At 18 years old, Edwin is a charmer. When he first met the YWAM volunteers, he grinned, waved, and took photos with them as he waited for a YWAM dinghy to arrive on the shores of Sohe District in Oro Province. The dinghy would take Edwin and his mother, Jesset, to the dental clinic aboard the MV YWAM PNG.
His visit to the clinic was special: Edwin has Down Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder characterised by developmental and intellectual delays. Although Edwin is nonverbal, he used signs to tell his mother that his teeth were hurting him. He first complained of the pain two years past, but this was his first trip to the dentist.
Unbeknownst to Edwin and his mother, one of the ship’s volunteer dentists, Dr Daniel Sundaresan, specialised in special needs dentistry. As Edwin’s Down Syndrome merited a nuanced approach, Dr Sundaresan’s presence was invaluable.
“If you’ve got a patient with Down Syndrome, it’s a case of behaviour management, it’s a case of knowing what comorbidities tend to present with Down Syndrome, and then making allowances for that,” said Dr Sundaresan.
Dr Sundaresan worked quickly, using smiles and hand gestures to assure the young man. By the end of the procedure, Edwin had three teeth extracted — including the tooth that had pained him for two years.
His mother was grateful for Dr Sundaresan’s compassion for her son. “He was very good with Edwin. It was interesting to see. [Edwin] didn’t fight back, he was just lying there, still [and] peaceful,” she said.
The experience was deeply meaningful for Dr Sundaresan as well. Several days later, when asked for the highlight of his outreach, he said simply, “Edwin.”
Interested in volunteering with YWAM Medical Ships? Visit www.ywamships.org.au/volunteer/ for dates and information.