Day 1- We landed in Tangier
I arrived at the airport really early, roughly 4:30am, sped through baggage drop and security and was in duty free by 5am. I hadn’t slept and was exhausted so I grabbed a bottle of water and took a nap on a bench for an hour before getting up to grab some breakfast at a nearby restaurant. I found Rachael at the gate for the shuttle and we headed off to the plane. I closed my eyes and suddenly we had landed in Tangier, Morocco! We made our way through airport security and met up with Cally and Sarah, our trip coordinators, and the rest of the crew. We set off in a bus which took us 2 and a half hours to get all the way up to the family home we’d be staying in at the Rif Mountains. We settled in and had a meal which the family had prepared for us, which was made from delicious food grown straight from their garden. After a few hours of meetings with Cally and getting settled in, we decided to all walk up the hill and watch the sunset, which was gorgeous! We had dinner later that evening and relaxed as we had a busy day the next day.
Day 2- Ended up with a numb cheek and tongue
This morning we had breakfast at 8am. I woke up at 7am and headed straight for the shower. The food was ready and breakfast was absolutely gorgeous. The plan for the day was to sort through all the stock that we had to get ready for the next 5 days at the clinic. We each took a category of stock and began counting and working out how much we had. Rachael and I had the largest category which included cartridges of anesthetic, needles, throat packs, topical gel, consumables which included cotton wool rolls, bibs, cups, wipes, masks and tissues. We noticed that some of the topical gel hadn’t been used in a long time but was open and we wanted to double check whether it had expired or not. I volunteered to have it applied in my own mouth to double check the effectiveness of it and ended up with a numb cheek and tongue for quite a while! Although it took quite a while, we counted everything and set them in piles around the room before packing everything away into a suitcase and letting the team know how much we had of everything. We then headed into Chefchaouen to get a meal at a restaurant which was delicious! We spent 4 hours wondering around the beautiful markets and buying gifts for friends and family members in this beautiful blue town! Once we’d got everything we needed, we headed back to the house and relaxed in the evening eating food, talking to each other and even playing the kids of the house who were very interested in what we were up to.
Day 3- The first day of clinic
We woke up early and grabbed some breakfast before all of us piled into the minibus for 8am. We drove 40 minutes to the town of Bab Taza and was given a classroom to set up in. We had 5 chairs for 5 dentists that day. Us nurses were each given roles that included oral health education for the kids, decontamination duties and chairside nursing. On this day I was working with the dentist, Mahek, and we set up our little station with cotton wool rolls, gauze, topical gel, fluoride, gloves and water (it was so important to stay hydrated as it was super hot!) We had a small room for the autoclave and ultrasonic bath, dirty boxes were placed under our chairs for the econ nurse to collect and we had trays of instruments across the front of the room all separate in order to make it easier for nurses to grab the equipment we needed and head back to our stations. The day started off nicely and we had a meeting with Cally and volunteers of the red cross team who had kindly volunteered to help us with the kids in terms of translating from English to Arabic and vice versa. We began to bring patients in at roughly 9am and the day had begun! We had regular breaks throughout the day and it was a smooth start to the project. We had a system going when taking a child’s tooth out, we placed the gauze on the socket and sent them to the corner of the room where we had set up a table with colouring books, pencils and stickers- Sharon kindly donated a lot of books and pencils which were put to really good use and the kids enjoyed them! We had lunch at 2pm and the food was delicious. It was supplied by a restaurant that was close by and gave us tons of food to share between the whole team and still have some leftover! I definitely ate too much, but it was so worth it! By 5pm we had seen our last class of children and we were ready to shut down for the day and head home. We arrived home and relaxed, we were all so exhausted, we headed to bed at roughly 10pm.
Day 4- Decon Today
Our second day at the school started off really well. We got to the school for 8am and began our day. I was in decon today. I was a little nervous as Rachael had set the bar super high the day before by ensuring everyone was okay and just generally staying on top of all the jobs going! For the first half of the day, we stayed in the same classroom and treated children with pain and issues as they came through the door. By lunch time we were told we needed to pack up and head to a school that was further up the hill for the afternoon as we hadn’t been given the go ahead by the government to move kids from their schools, so we thought it easier to go to them. However, we couldn’t move the decon room up to the new school as there wasn’t any space to put the autoclave. This meant that I had to travel from one school to the other. The caretaker of the school offered to drive me up and down the hill to offer some help. I grabbed a bucket and filled it with the dirty instruments, was driven down to the other school, washed the instruments and put them through, then brought the dirty bucket and clean instruments back to the clinic in the other school. I did this roughly 4 times that afternoon. As you can imagine, I was shattered by the end of the day! We shut down by 5:30pm and began to head back home. This evening was fun as we had food once we got home and sat and talked outside until it got cold and then went inside for even more food! It was crazy how much food was offered to us, it was hard to stop eating at times! I was in bed by roughly 10pm.
