Every year, Imvelo coordinates a massive undertaking to provide dental and optical care to the communities surrounding their lodges. Imvelo Safari Lodges have been holding their ‘Smile and See’ safaris for 12 years now, changing tens of thousands of health outcomes for the better in rural Matabeleland. Mark ‘Butch’ Butcher, Imvelo’s Managing Director, is always on the ground with these safaris and shared a very special story from this year’s safari. Read on for your feel good story of the day!
There are lots of great stories that can be told about our recently completed Smile and See Safari 2023, and several stand out. Lundi Sibanda’s, is one of a young life saved.
At Dhlamini, our 4th Clinic this year, we knew our project, running since 2011, was going to treat our 40,000th patient. Around 09.30 on that morning Lundi a 12-year-old boy from Phondo village accompanied by his mum entered the first step in our dental treatment process, the diagnosis tent manned by Fabio, Ezio and Carlotta. Lundi was our project’s 40,000th patient.
Lundi had a broken right front tooth, broken during ‘play fighting’ several months previously. He was directed to the Restorative Tent / Fillings Department. The agony of a broken front tooth with an exposed nerve for several months is hard to imagine. It was clear it also meant the child was malnourished and in great difficulty. A traditional healer in his village had tried to treat the tooth with herbs – unfortunately this had compounded his problems with serious infections.
Arantxa, an expert in root canal surgery, immediately stepped up, first with some anesthesia that instantly bought relief for the first time after months of unimaginable pain. She then painstakingly cleared out the vegetable matter and infected nerves from that broken tooth. Finally, satisfied the stump was now clean and nerveless, his story could have ended with a gap-toothed smile for the young man. But instead, Susana now took over with the second painstaking task … building Lundi a new front tooth on that stump, so he’d be proud of his smile again.
Late morning that day, temperatures soared, and an hour and half into his treatment, poor young Lundi, overcome with fatigue, passed out. We laid him out, raised his legs, cooled him down, loosened his clothing and got him sipping a cold Coke. It revived him enough so Susana could continue her work. And nearly two hours after he had first entered the “Restorative Tent,” their work complete, they passed him on to our other departments, first Pharmacy for antibiotics from Dr Matemi and his team, and then for a meal at our ‘Restaurant’ where huge pots of sadza and beans (polenta fajole!) are prepared daily for our patients. Bear in mind we often feed a couple thousand people on a busy day, Danisani bumped him straight to the front of that queue. He and Reason assisting there that day assured us later that our terribly hungry young Lundi had eaten more than three grown men.
That afternoon, Lundi and his mum, older brother and sister swung by the ‘Restorative Tent’ to say thank you and goodbye before boarding their bus home. We took a few more photos and shared a very happy few minutes with his family and you know what? That kid never stopped smiling!
Just another Miracle in Matabeleland from the Smile and See team!