Sally Simpson Lesvos – Blog 2

The dental charity in the UK and overseas

As expected the storm came last night. By nightfall the wind had whipped up and the rain persisted throughout the night.
Everything was super soggy, but everyone seemed to take it in their stride. It’s rained a lot today. There is a tremendous sense of community here though, and everyone is pitching in. There’s quite a few agencies about the place and many refugees volunteer themselves and become quite indispensable especially as translators – the charities are literally fighting over them! 

The clinic was super busy again. Daisy and Viv had the challenge of a baby and a small child with fevers due to dental infection. We realised that we didn’t have the meds in paediatric volumes but with some help of the other medical charity teams Viv organised and treated a very poorly and floppy baby and Daisy amazingly got the tooth out under local anaesthetic for the other.

The poor living conditions and possibly poor health during their journeys from their native countries I’m sure has contributed toward the very poor oral health of the many of the refugees that I’ve needed to treat for both acute and chronic gingivitis and periodontal disease. This has been the bulk of my work. In particular I’ve seen many of the refugees exhibiting necrotising gingival and periodontal infection – something relatively rare in the U.K. now. But with many of the camp inhabitants making long and arduous trips across continents with few belongings, in poverty, sleeping in cramped and dirty accommodation or without a roof over their heads it’s not at all surprising that this sort of oral infection is occurring. It’s been so good to be able to provide relief to people from this as it’s an infectious, painful and very antisocial condition. Everyone I saw was hugely grateful for the care I provided. We were able to provide everything necessary for prevention to take away too.

I am completely indebted to the two companies; EMS, who donated a fantastic piezon unit with countless tips and several hand pieces and Henry Schein for an amazing portable suction unit. I simply couldn’t have done it without them
We’ve met some simply LOVELY people today and heard many stories about how they came to be here.

The highlight of my day was a lovely young lady who came back to tell us she’d just had the most important news of her life – that her asylum status had been granted and she would be leaving the camp for Athens later today.
There’s been so many positives today despite hearing the such terrible stories of humanity.

Dentaid Dental Emergency Relief Team are firing on all cylinders!
We’ve seen about 45 people a day the last two days.
Our day began yesterday with a visit from inmates of the camp detention centre and their guards. They arrived chained to one another. One of them, a very unwell man with complex health problems as well as his dental emergency. He explained through a translator that he’d been on medication but it had been lost overboard in the refugee boat he arrived on.

We are all feeling disappointed that we can’t provide more of a regular dental service for those that visit, but with the facilities, time and conditions it’s just not possible. Despite having toothache many of our patients (approx 40%) don’t want the tooth removing because they know there are other options like root canal treatment. However, this sort of time consuming complex care (and the several visits it might require to complete) is just not possible in this ‘non-dental’ environment. We do our best, prescribing antibiotics and providing temporary restorations as an interim solution or offering extractions for acute pain or terminally affected teeth. Many urgently need extractions -we saw many facial swellings daily with people having been in this terrible state for some time.

We have been struck by the diversity of the people we are encountering. So many races escaping persecution and war. As well as Afghan, Syrian and Iranian, we have met people from so many African countries like Senegal, Eritrea, Mauritania and DRC. Everyone has a different reason for being here and all of their stories are heartbreaking. We’ve treated many heavily pregnant women who have had to make terrible journeys. One yesterday was due to give birth any day now.
Simon was talking to us about how much hope the camp residents have. They are filled with the hope of a better life or to be able to return one day to their former homes once the troubles are over. I think this is what gives the camp such a great atmosphere and sense of community. After the initial first day’s trepidation, I have never felt threatened or unsafe here, in fact I love winding my way through the tents up to level 4 each day and saying good morning to all the familiar faces and our cheeky gaggle of kids that play outside our door.

I visited the camp school today and delivered all my donated crafts and books and toys. The school is run by a charity from the Netherlands, called the Boat Refugee Foundation. I delivered a presentation to the teachers at the school (again, all residents and refugees themselves) and the charity workers to help them teach good dental health to children and parents in the school – the teachers had concerns the children didn’t have toothbrushes and paste so we gave a huge supply of these too. It was good fun!

We’ve worked really hard. The demand for our Dentaid Emergency Service has been huge. We have treated over 150 people this week.

The next Dentaid Dental Team will take over where we left off, so we have been careful to leave things simply arranged so they can get cracking as soon as possible.
We noticed that HMS Valiant (a British Border Control Vessel supporting Greece) was missing from the port and on arrival into camp on Friday there was a very different atmosphere on Level 1. New refugees had arrived in camp, looking very tired and anxious.
We believe there are around 8400 people in a camp designed to hold under 2000.
The same has to be said for the residents of the island of Lesvos who have tolerated hundreds of thousands of refugees passing through the island with fantastic sympathy and overwhelming empathy.
Daisy, Viv and Dom will now be friends for life after spending so much time with them in our tiny dental clinic over the last week. They are all great clinicians and great people, and we’ve all very much learned from one another and leaned on one another when we’ve needed it.
Lastly, I want to say a huge thank you to those that supported this Dentaid trip with donations. EMS, Henry Schein, friends, family and colleagues. YOU ALL MADE A HUGE DIFFERENCE TO SOMEONE’S LIFE IN THE MORIA REFUGEE CAMP WITH YOUR GENEROSITY.
I hope this has encouraged any of you that have been thinking about doing some humanitarian work utilising your professional skills to take the bull by the horns and go for it.
I can not recommend a Dentaid trip enough, the team at Dentaid headquarters have been so helpful throughout my fundraising stage and trip.
Over and out, Sally

Sally Simpson
Dental Hygienist and Therapist,
Dentaid Volunteer Emergency Relief Team
Moria Refugee Camp, Lesvos, Greece

Volunteer Greece