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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

A weekend to get my teeth into

A QUIET weekend is a rare thing for the self-employed, and I am no exception. Yesterday I wrote a feature about a lady who is now being forced to sell her home thanks to the poor dentistry she has received.

Rose’s former dentist drilled into her jaw, cracked teeth, and didn’t fit bridges correctly; he didn’t even tackle the gum  disease she suffered from, which as a result became so severe that she has lost fifty per cent of her bone mass on her jaw.

The work was done privately, and for this reason the NHS has refused to help her. This despite the fact that abscesses were leaking so much poison into her blood stream that she was suffering debilitating headaches, stomach cramps, and joint pain so severe that at one point her doctor believed she needed a hip replacement.

Rose has had to remortgage her home in order to raise the £30,000 required to fix her mouth – which includes having a piece of her hip bone removed and grafted onto her lower jaw.

   The only good news is that within ten days of having all bar nine of her teeth removed her headaches, aching joints and bad stomach disappeared.

One of the things that attracted me to journalism in the first place, and which is still a huge lure to me to this day, is the fact that I am constantly learning new things. One of the things I have now learned is how scarily unregulated dentistry is. Did you know that while the equipment dentists use legally has to be of a certain standard, the work they do does not? I didn’t.

I am lucky enough to meet some incredible people through my work. People who have been through the worst of times yet have the tenacity to not only survive but to come out stronger than ever. Two such women I spoke with recently have really stood out for me.

The first was truly fascinating interview with an incredible lady who is enjoying getting to know her son again after they spent five years apart. Where has he been? Well, jail…for hiring a hitman…to kill her… This is not some downtrodden mother blindly forgiving her child, though. I actually found Dana to be intelligent, articulate, strong, and very realistic about the past – and what the future might hold for her. I came away from our chat feeling in awe of her and her capacity for forgiveness.

My next story of the week was to interview a woman called Jill, who was the sole survivor when a paranoid schizophrenic neighbour wiped out her family. It happened in 1978, and she has never spoken publicly about it before – and only decided to when her attacker was released from prison and started to target another family in a chilling mirror of the killings of 36 years earlier. It would be understandable if Jill were bitter at seeing her mother, father, and brother gunned down, but what struck me more than anything was her warmth and self-deprecation at her own strength.

What a privilege it is to meet such people and for them to choose to open up their deepest feelings to share with me.

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