Da diversi anni Raffaella Gabassi abbandona per alcune settimane il suo studio in Chiswick (https://www.whitedentalrooms.co.uk/) per offrire la sua esperienza dentistica alle popolazioni meno agiate. Quest’anno è andata in Sierra Leone e questa è la sua storia.
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Well, where do I start from?
I picked Sierra Leone as it is one of the poorest countries in the world and has, like many other African countries endured much pain and suffering. The last civil war left the country with 70% of the worlds amputees as well as a devastated nation.
Peace have now been restored for the past 10 years but this country is in dire need for everything, from the very basics such as food and clean water to a Health Program, Hospitals, Burn Wards, Maternity Wards and Dental Wards… the child mortality in this country is immense.
The first week I arrived in Sierra Leone, I worked at the Connaught Hospital, a Hospital that is lacking in everything and where people fear being admitted to this Hospital, or any other Hospital as there are so many death due to poor cross infection control due to the lack of cleanliness, lack of proper disinfection and basic skills amongst the staff. The patients themselves are the vectors as well as the victims.
During the first week as well as working flat out at the hospital I also conducted a radio interview to try to educate the people of Sierra Leone on the importance of good Oral Hygiene and the reason for tooth decay as well as the absolute need to avoid home remedies that kills so many people, simply because of a decaying tooth. These people will pour battery acid down a cavity in a tooth in the belief that the tooth will die and the pain will go….the reality is that necrosis, meaning the death of the whole jaw bone occurs, and a condition called Osteomyelitis often sets in. This, if not cured will kill, children and adults. My emphasis on the radio programs were to absolutely avoid home remedies or which doctors, I have seen cases of people, even educated people, teachers, loosing their entire face on one side due to some poisonous concoction being applied with all sort of rituals to the face. These are life that are lost or ruined forever…why? because of tooth ache.
With a team of 4 young adults from an organisation called Teethsavers I was able to reach villages outside Freetown where I provided treatment in schools, we screened the pupils, and then extracted all teeth with hopeless prognosis as well as applied the ART technique to those teeth that still stood a chance of being saved.
The ART stands for Atraumatic Restorative Dentistry, where the carious lesion on the tooth surface is scooped out and a filling material with medicinal properties is inserted, this technique is focused particularly on the permanent teeth, the first molar teeth that erupt around the age of 6 years.
With just a simple small filling an early lesion can be stopped from progressing and the tooth can be saved. Sadly too many of these teeth were too decayed to be saved and had to be extracted.
We visited several schools, screened and treated all the pupils. All together myself and my team have treated over 1500 children and adults in 2 weeks.
We also visited the Craig Bellamy accademy, where we treated the children at the Academy as well as many children and adult villagers in Tombo, where the academy is located. The academy is run by an exceptional guy called Tim Kellow, who looks after the children and these children are selected on the basis of their very unprivileged background. They have to work hard in the classrooms and they gain their skills and confidence through football which they play several times a day. Football plays a huge role in the minds of the people of West Africa, they love this sport. This academy creates young educated footballers that can go on and win scholarship. These scholarships allows them to further their education abroad, but the main focus is that they then return to SL and bring their expertise back to the country to better the future of their nation.
The next morning before proceeding to Freetown to work the afternoon in the Hospital I made a small radio interview for the inhabitants of Tombo, again reinforcing the importance of oral health and the need for obtaining expert help and avoiding lethal home remedies.
The following day, together with my team of 4 travelled to Makeni where we spent time treating children in two different centres one in Magburaka and one in Makeni itself.
These children benefit from a Charitable Mission called Street Child…. and yes these are street children, they come to the centre at day time and go back to the streets at night… they are orphans, rejects, victims of the civil war… we treated over 150 of these kids… but they were only a fraction of the number that attend these centres, as often they are just missing or have found a source of food elsewhere…. mainly from the dumps where you see them scavenging. The aim of this charity is to try and re-home them as much as possible with relative friends or just other families that can support an extra mouth to feed.
We also treated about 80 adults working for African Minerals, I made it clear that they had to be Leonians and not ex pats, and we relieved them of pain and referred several of them for major treatment as they were suffering from osteomyelitis. We gave them money to travel to Freetown and sponsored their operation. We supported them as the African Mineral supports the street Child charity, in exchange they offered us accommodation and food for all my team.
The next step was Bo, a town about 3.5 hours from Freetown, we took over part of the hospital wing and treated about 200 patients, mainly people from the town, the wards were heartbreaking as the conditions there were even worse than at the Connaught hospital in Freetown.
We spent two days there. On my return to Freetown we saw one more school of about 300 children and every night when I would go back to the Hotel where I stayed in Freetown, I would find a queue of staff pleading to be treated. My hotel room had by then become a improvised Dental Surgery. It is impossible , for me, to say…. no. These people have never seen a dentist, do not have money to pay for any treatment and are in severe pain. After the treatment I had to unpack, sterilise the equipment again and pack it up for the morning after. I would end up in bed (never) before 2 am and up before 6 am. I am not after any sympathy, as this is self inflicted, but my friend, i can openly say there were days I felt sorry for myself which is totally out of my character.
This is now my yearly mission, and I hope that collectively we can help these children again and again.
In union there is strength….. together we can make a change
Please look at some photos of my trip on this link https://s1269.photobucket.com/albums/jj589/Raffaellag68/?albumview=slideshow
All my love