Here’s a ”quick” story about a dentist and his impact in Lesotho.
During the same week that Reclaimed Project had the large team from Mississippi (read all about that here), Jim and Teresa hosted a medical team that came with many healthcare professionals. One member of their team, who turned out to be a lifesaver, was a dentist named Dr. Leon. He, along with his assistant Mrs. Brenda, was gracious enough to see one of our friends who badly needed dental work done.
Tsiliso (See-Dee-So), one of the boys from Khokhoba Care Center, had multiple baby teeth that had decayed and were making it difficult for his adult teeth to grow in correctly.
On Wednesday, the medical team set up their mobile clinic in the village of Ha Saui (about 45 minutes away from our home in Katse). We arrived early in the morning and tried hard to keep Tsiliso calm while we waited for the clinic stations to be set up. Beth kept Tsiliso busy in one roundavel (Basotho home) by drawing with him.
Then, Teresa gave him a quick pep-talk before we walked with him to the dentist’s station. She was honest and told him about everything that would happen once the dentist began working. He was also given a small baggie to hold all of his extracted teeth once the procedure was finished. We told him that he had baby teeth in his mouth now, but since he was a big boy, his baby teeth needed to come out. He asked the translator in Sesotho, “I am a big boy?”
If you have ever had the privilege of meeting this boy, you can just picture his precious heart being excited about his new status as a “big boy.”
Well, that was the calm before the storm. On the way to the dentist’s roundavel, Tsiliso walked with newfound, “big boy” confidence. But, as soon as we got to the doorway and he saw the dentist’s chair, Tsiiliso lost his mind.
He was not having it.
We had him sit in someone’s lap for the procedure. MeMookho pinned down his arms and two other men were holding his feet incase he started kicking. I even covered the poor boy’s eyes so he couldn’t see the tools going into his mouth. Some parts were calmer than others, but Dr. Leon and Mrs. Brenda deserve so much credit for putting up with all the yelling and thrashing without becoming discouraged and giving up.
There was a lot of tears, yelling, squirming, and even biting. Dr. Leon said it was the hardest he had ever been bitten (I am still so sorry, Dr. Leon). It was quite the experience!
In the end, Tsiliso got 6 teeth pulled! He was a trooper and did great considering the circumstances. But the true stars of the day were Dr. Leon, Mrs. Brenda, and all the helpers in the room.
We laughed that during the fiasco, Tsiliso was screaming something over and over again in Sesotho. The Basotho helpers just cracked up, and after catching their breath from laughing so hard they were finally able to translate for us that Tsiliso was shouting at Ntate Molapo (the pastor of Khokhoba Baptist Church), “Do you know who I am? I am going to beat you!!!”
I think Teresa’s pep-talk gave him a false sense of strength. I was thankful that Ntate Molapo didn’t take him too seriously and was able to laugh it off. MeMookho, however, began crying from laughing so hard.
With a few struggles, our boy made it through and Dr. Leon pulled numerous baby teeth that had begun decaying. Afterwards, Tsiliso and I went to show Teresa his teeth and he was so proud that he’d survived. The two of us sat outside for him to relax a minute after the traumatizing ordeal. It was a really special moment for me. He kept feeling his numb lips and cheeks with his fingers and trying to talk to me in Sesotho. It’s not usual for Tsiliso to sit still and let me wrap my arms around him, but this day he was craving some TLC, and I was soaking in every minute of it.
After Tsiliso had recovered for a while, we packed everyone up and headed back to Katse. Leaving that day, I felt so thankful for Dr. Leon, Mrs. Brenda, and the Floras, for letting us come to the clinic and caring for our boy. We took Tsiliso to the women at the Care Center who kept an eye on him for the rest of the day. Despite a few periods of crying, he was his happy self soon enough, telling everyone about his morning and how excited he was to get rid of his baby teeth.
We thought that would be our last time with the dentist, but the very next day Tseko (Say-Ko), from Khohlo-Ntso Care Center, came to the Center with a swollen cheek and complaining of his tooth hurting. He had skipped school that day because of the pain and wasn’t playing with the other kids. A couple times during the afternoon, he even started crying because the pain was just too much for him.
Tseko is on of our littlest boys at the Center. He is still working on counting but will surprise you with what he will say in English. My favorite quote from helping him with his numbers is that 40 is said, “forty zero.” The struggle is real. This boy has the sweetest heart and loves to drive in Tyler’s lap.
The pictures above were taken one day apart! You can see how big the swelling was and it came on so fast.
We called Teresa to see if the dentist could see him. God truly has a plan and always has His hand in everything. At first, I was so upset because we went to the dentist the day before, why couldn’t we have known about Tseko’s mouth then so he could have gone to see the dentist on the same day as Tsiliso? Tyler and Beth quickly helped me see that it was a blessing that the dentist was still here and able to see him. Just two days later and they would have been gone. Teresa said it wouldn’t be a problem and we planned for Dr. Leon and Mrs. Brenda to come and take a look at Tseko’s mouth after they returned from a full clinic day in the Matsuko Valley. I felt bad, knowing how tired they must have been after the long day. They seemed happy to help though, and we were very thankful.
