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Judith Husband: Blog Extract

By Judith Husband

Judith Husband: Blog Extract

A Day in the Life of a Dentist in a Migrant Camp

Our base was in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece with an incredible history, though a search online now flags up the ongoing refugee crisis in this region.
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At base camp, we met up with another volunteer Jaffer Ismail, a dental student on his elective from Birmingham Dental School. Our cars were packed and Google maps loaded ready for an hour's drive north to the Nea Kavala camp.
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On arrival we set up our clinic in a large tent next door to the Red Cross team. Implementing some basic infection control principles of "clean to dirty flow", with a clear protocol agreed amongst us in advance, Julie [Judith's dental nurse] took charge of keeping two dentists working safely.
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The heat was unlike anything I have experienced. Litres of water (warm, as we had no means of cooling anything) were consumed and a close eye kept on each other to ensure rest periods were taken. A generous underestimate of working temperatures would be well into the mid to high 40s Centigrade, but it could have been much higher by afternoon.
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Scores of patients were allocated numbers and advised of waiting times. Our trusty student, Jaffer, proved a master of organisation, enabling us to just focus on our patients with the unswerving support of our interpreter (a Red Cross volunteer and camp resident).
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Generally our patients' oral hygiene was fantastic; many had been regular visitors to the dentist in their home countries and had experience of hygienists and all the things we take for granted. With years of war in Syria and arduous journeys, treatment not completed had failed and extractions were needed. Some had numerous retained roots and many children had acute dental infections - all were incredibly stoical and grateful for our help.
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We respected universal principles of consent and explained our findings and the patient's treatment options. Above all, regardless of location or patient, the principles of care were fundamentally the same as in a surgery at home.
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At the end of the clinical day, the great "pack down" commenced. Equipment scrubbed and packed ready for sterilising at base camp and all materials, even the chairs packed into the cars. The tent was left empty as though we had never been there - ready for a different health team to use the next day.
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Exhausted, and a little emotional, we accepted the generous offer of our interpreter to show us his temporary home - a refugee hoping to eventually settle in Norway.

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