We are celebrating the end of 2023 with another successful Smile & See Safari in Hwange National Park, led by my safari partners there – Imvelo Safari Lodges. They met their 40,000th patient since the program started in 2011! This time the team treated 5,288 patients, including 1,877 dental patients receiving almost 3,000 treatments (fillings, root canal treatments or extractions) and 334 children receiving fluoride. Over 1,750 prescription glasses and 2,500 sunglasses were distributed and some 300 people were identified as being legible for cataract surgeries in their follow-up program. They also fed more than 5,500 people with a hot meal and brought festive cheer with sandwiches and giveaways for a children’s party.
Among the many great stories from their recently completed Smile and See Safari, Lundi Sibanda’s stands out. At around 09.30 on the morning of the fourth clinic, this one at Dhlamini, Lundi a 12-year-old boy from Phondo village, accompanied by his mum arrived. Lundi was to be their 40,000th patient.
Lundi had a right front tooth broken during ‘play fighting’ several months previously. He was directed to the Restorative Tent / Fillings Department. The agony of a broken tooth with an exposed nerve for several months is hard to imagine. It was clear Lundi was malnourished and in great difficulty.
Arantxa, an expert in root canal surgery and a veteran of the program since the beginning in 2011, first of all brought relief from unimaginable pain with an anesthetic. Finally, satisfied the stump was clean and nerveless, Lundi’s story could have ended with a gap-toothed smile for the rest of his life. But instead, Susana now took over with the second painstaking task of building Lundi a new front tooth on that stump, so he’d be proud of his smile again.
Late morning that day, temperatures soared and an hour and a half into his treatment, poor young Lundi, overcome with fatigue, passed out. They laid him out, raised his legs, cooled him down, loosened his clothing, and got him sipping a cold Coke, reviving him enough so Susana could continue her work. Nearly two hours after he had first entered the “Restorative Tent”, their work complete, they passed him on to other departments, firstly Pharmacy for antibiotics from Dr. Matemi and his team and then feeding at the ‘Restaurant’ where huge pots of sadza and beans (polenta fajole!) were prepared for their patients, where Lundi ate more than enough for three grown men!
That afternoon, Lundi, his mum, older brother and sister came by the ‘Restorative Tent’ to say thank you, and that kid never stopped smiling! Just another miracle in Matabeleland from the Smile and See team.
Image credits: Imvelo Safari Lodges.