Our very own Dr. James Lee has been caring for the dental needs of the children in Orphanage Emmanuel for over 24 years. Each year a large group of volunteers from Arkansas and Tennessee team up and travel to Honduras to complete various projects at an 450 child orphanage located in Guaimaca, Honduras.
This February Dr. Lee’s wife, two Kidz Choice- Fort Smith staff members, Crystal and Pam, and Rock Dental Brands Marketing Specialist, Jess Clark accompanied Dr. Lee in his yearly mission trip to Guaimaca, Honduras. This amazing group of volunteers set out on an ambitious task to remodel and add to an old medical clinic on the property.
He treated 68 patients, did 33 composites, 14 crowns, 6 pulpotomies, 15 extractions, and 68 fillings.
“I do the very same work on the children in Honduras that I do at home in Fort Smith. They get the exact same care and treatment plans as I give my patients at home.” – Dr. Lee
Jess reflected on the trip and said “I felt a sense of gratitude for being a part of something larger than myself, but honored to work alongside a doctor that cared so deeply for the children that others had so easily discarded.”
Many of the children recognized Dr. Lee and hugged him. Mrs. Lee would hold their hands and soothe them if they were scared and play soccer on the front porch if they were bored. Dr. Lee performed work on patients that he likely wouldn’t have seen as a pediatric dentist in the states, because the patient was older or cases he may have referred out, he took on the work. One case I remember very vividly he pulled the wisdom tooth (a case he would have referred out) of a 34 year old special needs man. It took Dr. Lee an hour and a half. The patient was shaking and kept choking during the procedure. I was so grateful to be there and to hold his hand and tell him everything was going to be ok and he was doing such a good job.
Another case that stuck with me, we did two crowns and extracted the top front four baby teeth of a three year old. Dr. Lee and the team were absolute champs and professionals keeping the baby calm as he was squirming and upset in the chair. Again, I had the opportunity to sooth the baby and then scoop him up in my arms when he was finished. Less than five minutes after his procedure, he was back to babbling to me in Spanish and showing me his toys.
My favorite memory on the Orphanage Emmanuel campus was when the city turned off the electricity on Thursday, we shut down the clinic and went to work on the medical clinic. Next door to the medical clinic was this huge playground and I found all the special needs kids playing. So I went over and played with them, pushed them on the swings and swang with them and passed out candy. When I was bone tired, I went and sat on the concrete steps and all the special needs kids piled in around me to love on me. It’s one of those moments in time you just wish you could freeze.
There were a few things that struck me about the orphanage. It was an absolutely gorgeous campus, well maintained by the children and staff. The children were so very well behaved and well mannered. There was a high number of special needs at the orphanage, yet SO loved by everyone there. They may have been discarded by their parents, but they were so welcomed by Orphanage Emmanuel.
Sometimes we have these lofty ideas that we go out and change the wold but so often we are changed.