Last week, my Uncle Dan passed away. On what would have been his 83rd birthday, his family buried him. The funeral was a Buddhist ceremony. Uncle Dan has 4 adult children, 8 grandchildren and 1 great granddaughter. At the funeral, my cousins (his children) and I were asked if any one of us could translate what the Buddhist monk was saying to English for the non-Vietnamese speakers. Dumbfounded, we all looked at each other. Uncle Dan's oldest child, my oldest cousin, said he was the only one that could speak Vietnamese in his family but his Vietnamese was at an elementary level. Then they all turned to me. I said I can speak Vietnamese well but I don't know if I can translate the true meaning of the monk's words to English without compromising their meanings. Stalemate. Then in come my uncle Gary. Uncle Gary is my uncle Dan's friend for over 60 years. Uncle Gary said he could translate the monk's meaning to English but was worried his emotions would overwhelm him . He just lost his best friend. So with desperation, uncle Gary was our translator.
He actually did a terrible job but he was so cute. You can tell the monk's words were getting to him. He started to lose focus as tears blurred his concentration. He couldn't get words out and I hand motioned and mouthed a few words to him. Afterwards, he came over to me in the front row to apologize for his poor performance. I assured him he did fine as he performed a job that none of us could have done. Still not convinced, he took his seat.
It's funny at funerals. People are usually so sad at first then as the day goes on, you see more happiness. My dad was talking and laughing as he mingles with attendees and checks in on his distraught sister, my newly widowed aunt. A lot of my relatives from both sides of my families were there. We all talked and met one another (again). Some I haven't seen in decades and others, I simply have not met. They came from all over the world. It was a touching moment when I realized how loved my uncle was. What he accomplished in death was an almost impossible feat in life. He brought us all together to celebrate his life. He was never an attention seeker but he got all of our attention.
By the time I left, my heart was not as heavy as it was in the morning. I was actually happy to see and meet a lot of my relatives. Isn't it ironic how it takes a death in the family to bring people together? I wonder why we can't just do it when most of us were alive? I guess mortality humbles us all to make time for each other, no matter how short.
This past weekend, I took my daughter to help volunteer for the Convoy of Hope event in San Jose. As one of the three planning committee members, I was so elated to see more than 30 dental team members show up to donate their time, skills and kindness. We had specialists, hygienists, new grads, students, foreign dentists, assistants, and community volunteers serving at the dental section of the event. Our team spoke 7 different languages and had translations for our guests of honor. Everyone was working tirelessly to provide the best possible care from what we can offer. We were in constant motion to keep the line moving.
Over 106 organizations stepped up to donate supplies and equipment for participants. With approximately 1000 volunteers from 50 different churches and the surrounding communities, 4000 attendees were given over 4500 bags of groceries, 7000 meals, 1600 pair of shoes, 300 family portraits taken by 8 photographers, 157 haircuts by 25 hairstylists, and so many more to ease the stress of the everyday life around the holidays. Hundreds of people were given counseling spiritually, professionally and emotionally. The event also provided professional help with writing resumes, applying for jobs and connecting people to the right resources.
Our dental team was able to screen for oral cancer, demonstrate proper home care instructions and apply silver diamine fluoride to over 200 attendees. We also gave away more than 300 bags of dental goodies of toothbrushes, full size toothpastes, rolls of floss, and proxybrushes. With everything happening so quickly, I didn’t get to fully take in the impact of this event. I saw the hundreds of grocery bags piled up on the tables, the pink group of people consulting and comforting people with (potential) breast cancer, the thousands of lunch bags, and I was still in work mode. It didn’t hit me until I saw the young boy in the video saying how his mom was in Mexico and they were left alone hungry. Yet he still had a smile on his face because a shoe company donated 1600 pair of shoes and he got a pair, along with his brother. I remember the father of 7 getting a dental screening for all of them because he was laid off. I helped him sign each one of his kids up. We split them into two groups next to each other to finish the family screening faster. There was a prosthodontist standing next to me in amazement as he watched the 6 kids walking in front of their parents so obediently. The 7th was in mom’s arms. Here is the link to the video from our local tv station: https://cbsloc.al/35moDgu
I see that every little action of kindness helps. Families were so happy just to get an extra bag of dental goods. A woman told me she had 2 sons and a husband who couldn’t make it to the event. She wanted a bag for each of them. I handed her 5 bags and she was so grateful. Another family came along but didn’t want the screening. However, they wanted the dental bags. I gave each a bag and they were so surprised. I reminded them we were there to help in any way possible. The grandparents ended up wanting a dental screening after all.
