It was the first time Chartchai was seeing a dentist—also it was the first time he was face to face with a “farang” (a white-skinned foreigner). Abandoned by his parents and now a resident of the Maharaj Boys’ Home Foundation, an orphanage for abandoned children, Chartchai (12) was suffering from a badly infected molar. Along with a number of other children from the orphanage with serious dental needs, Chartchai was about to be treated by a team of American dentists. Drs. Fred Rothman, Warren Schafer, and assistant Cathy Karnosh are part of Northwest Medical Teams International, based in Portland, Oregon. This agency sends volunteer doctors and dentists to poor, disadvantaged situations like this around the world.
Working hand in hand with our team from Central Thailand Mission and a co-ordinator from St. Vincent de Paul Society, this medical team made a difference in the lives of about 150 patients in just eight days! Quite a remarkable feat, considering that they were working in makeshift conditions with a minimum of equipment brought from the US. When a second dental chair was needed, the dentists settled for a reclining sun-deck chair!
The team had already completed 25 extractions the first morning. For Chartchai though, it was no mere extraction. He needed a major operation, the extraction of a permanent molar impacted due to extensive infection. The operation seemed to take forever, but now the gnawing pain that he had had for weeks is no more.
The dentists were impressed with Chartchai’s stoic nature (or was he just overwhelmed by the whole experience?). He closed his eyes, winced a few times when the anaesthetic injection was given, and again when the tooth was being taken out, yet Chartchai never let out a squeal. Ouch! It was painful enough just to be an onlooker!
On this exploratory visit, the dental team attended to children from the MahaMek Foundation, the Good Shepherd Home (a home for unwed mothers), the Maharaj Foundation, and the Foster Parent Plan International.
“Now we know the need,” said Dr. Schafer, a founding member of the Northwest team. “We’ll be back and hopefully, with more teams all throughout the next year.”