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| May 26, 2015

Lilly, a quiet, reserved six-year-old girl, tentatively stepped up to the nursing station for a routine health screening. It was Healthe Kids’ annual visit to her school, the time of year when all students, regardless of income status, had their height and weight, vision, hearing and vital signs assessed.

The Healthe Kids nurse examining Lilly immediately recognized that the young girl would need follow-up care. But that was no surprise to Barbara Johnson, the school clinician.

Lilly had been complaining of tooth pain for more than a year. Nurse Johnson had recommended that the child see a dentist, but the mother had no dental insurance and couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket expense. So Lilly’s tooth decay progressed.

“If you open her mouth, you can see the effects of the decay,” explained Nurse Johnson. “One of her bottom front teeth has a hole you can see from the outside. In addition, she has three other visible cavities on the right side.”

The severe tooth decay made mealtimes increasingly painful. Nurse Johnson began providing medication to Lilly at lunchtime, and as the medicine became more frequently required, her concern grew.

After Healthe Kids completed a full screening on Lilly and a letter was sent home strongly recommending follow-up care, the first grader’s mother realized how bad things had gotten. Unable to take time away from work, she allowed Nurse Johnson to take her daughter to a dentist.

In all, Lilly had four permanent and six baby teeth that required fillings. Two baby teeth were so bad that they needed to be extracted. If the repairs weren’t done soon, Lilly’s pain would worsen and she would experience probable abscesses.

Through a nonprofit dental group, her doctor provided some of the work for free, but since Lilly needed such extensive and time-consuming repairs, he wasn’t able to waive all charges. Healthe Kids sent the request for funding straight to the First Hand Foundation.

“Since funding for follow-up care was a challenge for the family, First Hand was able to step in and provide the needed assistance so Lilly’s issue could be resolved,” said Brie Cantrell, Healthe Kids manager. “She will now be able to focus her efforts on her school work rather than the pain she was experiencing due to her health issue.”

Lilly wasn’t the only one in her family that was helped by First Hand. Her older brother, Jerry, received assistance for eyeglasses as well.

“I think Healthe Kids is an awesome program,” expressed Nurse Johnson. “It has provided benefits for many of my kids in this urban school. The majority of our students are not covered by insurance. For the ones that may have dental coverage, parents cannot afford co-pays or are unable to leave work for appointments. Working with this program has been a fulfilling and wonderful experience.”

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