Providing critical dental treatment to the needy in Jackson Macon Swain & Transylvania Counties of Western North Carolina

Patient Stories

Mary Jo

Patient Mary Jo

What is not to love about Mary Jo?! She has an infectious giggle and humble spirit. You may have seen her around town. She and her husband Sherman are local to Cashiers. You have likely seen them in Ingles or the post office and given a friendly smile. And now, Mary Jo will smile back!

A bit anxious during her first visit with us, Mary Jo was able to push through her fears and graciously accept the help she needed. With the same strength and determination that she showed us at the Clinic, Mary Jo cares for her medically disabled husband, her home and her dental care—all with a smile that she can be proud of!

Thank you for sharing yourself with us, Mary Jo; thank you for stretching your comfort zone with us. You have a special place in my heart. Your smile and spirit are so bright!

Amber

Written by Dr. Michelle McDonald, Dental Director

Amber was seen at the Clinic in both 2007 and 2011. Both visits were standard extractions for tooth pain by our volunteer dentists, as was our practice before becoming a fully comprehensive dental care clinic in 2016. Amber did not visit our clinic again until 2019. She had another toothache but this visit was very different. Amber couldn't walk into the clinic on her own. In fact, she was unable to do much of anything on her own. She was in a wheelchair, not able to hold her head up straight and unable to move herself into our dental chair without assistance. Her updated medical history revealed that she had overdosed on methamphetamine in January 2019. The overdose caused an aneurysm and, at that time, Amber was placed on life support with a  terminal prognosis.  She was relocated to Eckerd Hospice Care and miraculously, her conditions began to improve. All life support measures were discontinued; she was breathing on her own! After a bit of time, she was moved to the rehabilitation center at Eckerd. Although still in need of full-time care, Amber started physical therapy and rehabilitation for her addiction.

Despite her challenges, Amber was alert, attentive and personable at her appointment. I told her that I admired her and that I thought she must have survived for an amazing purpose. During this first visit with me, she had muscle contractions in her left leg. It was very painful and I had to help her stretch and reposition her leg. Continuing with Amber's treatment plan in my second visit with her, I noticed she could stretch and obtain a more comfortable position by herself. She communicated with ease and had more strength. This January, one year after she was deemed terminally ill, she graduated our dental program with her oral health fully restored.

We strive to rehabilitate our patients with education and encouragement so they will care for themselves and teach others. Amber embodies our mission to restore lives. She has the faith and strength to stand up! I believe she will be able to minister others at-risk of addiction to make a difference. I am touched by her courage and tenacity, and I am proud to have been a small part in her journey.

Logan

Written by Michele Coward, Clinical Director

Patient Logan

When Logan first came to our Clinic, he was in a lot of pain and ashamed of his smile. He had a mouthful of broken and decayed teeth as a result of drug addiction. Having successfully completed a rehabilitation program for his addiction, Logan's final step to renewed health was our Clinic.

He was so nervous when we started treatment. To make him laugh, Dr. McDonald and I presented him with a hammer and a drill and remarked, "Let's begin!" Logan thought it was so funny! He was at ease with us.

We are so proud of Logan! He states, "Thank you for everything you have done for me. You have given me back my smile, my confidence, my life. March 3rd makes four years clean."

 

Luis

Luis painting the Clinic

From small cash donations and notes to donations of artwork and meals—and even painting services, our patients express their gratitude in so many heart-warming ways. For us, seeing our patients smile again is always thanks enough.

Patient Luis and his wife Maria have been coming to the Clinic for the past six months. Referred by board member and weekly office volunteer Peggy Wike, Luis and his family were in need of dental care and a little nudge to practice better preventative care. During one of his cleanings, Luis expressed a desire to give back to the Clinic. Hygienist Linda Wood mentioned that we always accept patient donations to help cover costs. Luis said: "No, I want to do more." And do more, he did.

Accompanied by Maria, Luis took a day off from work and painted several walls at the Clinic. Before beginning, we expressed that just two walls were in need of paint. But as Luis painted, we loved the color and mentioned that we could hire him to paint four more walls in the same color. Luis refused payment for his services and simply said, "You helped me and my family. I want to help you now!"

Ed

Many of the Clinic's patients are surprised to find out how important medical history is for dental care. There are many interrelationships between general health and oral health; there are also interactions of drugs and treatments that affect dental care. Patients who have had surgeries that result in metal in the body are typically required to take an antibiotic before dental procedures to reduce the risk of bacteria entering the blood stream. A history of heart disease, glaucoma, high blood pressure and/or diabetes very often affect how our dentists treat a patient. Clinic staff assess blood pressure for all patients and are also able to get a blood sugar reading for patients. These screenings may detect chronic, but manageable, conditions of hypertension and/or diabetes. Referral partnerships with organizations like Community Care Clinic of Highlands-Cashiers and Blue Ridge Health allow us to help our patients seek medical help and begin improving their overall health.

Patient Ed knows all too well the importance of medical history in dental care. When Ed first came to the Clinic he revealed a history of multiple occurrences of cancer as well as radiation to treat the cancer. Our staff dentist, Dr. Michelle McDonald discovered a need to restore several teeth and extract four teeth that were beyond restoration through fillings. Dr. McDonald consulted with Ed's oncologist who recommended hyperbaric oxygen treatment before and after Ed's extractions. This treatment would help Ed heal from the procedures; previous radiation treatments left Ed vulnerable to infections. The cost for the hyperbaric treatments are high—a grave concern for Ed and his family.

An alternative to the extractions, and the hyperbaric treatment, would be four root canals and two crowns. Dr. McDonald presented Ed's predicament to seasonal volunteer Endodondist Dr. Tommy Day. Dr Day typically performs 20-25 root canals at the Clinic during the summer months and usually just one per patient. Dr. Day was more than happy to perform root canals for Ed and save him the enormous expense of the hyperbaric treatment. Volunteer Dentist Dr. Paul DeCarlo was pleased to provide two crowns after the root canals.

Ed's oral health is completely restored and he was spared an expense that would have presented a hardship on his family. After 13 years of providing compassionate dental care to our less fortunate neighbors, our dental team continues to remove financial barriers to receiving high-quality, comprehensive dental care. We are honored to do so for all of our patients and especially, patients like Ed.