GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Deborah Diaz is one step closer to getting a kidney transplant after receiving care at a free dental clinic in Grand Rapids Friday and Saturday, June 1 and 2.
"This changes everything," Diaz said. "I can call [the doctor] Monday and say, 'I have my last checkpoint. We're good to go.'"
Diaz suffers from lupus and has been on dialysis for 11 years. Lately, it's been less effective, and her teeth have suffered, which is a common side effect from lupus. She said it kept her from getting approval for a kidney transplant.
"It's been like four or five years since I've been able to see a dentist," she said. "And until you have a complete dental clearance, you're not able to get a transplant."
She got up early to wait in line with hundreds of people for an appointment at the Michigan Dental Foundation Associations's Mission of Mercy free dental clinic. More than 330 dentists volunteered for the roving clinic held at Calvin College on the city's southeast side.
"Dentists [give] free care in their offices all the time, but we don't tell anybody," said Dr. Connie Verhagen, a volunteer dentist who practices in Muskegon. "This is kind of a chance for us to corporately get together, give free care, help people increase smiles—just make people feel good about themselves."
Dentists and dental assistants performed more than 6,000 procedures including fillings, extractions, X-rays, crown installations and teeth replacements. According to organizers, approximately 900 patients received more than $830,000 of free care.
God was in the building at this clinic, said Diaz, who got fillings, a crown installed and replacement teeth.
"I can't believe there's people out here doing this for regular people that just need some help," she said. "You can't help what situation happens to you...[And] this will help me get what I need. I'm so thankful."
Mission of Mercy volunteers were thrilled to help Diaz, Verhagen said.
"We had a wonderful time with all these patients," she said. "But you always have those on or two special people...now I have a connection with a patient. And I wanted that connection with her for a very long time."
Organizers set up the clinic every two years at different sites in Michigan.
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