was the first time any of these children or their parents had ever seen a dentist.
Then we traveled to another village where a 5 year dental health education program has been established. Dental hygiene and follow up care by a local health care workers truly made a difference! We saw fewer children with problems and that left the team time to provide dental treatment to the grandmothers and grandfathers in the crowd.
All I can say is, I have never been so tired at the end of a day or so happy as I was with Lan, our team and the children of Vietnam.
Lan really planned the entire trip well. We had great hotels, absolutely wonderful and plentiful food all the time and the most beautiful beaches for rest and recreation on the weekend.
Joyce McCrosky, a retired nurse and ardent sculptor from Walland, Tennessee, USA