Prosperous and Sustainable (1) / Regina Coyula

My adolescence coincided with the era in which almost all Cuba’s dentists left the country. When I finally saw one, the most expeditious course of treatment was to remove two of my molars that in other circumstances would have been saved. But those battle-hardened dentists could not be bothered with such details as a teenager’s smile, no matter how cheerful it may have been. So as soon as I could, I had a permanent bridge made. My little bridge allowed me laugh without embarrassment until two years ago when old age began to move things around. Every time the bridge came loose, I — more stubborn than it — put it back in place. But by the end of last year it finally gave out.

In the judgement of the prosthetist a new permanent bridge was required because neither removable bridges nor dental implants were suitable in my case due to the shallowness of the occlusion. These bridges are metal but the clinic did not make them, which meant I would have to go to the School of Dentistry.

So off I went to see a Doctor Lorenzo, the only person authorized to treat patients at the school. I went on a Wednesday but Lorenzo only sees patients on Mondays. Come early, I was warned.

The following Monday I arrived at seven in the morning. At eight the doctor’s secretary appeared at the doorway and announced that the doctor had to deal with a personal matter and would not be coming to work. The following Monday I was unable to go and the Monday after that I found out, also at eight, that Lorenzo would not be seeing patients since the school was closed for a week-long break.

Last Monday the orbital paths of Dr. Lorenzo’s and myself were finally in alignment but it was for naught. Sitting behind his desk, Dr. Lorenzo was seeing patients while on auto-pilot. In my case that meant there was nothing that could be done since the metal fabricating machine had been broken since November.

Caramba! Considering how easy it is to post a little announcement, a note could have saved me three trips here.”

Whenever I asked Lorenzo where I could have the work done, he responded with the mantra, “Go to your healthcare provider.”

“But my healthcare provider told me to come here!” I said.

“Go to your healthcare provider.”

“And you can’t tell me where else to go?” I asked.

“Go to your healthcare provider.”

I went to my healthcare provider, the national reference center, and in my conversation with the prosthetist she described the conditions of her workplace. There had been no equipment in place since 2011, visitors spill out into the hallway and no journalist had looked into it.

She mentioned other places where it was possible to have the work done but I would have to go on a personal basis since the clinic only referred cases to the School of Dentistry. She did not say it but “on a personal basis” sounded to me like, for the right amount, I would be able to laugh out loud without any molars missing.

9 May 2014