Finally! Six weeks of fundraising through letter writing, social media bombarding, one-on-one soliciting, email campaigning, etc. coupled with a mountain of preparations for materials, refreshments and all manner of logistics was at an end. The day had dawned for *DHI’s dental outreach in conjunction with the Community Dentistry Unit, **LUTH. All for the Internally Displaced People along Ibeju Lekki axis of Lagos State.
Christy and I arrived first and quickly began registering the 30+ women and children already waiting. It was quite amusing to see their confused faces when we explained that we would only be dealing with their teeth that day. This of course was resolved when we reminded them we would be returning on Saturday for the general medical check up.
Inside the treatment area, as minor adjustments were being made to the arrangement of the chairs, a 30-seater bus with College of Medicine, LUTH on it, sped past. That driver was quite confident for someone who had never been in the area we jokingly exclaimed. Calling the doctors who were in another 30-seater bus behind, we found their driver was prudent but had been misled by his okada outrider who had led him in the opposite direction.
Eventually, the comedy of errors was resolved and the 63-man contingent of dentists, dental students and dental nurses, arrived at the outreach venue , disembarked from both buses and quickly set to work. Not long after, the rest of the DHI volunteers arrived to lend a hand. Women were registered along with their children to facilitate history taking and examination of their children and themselves. The men hung back, most perched along the road on their okadas, their new occupations in this land of exile. On getting to the dentists, questionnaires were used to collect data and record findings before each client moved to another section for cleaning and dental treatments.
Working quickly and professionally, the dentists worked steadily for 4 hours, seeing about 140 people in total. A far cry from the 300 people we had been told lived in the community but still a sizeable number of victims torn from their ancestral homes and sources of livelihood. However, their smiles and gratitude for the exercise made all the work worth it.
After pictures were taken and refreshments served, our efficient technical partners raced back to the Mainland, hoping to beat the legendary Lekki traffic at Ajah.
Full of gratitude for the opportunity to serve, our 6-man team bid our brethren goodbye and likewise, journeyed home.
Written by Dr. Obi Ideh
*Doctors Health Initiative
**Lagos University Teaching Hospital