Members of SEAL Team 5 share some of their most memorable moments from their 10-day trip to Paraguay last July.
Laura Dailey, Vice President, Revenue Management
“I assisted Dr. Gordy with extracting a posterior tooth on a woman who was fearful of losing a long bridge, since she didn’t know whether or not the tooth was an abutment. When Dr. Gonzalez gently explained in Spanish that it was not part of the bridge, she was very happy. We proceeded with the extraction and she hugged us both with appreciation when we finished. She returned later with her camera and took photos of and with the SEAL Team members. The next day, she showed up at our next venue and gave us the photos, with the SFE Foundation logo on them”
Dr. Edgardo “Gordy” Gonzalez, Lead Dentist in San Antonio & PC President for Austin
“CEO Steve Bilt and Smiles for Everyone Foundation International Liaison Norm Schulz kept saying our last two days in Paraguay would be ‘special’. That time arrived when we toured the impoverished community surrounding the city’s landfill [garbage dump]. This is where Asunción’s poorest residents live and where we provided clinical services during our last two days. But this time became much more for me than just another place to provide dental care to those in need.
“On my first trip to Paraguay in 2011, I met a beautiful little girl named Raquel who had been ‘found at the garbage dump’. The pastor in charge of a nutrition center where we provided dental services had placed Raquel with a family. When Steve heard Raquel’s story, he asked me to provide her dental exam.
“I treated her for an infected molar and after we finished the surgery, she hugged and thanked me. On my return trip last July, when I learned that this is the landfill where beautiful little Raquel had been abandoned, the memory broke my heart all over again.”
Jody Ritson, Dental Assistant, Portland, OR
“Everyone in our group was special, but if I had to pick one person, that would have to be Steve Bilt. He helped me stay focused and on task. His question and answer meetings were meaningful. I learned so much about myself and others!”
Dr. Tim Herman, Lead Dentist, Roseville, CA-Coloma Way & PC President, A+ Dental Care
“Here are two of my unforgettable moments: We were running behind and this teenage girl had a big black cavity on one of her upper central incisors, an opaque white filling on the other upper central incisor and an abscessed lower molar. I was directed to remove only the abscessed tooth because we were running out of time. I obliged, but I fixed the big cavity, replaced the opaque white filling and fixed another cavity on that tooth as well. When I showed the patient her teeth, she had a big ‘numb’ smile with wide eyes. After I removed the abscessed tooth, the patient stood up and gave me a terrific hug and smile.
“Another memory was when I realized that the little girl beautifully playing the makeshift violin with the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra was the same girl from whom I had just extracted a tooth. Both she and the orchestra were truly unbelievable.”
Jackie Rocamora, Registered Dental Hygienist, Norwalk, CA
“I was about to finish my last patient when a group of kids lifted the tent and stuck their heads in to talk to me. Quietly, they asked if I could clean their teeth. I told them yes, but they needed to sign in first. They answered, ‘They are not taking more patients.’ I looked at the waiting area, and there was a group of kids and adults who were not going to be treated because it was time for us to pack and go. My heart shattered and I couldn’t hold back my tears.
“I hope our hard work shows the government of Paraguay there is a great need to be addressed. Even with people from the U.S. and Brazil helping these communities, it’s not nearly enough. As long as we are able to help the people of Paraguay to continue to fix the problem, then I know my work will have a long-lasting effect.”
Jeana Janik, Office Manager, Sandusky, OH
“My favorite is the last patient on the last day. The rest of the Team was packing up because we needed to leave to catch our plane. When our patient was seated, Dr. Siv [Dr. Siavash Eftekhari, Oral Surgeon, Grapevine, TX] asked her what was hurting and she said ‘everything.’ Instead of ‘rushing,’ he took care of her every need. I appreciated the way he treated every patient as if he were in his own practice and took time to make them laugh and feel comfortable.”
Dr. Wilner Loiseau, Lead Dentist & Periodontist, Plano, TX
“One of the local doctors who helped me really stood out. She said her dream was to be able to help her people this way and she signed up to lead the clinical side of the SFEF International Outpost in Paraguay to help ensure many ongoing future dental events take place. I didn’t think I was doing anything different, but she was very impressed by my skill set. She literally took it a step further and wanted to offer more. Her motivation was inspiring.”
Carlos Rojas, Executive Office Manager, Palm Harbor, FL
“Paraguayans are proud people. One lady had only one tooth left. She really wanted to save her tooth, even though she knew it might have to go. She came prepared in the event she had to lose her tooth. After the exam, the doctor told her the tooth had cavities and that it could be extracted that day.
“I explained to the doctor that she wanted to save the tooth. The doctor was puzzled, even after I explained it a few times. I then explained she had an overdenture that fit right over that single tooth, and if possible she would like to have the tooth filled. This was a funny, touching and bonding experience. We salvaged the tooth and made her happy and whole again.”
Angie Sotelo, Market Specialty Manager, San Antonio, TX
“I’ll always remember the last patient of the week. She was an eight-year-old girl, and Dr. Loiseau needed to extract two baby teeth and a premolar due to severe decay. She was visibly scared and nervous, so we comforted her and Dr. Loiseau was very patient with her, as he is with all patients. It took longer than normal because we took pauses to ensure she was comfortable. This little one was so brave.
“When we finished, I asked her if she was okay. She gave me the biggest hug and wouldn’t let me go. I became overwhelmed by emotion and hugged her as long as she needed. When I felt her little numb mouth trying to give me kisses, I lost it. With tears streaming down my face, I held this precious girl and realized how much she and all the patients gave to ME. I was overcome because I was accepting the gratitude that patient after patient expressed. This child forced me to stop, embrace and take in what was being given back to me. My heart overflowed in that moment.”