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Kathleen's story: What life is like without teeth

5:35 PM, Sep 3, 2013   |    comments
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  • Volunteer dentists have given Kathleen upper teeth for practically no fee. The new clinic to be built would serve 6,000 patients like Kathleen when it first opens in 2014, if we can raise the funds.
  • Jeannie Blaylock in Kathleen's kitchen to show what it's like to go through life missing almost all your teeth because you can't afford a dentist.
  • Kathleen, who can't afford a dentist, ate mushed- up Life cereal breakfast and dinner for 5 years. Without teeth there is a fear of choking on food which can't be chewed up.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Kathleen's story explains why we're doing the Apple Project. The story is an excellent example of why students or adults are willing to raise money for The Apple Project, our effort to get a free dental clinic built in Jacksonville for low income, uninsured families.

Kathleen lived most of her life with a pretty set of teeth. But then a divorce and a pile of bills meant seeing a dentist was impossible.  Like thousands of Duval residents, she just had to suffer.

In tears, Kathleen explains how her self esteem was torn to shreds.  She felt ugly. She had a job at a local restaurant, but her boss told her to keep her mouth closed so customers wouldn't see her toothless smile.

She says she's basically been trapped in her own home for 12 years.  She can't work because no one wants someone who looks like her.

Asked how long it's been since she's bitten into a nice, juicy apple and she replies, "Twelve years."

She says she's felt "horrible." But there wasn't any way she could pay thousands for new teeth.

Another issue was simply eating. Kathleen says she would mush up Life cereal with a fork until she could almost just gum it.  Any chunks of food could cause her to choke easily.

Finally, she found the Community Health Outreach Healing hands clinic.  Volunteer dentists have made a whole set of top teeth for her.  She's going to get bottom teeth soon.

Her bill? Practically free, she says.

When she learned about our Apple Project to build a new dental clinic, she said, "Oh, my God! That's wonderful!"

She knows the current clinic is far too small to handle the need on the First Coast.

Currently, Healing Hands volunteers say, the clinic has a waiting list of 400-500 people.

Kathleen is encouraging everyone to collect loose change and donate it.  If you donate $5 you're actually giving $10 because the Weaver Foundation is matching all donations up to $100,000.

First Coast News

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