Day 5- Nursing with Gill
Mid-week! I couldn’t believe how fast the week was going! Today I was nursing with Gill the hygiene therapist. Today we started later and arrived at clinic for roughly 9am (felt nice to have a lay in). We set up in the same room as the day before. It was so lovely treating the kids and giving them stickers! Gill had a roll of sparkly stickers which we made into bracelets and the kids were so impressed with them.
We also had plenty of medals for really good kids who were either super brave or who had really good oral hygiene! We did plenty of extractions and some small fillings that were able to be filled with GIC! For lunch, we headed into Bab Taza to the restaurant that had been supplying lunch for the first few days and had a lovely sit down meal with everyone. It was so lovely to have a long lunch, enjoy the weather and eat plenty of food. After 2 hours or so, we piled into the red cross ambulance and headed back to the school to complete the second half of the day. We treated more lovely patients and I was able to apply fluoride under Gill’s supervision which was a real highlight for me! We had to pack up from this school as we were moving schools the next day so we began to pile everything into suitcases and boxes, load it into the minivan and finished by roughly 5pm. We hopped into the ambulance and headed back up to the house. The ambulance ride was a lot of fun as we had music blaring and we were all singing along whilst driving through the rocky mountains, another highlight of the trip!
Day 6- 6 classrooms of children
Today we were at a new school, still in Bab Taza, however it was only a 20 minute drive away from the house so we didn’t need to leave until 8:30 roughly. We set up the clinic, which we were experts at by now so it only took a few minutes to do it. Today I was excited as I was able to fill the role in oral hygiene education. This meant I went round the classrooms with nurse Jill, Billy and 1 translator to triage and apply fluoride to the children. We went into the classrooms and we would hand out toothbrushes and toothpaste to every child. Then I would stand at the front with a model replica of teeth, a toothbrush and I would explain to the children, with the translator next to me, how to brush their teeth and how many times a day to do it. It was a lot of fun and the kids seemed to enjoy hearing about this as they always were polite enough to say thank you and applaud. Then I would head to the corner of the room and wait with fluoride, cotton wool rolls and an applicator. Once they had seen Jill to determine if they were in pain or not, they would come and see me if they had no problems and I would apply fluoride to their molars and they would sit down. If they were in pain, they were given a form with notes about their pain and their name and any medical conditions and asked to sit down. They would then be taken to the clinic and seen by the dentists who would treat them as necessary. We saw roughly 6 classrooms of children that day which was so good and the children were always happy and welcoming to us. During the times when I wasn’t in classrooms, I was able to help out in decon and see if the kids needed anything whilst they were at the post operative station. We ended up running pretty late this day as we were a dentist down due to sickness and we had a lot more kids to see than first anticipated. This led us to packing everything away from roughly 6:30pm and getting back to the house at 7pm. Unfortunately, I began to feel slightly unwell, so I showered and hopped into bed at 8:30pm.
Day 7- Quizzes, games and laughter
Today was not a good day. I was unbelievably poorly during the night and was believed to have caught a sickness bug going around. I stayed in the house and slept for most of the day. At 7pm I headed downstairs as I was feeling much better and ate with the team. I was gutted I didn’t get to spend the last day in clinic but we had a fun evening filled with quizzes, games and laughter. Mariam, the Moroccan nurse and I ended up coming joint 2nd on the quiz which was a huge bonus. It started to get really emotional as Cally began handing out certificates and we started saying our goodbyes to the team as 4 of us had to leave at 6am the next day. We played one final game of bottle flip and Rachael lost and had to dance on the table! It was hilarious! By 11pm, we were in bed.
Day 8- Home Time
Today we woke up at 5am as we had to get ready and leave for the airport at 6am. I packed up the last of my belongings and headed to the minibus. We drove 2 and a half hours back to the airport and made our way through the system, we bought snacks, looked around in duty free and eventually boarded our flight at 12pm. We arrived back in England for 3pm.