All in all, it was hard work because it was practically nonstop. The day started with just 35 degrees but the sun came out and burned my nose. My daughter stood in the front with me to register people and direct them to the appropriate chair to be screened. We exchanged paperwork with each volunteer and manage the line of attendees. She even explained to the registrants what they were consenting to and described what silver diamine fluoride was. I stood in astonishment because she listened to me and my colleague when we were lecturing about SDF to our peers before the event started. After the event was over, we helped to clean up. She passed out in the car on the way home. I was exhausted but beaming with pride as I looked at my sleeping daughter. She held her own at the event. Doctors were calling her over to translate for them. I hope she will continue to do charity work throughout her life and I don’t have to remind her about it.
5 portable dental chairs and units supplied by AG Neo dental company.
The Vietnam vet in wheelchair along with his friend, getting their check up. The funny stories they shared about their time in Vietnam were entertaining because they told part of the stories in Vietnamese. Even after decades of being in Vietnam, their Vietnamese was still pretty good.
Most of the dental team for Convoy of Hope 2019. Thank you for all you do.
This week, I have to apologize to patients who were rescheduled due to my schedule. My youngest broke his arm in gymnastics and we were at the ER, then the doctor's office, and finally the surgery center...all 3 days in a row. Surprisingly, the ER was so busy on a Wednesday night. The doctor's appointment the following morning was also busy. Then the surgery center was horrific. They did not have clean instruments for my child's surgery. The charge nurse tells me there will be at least an hour delay. That was followed by the surgeon coming by to say..."a longer delay" because he has other surgeries that he has to do as well that day and took off. He was upset.
The facility manager, Steve, tells me they're humans so they make mistakes. But he will "take it for the team" as I'm sitting there questioning how a surgical center was not prepared for a surgical procedure that was set a day before.
Steve: I'm not directly involved but I will let you take it out on me.
Me: You're the manager, right? You manage the facility?
Steve: Yes, but the charge nurse was supposed to take care of these things. I'm trying to protect your child. This is implant surgery. We need the instruments to be sterilized. Dr. Kanel doesn't use this facility regularly so we need the instruments to be brought in.
Me: You don't think I want to protect my child? I know how implants work.
He continues to talk down to me like I don't know what implants are. Only after I told him I was a dentist, placing implants in the jaws, did he start to tone down his aggressiveness.
I don't understand people. Why do some think they know more just by assumption? I saw the guy delivering my son's instruments to his surgery. Does that even look safe to you as he walked across the parking lot and into the surgery room? The room, in theory, was supposed to be "sterile", instruments coming from the parking lot and through a room filled with people kinda take that sterilized factor away. Ugh! My point with Steve was: I understand mistakes are made BUT your facility made the mistake. First, the anesthesiologist was late. He ordered the medical assistant over the phone to administer the oral sedation dosage. Then the nurse wasn't informed about the instruments so she had to push my son back after she started to take him to the OR. The surgeon came in upset and walked right back out after 2 minutes with us. The instruments arrived through the parking lot and across a reception area. There were so many places to correct on this day. Don't tell me you're protecting my child when I'm trying to make sure everyone knows what they're doing on him because of all the things I saw in 3 hours of being there. It is disheartening and the surgery has not even started.
In the end, the surgery was done and his bones have rods in them. For that, I am grateful to the surgeon who made it happen.
Yesterday, I went down to Costa Mesa for an AGD student conference a.k.a, FellowTrack conference. It is a program designed to encourage dental students to go beyond their formal dental training and step outside of the box to learn real life dentistry. In the end, they will be rewarded a Fellowship award…after they pass one of the hardest exams they’ll ever take. Yes, it’s hard work but fun. That’s why FAGD and MAGD dentists are life-long learners. You just don’t stop learning. The hope is that the more you learn, the more you want to learn and understand the science and profession.
These are the student representatives from UCSF and UOP dental schools. My partner, Gurrinder, and I are their advisors. We work to enhance their knowledge of dental procedures and provide them with hands-on courses to familiarize them with the “feel” of it all.
The female students are the president of their schools. They gave a great presentation and showed genuine camaraderie amongst all the dental schools. One USC student introduced herself and said she was from the “best dental school”. My students asked to reply with a comeback when it was their turn to talk. So they said, “UCSF is the best and affordable”. Everyone laughed.
