Debbie takes vital dental aid to Laos

THEY ate their sticky rice at two school desks, then pushed them together to create an operating table.The $12,000 autoclave was replaced by three buckets and a solution of Milton tablets used to disinfect surgical instruments, a successful recipe recommended by Dr Laurie Walsh.Theirs was a humanitarian mission in which Alexandra Hills dentist Debbie Leong and nurse Ann Woodford treated 673 patients in five villages in Vangvien, Laos, offering comfort and relief to people without accessible medical and dental help.

„The decay rate is five times the rate in Australia and many were in agony with rotten, abscessed and decayed teeth. We lost count of the number of teeth or roots we removed and abcesseses we drained,“ Debbie said.

Debbie said that with many of the villages not having electricity, some work was done by torchlight atop narrow school desks. Patients were topped and tailed on the benches as Debbie cleared the burgeoning waiting rooms.

„We worked really fast to get through the people needing help. We would inject one and call out ’next‘ while the first one was waiting.“

The scenario is vastly different from the pristine conditions in Australia in which Debbie performs cosmetic dentistry on about eight patients a day.

„These people live in beautiful locations, but in some there is no running water and little hygiene. In one of the villages we had to walk for 2kms to arrive as there is no other means of transport. We used squat toilets and ate the food prepared in that same area,“ she said.

Debbie said she was offered roast bat and frogs to eat and gifted with bags of rice, a large pumpkin and raw peanuts for her work.

„I would have preferred to take home one of the cute babies,“ she said.

In total, Debbie gave away 540 toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as leaving Vitamin C tablets, Nurofen and antibiotics. They also left a soccer ball at each village.

„These kids kick around a pair of slippers or a stick on the dust,“ Ann said.

The project, in which Debbie joined two Laotian dentists, a medical doctor and a nurse, was through Live Aid Australia, something Debbie found out about through her church, Hillsong at Mount Gravatt.

„Would we go again? A resounding yes,“ Debbie said.

Debbie said she may return in about 12 months and is considering a trip to an HIV orphanage in May.


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