Turning Point

I have a love-hate relationship with the TV show “Turning Point”! A hate relationship because the only time I watch it is when I am on the elliptical bike exercising and I hate exercising!  A love relationship because I love the inspiring, true stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to bless the lives of others.  As I have watched episode after episode, I have wondered what I could do with my talents and abilities to become a “turning point” to bless and serve others. My husband, Joe, is a dentist and I am a dental hygienist and so I have felt that our “turning point” would have something to do with dentistry-but I didn’t know what it would be until January 25, 2016.

God Hits Us with a Two-by-Four

Joe and I were scheduled to attend a Dental Continuing Education meeting in Miami. We were to fly out of the Dulles airport at 5:30pm on Friday, January 26.  The weather reports showed a HUGE storm arriving about noon that same Friday that would dump 24-36 inches of snow on much of the mid-Atlantic states. I knew our plane was not going anywhere that day! So I called the airlines on Tuesday night and requested that they make it easier on themselves and on us and change our flight at that time. They said they couldn’t do that without charging us a change fee because a weather alert had not yet been issued. I asked when that would be issued and they said 24 hours in advance. So I made a mental note to call Thursday evening at 5:30pm to change our flight.

On Wednesday evening, I was finishing up some paperwork at our dental office and I went online about 7:30pm and there were lots of news alerts about flights being canceled and passengers already being rerouted due to the impending storm.  So I called the airline and waited 45 minutes on hold and finally got to talk to someone and told her, “I have to get to Miami before this storm hits and I can fly out on Thursday evening or Friday morning and we can leave from a 3 hour radius of airports.” She searched and searched and finally came back on and said, there are no available seats in that time frame anywhere; the only option we had was to leave at 6am Thursday morning and so I said, “OK we will cancel our patients for Thursday and we’ll take it”. Then she said there are only 5 open seats left and only 1 spot on the airplane where there are 2 seats together and it’s on the exit row-I said,  “OK, we’ll take them”. Later when I checked in for the flight, I thought, “I don’t want to sit on the exit row”. Often the seats don’t lean back any and I knew we would be up all night packing and then leaving at 2:30am for the 2 hour drive to Dulles. So I separated us and moved us to two other seats.  And then the feeling hit me, you should sit together-so I moved us back to the exit row.

When we boarded the plane, there was a gentleman sitting in the window seat, I was in the middle and Joe was in the aisle seat. We exchanged introductions with Bill Harvey and I asked him where he was going. He told me Haiti. This surprised me-I mean-who goes to Haiti? I asked what he was doing in Haiti and for the next two hours he shared the most amazing story of how he and his wife, Debbie, run an orphanage called Kay Anj Village which they operate under the non-profit name “Helping Haitian Angels”.

We were struck by the respect, love and concern he had for the Haitian people and especially for their “kids”.  He told us about the village they were building and showed us pictures of the cutest kids you’ve ever seen. We were struck by how happy and healthy the children looked. He told us about the Mamas that take care of the children so they can live in a more traditional family atmosphere. He told us how they support the Haitian economy by hiring Haitians so they in turn can take care of their families. He shared the love and respect he has for the Haitian culture and traditions. He stressed that they were not there to make them into Americans, but to work with the Haitians to provide a healthy and secure future for these children whereby they can become educated, trained in skilled jobs/careers and be able to help their own country become better. He told us how the family unit is really suffering in Haiti and how their dream for each child is to become a good father or mother.

Bill then shared their future plans for the village and how they were going to build a medical/dental clinic. He told us that he had no problem finding medical doctors to come and take care of the children, but he had never found a dentist willing to come. Joe and I looked at each other and said, “Do you know who you are sitting next to?” When he found out we were dental professionals, he invited us to visit the orphanage and see if it was a good fit for us to get involved. He then told us that he was traveling with 2 other gentlemen that were also going to the Kay Anj Village, but they hadn’t wanted to sit in the exit row seats so they were further back on the plane. I felt like God hit us upside the head with a two by four-our original flight was rebooked to this one, the only 2 seats together that were available were next to Bill and they were available because his travel companions didn’t want the exit row, I had moved us off the exit row and then felt compelled to move us back-I looked at Joe and said, “I think God wants us to go to Haiti!”  In fact, it felt like God had made it very clear… “Pay attention! This is what you need to do. This is your Turning Point.”

So when we got back from our trip I called Debbie Harvey and shared how we met her husband on the flight to Miami and we wanted to visit the orphanage and provide dental care for the children.  She said Bill had told her about that meeting and then she said, “You don’t know the other side of the story. For three years we have prayed that a dentist would come to take care of the kids. You guys are an answer to our prayers!” Wow, that was humbling to be told you are an answer to prayer.