While other schools emphasized their social media presence, both UOP and UCSF students emphasized the plethora of educational courses they offered to their members through the AGD student chapter. I could not be a happier mama bear. I was so proud. Both my presidents spoke at the very end because other students were more assertive getting to the podium. They spoke softly and shyly, with a tint of nervousness. They kept looking at me just to keep their heads up and not down. The vice president of UOP said, “Of course you saved the best presentation for last.” Again, everyone laughed. He was nervous, too.
When it was all done, Gurrinder and I somehow got a lot of credits. I diverted it all to my presidents. They’re so inspirational. They made others want to do more and be more involved. They’re true leaders. While they were shy at the podium, they were super stars when they sat back down. Their confidence grew. When it was all over, everyone went out with their boyfriends, girlfriends and wives to celebrate. It’s moments like these that make my hard work outside of the office worth every hour in traffic and late night planning.
Gurrinder (center) and I with the students from UOP and UCSF after the conference.
Student representatives from all California dental schools, advisors, guest speakers, and CAGD leaders, who made this all possible.
Last week, I helped my dad mark an item off his bucket list: Pearl Harbor. As a former P.O.W and army guy, my father’s interest in Pearl Harbor was quite unique. He has read so many books and articles about it, it was as if he was giving me the tour and history lesson for the start of U.S involvement into WWII. But as an old man, his recollections were constantly repeated. His memory has started to fade but not at an alarming rate; just a natural aging process. When he forgets something, he just moves on. I did, too. It wasn’t worth trying to jog his memory. I’ve only heard the stories 5x before.
I spent 4 days with my dad to take him out of his monotony. I thought I was being a good daughter. For years he has been wanting to see Pearl Harbor but has no one to travel with. He visited Hawaii many times but never Pearl Harbor. So, I closed my office to take him. At the airport, my dad saw my older sister with her kids heading to Honolulu as well. We were all surprised as she didn’t tell anybody she was going there. It stung my dad gently because she didn’t invite him, whereas, he nudged me to take him. In my culture, the oldest takes care of the parents, not the middle child. But since my parents are divorced, my dad got me by default. My uncle has always told him he got the better daughter. My dad never confirmed it. He was just happy to get one child to care for him. Even his surgeon told him he was lucky to have me. He just smiled and nodded in politeness, like he would even if the surgeon was to tell him he will lose a leg tomorrow. “Thank you, doctor.”
In Waikiki, his patience shortened with the rising temperature. I thought it was his low blood sugar as we were standing in a food court surrounded by restaurants and he complained about being hungry. But his HbA1c is 4.4. After 3 years of prodding me to take him to Pearl Harbor, a 5.5 hours flight, 15 minutes of air turbulence, 5 hours of interrupted sleep the night before, and an hour on public transportation, he spent all of 30 minutes there. The last 20 minutes were spent touring the submarine, our only glimpse of Pearl Harbor. I felt like I was paying for my daughter’s music lesson, $1/min. But unlike the control I have over my daughter, I couldn’t make my dad practice more at Pearl Harbor. We skipped the main attraction because it required a ferry ride over the water under the sun. He was sparing my skin from the potential burn as it was delicate and soft. He did purchase that hat for me.
We picked up our luggage at the hotel, headed to the airport, changed our tickets to get an earlier flight to Maui, then boarded. My husband picked us up in a rental car. My father complained the ride from the airport to the condo was too long. He wished the restaurants were closer to the condo than the airport. Luckily for me, restaurants were just a short walk away. Wailea did not fail me, it had restaurants galore. But it failed my dad for it lacked a Vietnamese pho place.
At the luau, I advised my dad to take a little bit of all the food offerings just in case he doesn’t like something. He listened. He enjoyed the show. He even joined in on the hula lesson. By the end of the night, he wanted to purchase our souvenir picture. It was dark so he couldn’t really see the poor quality of the image. Not to mention, there were people in the background. So instead of $40, they offered to let us purchase the 5”x7” for only $30. I told him no. He said he could Photoshop the person out and enhance the quality of the picture. He heard of Photoshop; he has never used it.
By Sunday, I was happy to be back home, jetlagged and all. I didn’t have to carry anything but my own bags. I didn’t have to worry about ordering food that someone might not like. It was eat or starve. The little things of my everyday life were a joy to me. The irony of old age pouting is only funny after the facts. Even after all that, I don’t think I’ve gained any points with him. But I know he loves me in his own way; he wished me a happy birthday a whole week before the actual date. It just tells me he’s celebrating his second daughter for a week in his own way.