For the second time in three months I find myself waiting for one of my children to come out of oral surgery. I must admit if feels slightly less stressful this time but I still obsessively look at the status board every two minutes to see if it’s over. It’s not – again.
Hence, I have time to ponder my children and their teeth and their care. Apparently they have been bestowed with “Chythlook teeth.” Makes sense, they are Chythlooks after all. It makes me think that the term was coined especially for our family. Hmm…
So what are Chythlook teeth? I really don’t know, but they keep me going back and forth to the dentist, the orthodontist and the oral surgeon regularly. It seems this will be my plight for some time to come. I keep hoping one of the kids will have my teeth! Maybe Grant, maybe not. Chythlook teeth seem to be a dominant trait.
I wonder how many Chythlooks have had Chythlook teeth throughout the years. My mother-in-law has often told me of how she took Gary to the hospital when he was little only to find afterward that they’d pulled one of his permanent eye teeth without her knowledge – their treatment of his Chythlook teeth. This event, among others, has been the source of mistrust of dental and medical community for her. Things are not quickly forgotten here and sadly that mistrust began generations before my husband lost his tooth.
I’ve been told that many, many years ago, Southwest Alaska boasted a population of around 100,000 people compared to its current approximately 10 percent of that. Traders and missionaries brought more than just new culture, goods and services. They also brought new viruses and diseases. Apparently a massive outbreak of the flu, among other things, effectively wiped out the vast majority of the population of the time. This is a story repeated throughout different parts of Alaska with varying numbers. Well meaning, but sometimes less experienced, doctors came north to help. Sadly, the help did not always go as planned.
However, alongside the sad stories of poor care there are the stories of profound heroism. The soon-approaching Iditarod Sled Dog Race commemorates one such heroic moment when diphtheria swept through Nome and the local doctor called for help. Help came via the courageous and tireless mushers and sled dogs through some 1100 miles of treacherous terrain.
The famous stories share a special place in Alaskan hearts along with the everyday medical heroes who touch our lives. For my in-laws one of those heroes was Dr. Libby who safely brought my husband and his two brothers into the world in his Dillingham home clinic – my personal favorite of his contributions! He can also probably claim much of the credit for inspiring one of those babies to become a doctor himself. That’s a pretty good mark on the world I’d say.
Now I sit in Anchorage’s Alaska Native Medical Center, a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility that is a standard bearer around the world for healthcare among indigenous people groups. Employed here are doctors and nurses who have been recognized nationally and who serve in programs that are second to none.
I’ve given birth to two of our three children in this hospital. All three have seen the most amazing pediatricians at this hospital. One was Dr. Roger Gollub, a true hero of pediatric care in Alaska. In spite of his huge patient load he made sure I had his home phone number and always took time to truly care for my children. He was a gift to our family and so many others, but he has not been the only exceptional caregiver here. Our current pediatrician, Dr. Michelle Myers, is equally as amazing, going the extra mile in every situation. The dental side of this facility is no less impressive. In spite of the dozens of patients they see every day, they take time to care for each one.
Today I feel especially grateful for each one of them. Every one of the heroes I listed could have been, and could be paid, much more to practice medicine elsewhere. Instead they chose Alaska, where unique medical dental challenges abound. Case in point: Chythlook teeth.
The status board continues to scroll…still not done.
The next day…
I am happy to report that Colton survived surgery just fine and is doing well! It was a delicate procedure which will have a delicate recovery. This word “delicate” stresses me out. Enough so that after a few unexpected changes I called the surgeon which resulted in a quick follow-up visit to ensure everything was ok.
Enter the hero of the hour – Dr. Sarah Satow – who, upon seeing my son, immediately lifted his spirits by regaling him with stories of his pre-op antics. After ensuring that all her work was holding together she proceeded to give me her cell phone number! She asked me to call if I had any concerns and to please text her pictures of any changes. That, my friends, is a good doctor!
Don’t misunderstand, people – not saints – are employed at ANMC. I found a person-type the day Ella was born, November 27, 2003. A nurse came in to check on us and to see what we would like for breakfast. I requested a vegetarian meal. She returned with a dietician and a lecture on the importance of meat eating. If only I’d had my blog to refer her to for an explanation!
And with that, my ramblings about medical and dental care are over. I am enticed back to my amusing reality. A man just walked into my coffee shop with a giant fur coat. The owner has stopped what he was doing and is trying it on! I love Alaska!