We went by Tseko’s house and told his caretaker the plan. Of course, his caretaker didn’t seem to mind at all and was fine for him to go with us. Because the Spring Break team was here, we had dinner at the lodge and brought Tseko with us. Although you could tell he was in pain, he loved being at the lodge. He was mesmerized by the TV and just kept pointing at it. We finally had to pull him to the dining area to eat and he very carefully chewed his food on one side of his mouth.
While he was eating, a can of Coke caught his eye and he decided he needed one too. We kindly said no, and showed him how we were all drinking water. Immediately, he got up from his chair and walked over to someone from the team. This young man had befriended Tseko and had been playing with him all week. Rumor is, Tseko had just tried Coke for the very first time because someone from the team of guys doing construction gave him one to drink.
He went to his friend and asked him for a Coke, which he immediately got. That little stinker. He knew how to get what he wanted! We finished with dinner and got an update from Teresa. Dr. Leon and Mrs. Brenda were almost back to Katse and would come and see Tseko after they had finished eating dinner at the Flora’s.
While the team had debrief, Beth and I brought Tseko (with Coke in hand) to our house. It was around 7:30 by now, and because he loved the TV at the lodge (which was just the boring news) we wanted to show him a movie. We put on Toy Story and he was instantly glued to the screen. In the middle of the movie, he stood up and went to the front door. I asked him if he needed to use the toilet, to which he just stared at me (he only knows a little English). I brought him over to our bathroom and showed him the toilet. He looked at it with a confused look, turned around, and went out the front door. Beth and I looked at each other and laughed quietly. I really don’t know if he has ever used an indoor toilet before. He came back inside and continued watching the movie. After some time, he fell asleep.
After seeing the time, we decided Tseko would just spend the night with Tyler and I in our spare bedroom. We called MeManeo, who sent a message to his caretaker so she wouldn’t be alarmed when he didn’t return on time.
Eventually, Dr. Leon and Mrs. Brenda came over to our house and started setting up their equipment. Around that same time Tyler and Ashton came back after finishing with the team. Tseko was still sleeping as we slid him onto the lounge chair they used as a dentist’s chair. We tried stirring him so he would at least be alert and wouldn’t wake up frightened. He stayed calm as he woke up in the chair with new people in the room. Each intern held one of his hands as Tyler and I stood at his feet speaking the little Sesotho we knew to him. He was so brave the whole time. There were a couple of times as the lidocaine wore off that he would squeeze the intern’s hands and his legs would begin to shake as a tear fell down his cheek. My heart broke to see him in pain but yet so brave.
After pulling numerous teeth, Tseko climbed into Tyler’s lap and curled up onto his chest. Dr. Leon and Mrs. Brenda cleaned and collected all their supplies and headed home for a well-deserved night’s sleep. The interns stayed and talked for a few minutes and then went home as well. Within 20 minutes, Tyler and Tseko were both asleep in the chair. I had the spare bed ready for Tseko but couldn’t stand to wake him. I laid down on the couch and fell asleep watching Tyler hold Tseko with so much care and affection.
Tyler and I woke up every time Tseko stirred, coughed, or breathed. About 3am, Tseko stirred enough to wake himself up and we took this opportunity to tuck him into the spare bed.
Worried he may wake up needing to go outside (because of how opposed he was to the toilet), I slept the rest of the night on the couch so I would wake up if I heard him trying to go outside. We all slept soundly until the morning. Tseko got up and immediately went outside. After using the “toilet”, he just sat on our front steps and felt his cheek. The sweet boy. I had him come inside, sit on the couch, and wrap up in a blanket.
He picked the Coke can up from the table. As he felt that it was empty, he had the most concerned and worried look on his face. He seemed even more concerned than the night before when he was having teeth pulled! I quickly realized what he thought and took him to the kitchen, where I had put his full can of Coke in the fridge. He was so relieved, and held it close for the rest of the morning.
We tried to scrounge up some of my small clothes for him to wear because he had bloody drool stains on his shirt and his pants had “gotten wet during the night.” He wasn’t having any of my clothes, and I was feeling bad just thinking about him staying in those dirty, wet clothes all day. Tyler asked Seth O’Nan, one of the leaders of the team, who had brought his son, Ryder, if they had any extra clothes that Tseko could borrow. Thankfully, Ryder saved the day! They brought him a whole outfit, even new socks! Tseko was so excited! He said the socks were his favorite part. Although for the next few weeks he wore his new shirt every single day.
After breakfast, Tseko got a ride back to Khohlo-Ntso with the guys (without even telling me bye). I was kinda sad. I had really enjoyed having him in our home and looking after him. It was a special night for Tyler and I both. Later, when I made it out to that side, MeManeo told me Tseko was so happy when he arrived back home and he even told her that he wanted to be sick again (so he could come back to our house). My heart was so happy hearing that.
We joked with Dr. Leon about how different our two boys were. That one wouldn’t sit still for anything and the other was practically asleep the whole time. Dr. Leon and Mrs. Brenda were fantastic and showed us so much love by helping our boys so much.
We want to send a big thank you to Dr. Leon, Mrs. Brenda, and Jim and Teresa for being so willing to help and serving our children with a Christ-like heart! And to show Dr. Leon and Mrs. Brenda that we have scared the kids into brushing their teeth everyday! Although, there is a part of us that worries Tseko has told the other kids that you get to watch TV and drink a Coke if your teeth hurt.
Tyler & Rachel