Return to East Africa

PULLING TEETH: Port Erin Dental Surgery's Erik Ahlbom, centre, with Ugandan dentists and trainers Apollo and Gilbert, with whom he has remained in contact and will meet again in September

PULLING TEETH: Port Erin Dental Surgery's Erik Ahlbom, centre, with Ugandan dentists and trainers Apollo and Gilbert, with whom he has remained in contact and will meet again in September

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FOR two weeks in June last year Port Erin Dental Surgery’s Erik Ahlbom was part of a mobile surgery that travelled to remote areas of Uganda, treating severely neglected dental conditions.

The experience was such that Erik resolved to return to Africa in 2012 and continue the work, this time with a small team of staff from his Port Erin practice.

Last year Erik, 54, originally from Sweden, described encountering cases exacerbated by extreme poverty, malnourishment, poor sanitation and very basic health care.

Often dental issues had gone completely untreated, and in extreme cases the result is death, facial disfigurement, or mutilation from botched attempts to ‘dig out’ the infection from the gums.

But the experience also taught him that outreach programmes can make a significant difference – Erik’s unit was seeing up to 100 patients a day – so on September 6 Erik will embark on a second trip, accompanied by practice manager Linda Dobson and dental nurse Maria Shilling.

‘This time we’ll go to slightly different places – further into South Western Uganda – but the work will be the same,’ explained Erik. ‘The people I am bringing are highly qualified and experienced, and they’ll be well drilled about what it is like to work in Uganda. Linda is also a qualified paramedic, which is good because we will see people in a very poor condition.’

The biggest benefit of already having one visit under his belt will be knowing how to operate the mobile clinic as efficiently as possible – the team hope to get 10 full working days out of the two and a half week trip – and Erik is looking forward to returning.

‘Last time it took me a week to learn my particular role. Not so this time,’ he said. ‘It will be a great moment to work alongside the local people again. It’s an odd thing, the situation is miserable, but we can take some satisfaction out of the work we are doing.’

This Friday Port Erin Dental Surgery staff have organised a fundraising concert at the Cherry Orchard Hotel, starting at 8pm, and entrance is free for a night of live music, featuring main act The Waltons.

See www.porterindental.co.uk for contact details and more on the mission.

Erik believes being out there ‘hands on’ is the only way to reach people, and donations to their Ugandan mission will have a direct impact on people’s lives.

‘Corruption is a problem,’ he said. ‘Getting involved in government funded programmes is tricky, so we send qualified people.’

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