Edison Filias is 11. He and four of his siblings go to school in Bwa Chandel, the remote mountain community in which they live. Edison and most of the other boys his age are full of energy and mischief, more eager to play football than study on any given day. Last week some visitors from Indiana came with me to see the reality that is Bwa Chandel. The dental hygienist on the team gave a lesson in proper teeth cleaning and gave each child an exam, noting who might need to see a dentist the next time there is a clinic in Anse-a-Galets. Ten children were identified as needing extractions, a few with serious abscesses or infection. Edison needed four extractions.

Edison reminds me of my son Paul at that age. He is slender and not as tall as the others. He has a most winning smile when he lets you see it, and, although one of the smallest in stature of his age, one of the biggest in heart. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in spirit.

This past Saturday there was a dental team here from North Carolina. With money that was donated by the previous visitors, we arranged for some of the children to come into Anse-a-Galets by motor taxi to see the dentist. Four of the Filias kids, all on the same motorcycle, were among them. The clinic opened at one. The kids were here by 12. They were dressed in their best clothes. The youngest little girl had on a blue and white checked sparkly dress that had once been some american girl’s Dorothy halloween costume. She looked absolutely adorable in it with matching white bows in her hair and white lace socks.
After almost two hours of waiting, the children were taken into the clinic. One by one they had their teeth cleaned or pulled and were given a goody bag with a new toothbrush, toothpaste, stickers and some other surprise. Little “Dorothy” was so excited, I think she would have endured anything to have that loot.

But Edison’s situation was complicated. One tooth was abscessed and as a result, it did not numb well. Despite several attempts, the tooth would not budge. Part of it broke and Edison was in a lot of pain. Although he didn’t want to, he couldn’t help but cry. The hygienist was very sympathetic and when she hugged him he broke down and sobbed. But the infected tooth cannot remain, so the dentist gave him antibiotics and pain medication and explained that he should come back on Wednesday to have it out. I went over the instructions with the school director. We stuck exhausted little Edison on the motorcycle between two bigger kids and off they went to the mountains; they very likely arrived home two hours later, well after dark.

Yesterday I went to Bwa Chandel to visit the building site and to see how Edison was feeling and talk with his mother. I wanted her to know that she can come with him and that he will be well taken care of. He wasn’t in school because his face was still swollen. I asked if I could go to his house. The school director said yes and had his youngest sister walk me there. I asked if it was far. “No, not far.” Where have I heard that before? When will I learn what “not far” means in Haiti? Off we went along a narrow trail behind the school. It wound through a scrub brush field, then up a hill. The hill became very steep as the trail took us along a ridge high above the sea. That led to the edge of a ravine which we descended via a deep and narrow stream bed. The little Filias girl was hopping from rock to rock like a happy mountain goat. Occasionally she would stop and check on how sweat soaked whitey was keeping up. We crossed the ravine, walked along another ridge line and into a clearing where finally we saw his house where he lives with five brothers and sisters, his mom and his godmother. I half expected Edison’s mother to be furious at me for putting her son through this trial, without her consent no less. I was prepared to dodge rocks, but in fact she was a lovely and gracious person. Edison was outside and feeling better and even smiled a bit. I told his mother that she was welcome to come down the mountain with him but she decided to send his oldest brother. Arrangements for their ride were made and off I went, hiking out by a different route, equally steep with an equally beautiful view of the sea.

Early this morning Edison rose and dressed in a clean and pressed white long-sleeved shirt, pressed brown slacks and his best shoes. ( There is no electricity or running water in Bwa Chandel. His mother cleaned his clothes in rain water and hung them in the trees to dry. Then she used a heavy iron filled with hot coals to press the neat sharp creases in his pants and shirt.) He and his brother hiked a mile almost straight up the mountain to the place where they met their ride. They arrived at 9:00. At 9:30, after receiving hugs from all the hygienists and dental assistants, Edison was given a mild sedative and now, at 10, he is relaxed and ready.

Many of us consider the dentist somewhat of an ordeal. We have to call for an appointment, drive to the office, wait a few minutes for the doctor or hygienist to come in. The next time I drive the 10 minutes to my dentist’s office, wearing shorts, a tee shirt and flip flops, I’ll think of brave little Edison and his trips down the mountain. I’m on my way to the clinic now to see how he’s doing. Keep him in mind today, won’t you?Edison

Mesi tout moun e pase bon joune—-Nancy

The pictures are of Edison at home yesterday and “little Dorothy” Saturday at the dental clinic.