A local dentist recently returned from an island paradise some 1,600 miles away from here. But he wasn't on vacation, he was on a mission.
Sun, sand and surf. Tourists from all over the world flock to Jamaica. But outside the island's plush resorts is a third world country where poverty rules.
"Most of the people we saw have a place to go to at night, but it's mostly a tin roof. Pretty poor and no air conditioning, none of those things we're used to," said Dr. Stand Hite, a dentist.
Hite has been a dentist in Independence, MO, for 41 years. For the last six years, he has taken staff members to Jamaica on a mission trip to provide dental care to some of that country's poorest people.
"There's two different groups. One, there's a lot of decay and they just wait until it hurts, and we extract the tooth, and the other is they have gum disease so they have what the Jamaicans call them, shaky, and they can't keep them anymore so we extract those too," Hite said.
On one trip they pulled 150 teeth. To put that into perspective, that's more than he does in an entire year at his practice in Independence.
"It's sad, I took out a 13-year-old's permanent first molar because it was rotten to the gum line," he said.
"I'd probably be dead (if the mission dentists didn't visit). You'd have sleepless nights like me without a dentist. So I'm very, very much appreciative about this," said Dawn, one local.
The locals said it's just too expensive for them to go to a Jamaican dentist, so at times there would be as many as 50 people lined up waiting to see Hite.
He and his staff worked non-stop at times, putting in 15 hour days.
"Sometimes the electricity went out, but that's just what happens over there, so we had to extract teeth by opening the shutters so light from outside could come in," Hite said.
At other times they used flashlights to help them see better.
"I always wanted to serve, I've been fortunate in my life to have a good profession and I just wanted to give back, and this is an opportunity through my church to do that," Hite said when asked what made him decide this was something he wanted to be a part of.
The church he belongs to helped establish a mission in Falmouth, Jamaica where a host of health professionals routinely offer their services to the Jamaican people.
"One patient, they're blood sugar was over 400, so we had to get her some insulin before we could treat her, it's sad," Hite said.
At times it can be grim work. But the one constant is the Jamaican people's gratitude.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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