Our First Trip to Haiti

Arrangements were made to travel with a group of 13 to Haiti from April 7-11, 2016, including our youngest son, Steven. There wasn’t any dental equipment down there so we took a 60 year old “antique” dental cart from our office basement and rigged it up to kinda work. We took an air compressor from Lowes to provide compression for a handpiece, a Shop Vac to provide suction, we used a lawn chair from a flea market in Cap-Haitian and a banquet table top to lay our patients back on. Then we went to work! The rest of our group became dental assistants, wrote down treatment notes, sterilized instruments in bleach water, gave fluoride treatments and anything else that was needed. We were struck by the children’s behavior. They seemed to sense that we were there to help them. There were great needs-especially among the older youth that had spent years of childhood outside of Kay Anj where they did not receive proper nutrition and twice a day brushing. It is so sad to see kids with teeth rotted off at the gumline and have to extract those teeth which affects them for the rest of their life. They hopped right up on the “dental chair” and were so brave and so sweet. Joe thinks some of them had been in pain for so long that just getting out of pain was worth whatever it took. (Of course, I will brag on Joe and just say that he is the gentlest and kindest dentist and is great with kids). We were greatly hampered by not having the needed dental equipment and so most of our work was extractions and screening the children to see what treatment was needed for the next time we came. It was an amazing trip and the group of volunteers were amazing. We couldn’t have done it without them!!  We were anxious to get home and start working towards getting the needed equipment down there so we could save teeth-not just extract them.

The Birth of the Kay Anj Dental Clinic

hha-5From April to October we were busy gathering dental equipment to put together a dental clinic that would serve not only the children at the Kay Anj Village orphanage but also the 44 adults that work there, the 100 village kids that attend school at the orphanage and the whole community of Dekle. We have seen God’s hand with many “miracles” as equipment has been donated, Ebay sellers graciously discounted purchases after hearing our story (one Ebay seller donated a huge bin of dental supplies to go along with the cart we bought), another dentist donated an x-ray machine after hearing about this project from our dental supply rep.  and it goes on and on. So many blessings, so many miracles and so many good, kind people.

hha-6We, along with Steven, returned to Kay Anj Village last month (October 2016) with another wonderful group of volunteers. With the equipment we accumulated over the past 6 months, we were able to do fillings which means teeth were saved! We did complete cleanings, truly sterilize instruments in a steam sterilizer and took care of the worst of the children’s dental needs. We made a long list of the supplies we want to bring next time to be able to do even more and better care. There is still so much more to do-and of course we haven’t even scratched the surface of the staff and community needs.

Our Vision for the Future

Our long range goal is to have a permanent home for the dental clinic (this is becoming a reality as we speak!) where it can be organized and available for other dentists to come and help provide care. Dr. Chris Houser went down in August but was limited to basically extractions because we still didn’t have the needed equipment down there. We feel that once there is an actual clinic available to work in, we will be able to get other dentists to go and help. Our short range goal is to have a dentist/hygienist down there every three months and then get enough equipment to have several dentists go every three months. As we have shared this vision with other dental professionals and lots of other great caring people, they have told us they want to get involved. With all of us working together and relying on the Lord’s guidance and blessings-we will soon reach this goal.

Your Help is Needed

The very talented Sally Jones, maker of this beautiful quilt “By the Sea”.

We decided to get our own patients involved and started posting on our office Facebook page and website,  www.SmilesForLifeOnline.com about our trips to Haiti, the kids, and our fundraising needs to get more equipment for the dental clinic. Our patients have been wonderful and are so supportive and many have donated funds. One of our very talented patients, Sally Jones, made and donated a beautiful quilt “By the Sea” to raise money for the clinic. We are having a Quilt Raffle and our goal is to raise $5,000 with the raffle and donations. This will enable us to buy another cart so we can have two doctors working at the same time. We know there are hundreds-even thousands-of good caring people that have been supporting Helping Haitian Angels. We are reaching out to each of you and asking for your financial support towards the dental clinic. You can help through buying raffle tickets-or just through donations of any amount. We would be thrilled to exceed our goal and be able to move forward faster with getting the equipment needed for multiple doctors/hygienists to volunteer and care for these wonderful people. Not everyone can make the trip to Haiti to do hands on care, but everyone can care and sacrifice a trip to McDonalds or a new dress or toy and donate that amount to help us help the kids smile. The kids smiles are amazing and touch your heart and soul. Joe and I feel so blessed and humbled that God reached out with his two-by-four on January 25th and put us in the path of Bill and Debbie Harvey and the path of being a part of this beautiful community of people that are truly “Turning Points” for so many in Haiti. May God bless each of you in your efforts and service and caring for his children-our brothers and sisters-is our prayer.

— Joe and Becky McIntyre