By Jane Weiner, RDH
I have been a licensed dental hygienist for 53 years. However, in all of those years, I have never felt the satisfaction, warmth, and feeling of accomplishment that I did today. I sit here at bedtime, still feeling the glow.
Drs. Schneider and Ghandi
Four years ago I was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Both are autoimmune conditions that required infusions of Rituxan. Unfortunately, although it did save my life, it was not covered by insurance and ended up costing $10,000 out of pocket. Thank goodness for my hematologist and oncologist, Dr. Andrew Schneider for contacting leukemia and lymphoma societies for partial coverage from donations, which helped my family tremendously. Of course, whenever I am able to donate to a particular society, I make it a point to do so in order to show my appreciation.
Infusion room at oncology office.
In January 2017, I was diagnosed with a Class 3 invasive ductal tumor of the right breast. Due to my medical history, a lumpectomy and reconstruction were not indicated, and I had a full mastectomy of the right breast in March 2017. Once again, I needed to visit the infusion room of this wonderful doctor’s office to receive preventive chemo this past summer. Once again, Dr. Schneider saved my life with a phenomenal breast surgeon.[Native Advertisement]
In August 2017, two days after completing my chemo treatments, I suffered a stroke. The left carotid artery was 99% blocked, and I needed to have a carotid endarterectomy. Due to unfortunate circumstances, it ended up being an emergency surgical procedure as my autoimmune conditions kicked in and all of my blood cells had dropped to well below the normal or safe levels for a surgical procedure. The outcome of the emergency surgery was successful, thanks to the cardiovascular surgeon and my oncologist.
As a patient, paying it forward
I had decided prior to the carotid artery incident that I wanted to “pay it forward” by volunteering at my oncologist’s office to help the chemo patients know how to manage their oral manifestations, of which there are many. I felt that this oncologist was so instrumental in helping me that this was my only way to say a huge thank-you to him and his staff.
Products shared with cancer patients.
During National Dental Hygiene Month and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), I approached a few company booths at a dental conference and told them about my plans. Four wonderful companies sent me samples to distribute to the patients who were interested or who had been affected by their chemo treatments and were having oral manifestations.
I was allowed into the infusion room where there are twelve infusion chairs (not all for chemo). The head nurse, Pat, and her staff, Martez and Veronique, introduced me to the patients. I was able to share my personal oral manifestations and what worked for me.
I displayed the different products, gave out samples and coupons, directions in usage and saw such happy faces on the patients. Some experienced immediate relief from the Spry xylitol products and were so grateful. Others were fascinated by the Oral-B End-Tufted toothbrush. Others appreciated the fact that someone cared enough to share all of this information with them. I also suggested home fluoride gel trays for those with caries and some specific questions to ask their dentist and hygienist.
When I was finished, I was asked if I would come back the following week but on a different day so I reach other patients and to make this an ongoing event.
So now you can see why I am flying high tonight. No pain pills necessary, just the glow of the patents, nurses and the doctors’ faces.
So why am I telling you all this? Not for sympathy or empathy, but to show you how I made lemonade out of lemons.
It is so heartwarming to be able to help a number of people. Unfortunately, the medical professionals, as excellent as many of them are, are not well educated in the oral health care needs of their patients. Magic mouthwash formulations are often suggested (at $40 a bottle) by these professionals. Although it does help for some of the oral issues, there are so many dental products available on the market, and I feel very strongly that it is up to dental hygienists to spread the word.
We take care of the impoverished at volunteer programs such as MOM (Mission of Mercy), children at Give Kids a Smile Day, volunteering in schools with the fluoride rinse programs, etc., but we do not, for the most part, educate the medical profession or at least the specialists in this area.
If you would stop for a minute to see if you have free time, go into an oncologist’s office and suggest providing this service. I guarantee you that you will feel so fulfilled; it really was the highlight of my long and happy career as a dental hygienist.
Author’s note: I want to personally give a shout out to Xlear (Spry), Crest-Oral-B, Water Pik, and Colgate-Palmolive who immediately jumped on my bandwagon and supported the dream of mine discussed in this article. I also want to thank Rhoda Pepito Kublikis, RDH, BS, Cynthia Nicoloff, Maria Sampson, and Dana Moon who were all very instrumental in providing the samples from their respective companies.
Jane Weiner, RDH, BS, is the owner of Jane Weiner, RDH Board Reviewsbwwzavurrqwfuedfbvebyuuctyaa. She is a 2003 Recipient of the Dr. Esther M. Wilkins Distinguished Alumni Award, and a 2006 Recipient of the Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction.