Top News

Pam Frampton: Why this N.L. woman has good reason to smile

Linda Clarke of Conception Bay South is much more eager to smile for cameras, now that she’s had the dental surgery she so desperately needed. — Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Linda Clarke of Conception Bay South is much more eager to smile for cameras, now that she’s had the dental surgery she so desperately needed. — Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

It took 15 months of fighting to have at least some of the costs of her dental surgery covered, but Linda Clarke of C.B.S. can eat solid food again

“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.” — Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk

Taters with melted cheese might not sound like the most extravagant meal, but when it’s the first substantial food you’ve been able to enjoy in more than a year, it tastes pretty darned good.

Pam Frampton
Pam Frampton

“When you can chew everything up and not swallow it down like a gull, it’s wonderful,” says 69-year-old Linda Clarke of Conception Bay South, whose 15-month fight for dental surgery ended this week with a radiant smile.

Clarke first described her health problems in a February 2017 letter to the editor in The Telegram: “I am in desperate need of oral, facial surgery. This is not cosmetic,” she wrote. “I have to have bone removed from one part of my body and transferred to my bottom gums. The bone in my bottom gums is crumbling. That means I need eight implants and new dentures. The cost is $20,000.”

To Clarke — and to many others, myself included — it makes absolutely no sense that when it comes to medical care, teeth are not considered part of the body. The surgery and implants Clarke needed in order to eat solid food and stave off anemia — or worse — weren’t covered by MCP, and she and her husband couldn’t afford it on their fixed income.

So she went public with her predicament, at one point staging a one-woman protest with a couple of homemade placards on Confederation Hill, standing in the freezing cold to send a message: “Please help me get my surgery.”

Dr. Ed Williams of the MCP Dental Monitoring Committee was moved by her plight.

Eventually, the cost of Clarke’s surgery was covered, provided she could pay for the expensive implants needed to shore up her jaw and the special dentures required.

Over the course of 14 months, Clarke raised $10,000 for her half of the costs, thanks to the kindness of strangers and other donors on GoFundMe.

If she could, she said she would dearly love to meet every single person, “and thank them and say God bless you for your help, your prayers and your kindness, and for staying with me through this.”

“Oh my, there are still good people in the world,” she told me in a phone interview Thursday. “Complete strangers. They treated me good.”

Clarke now has brand new teeth.

Everyone knows despair is bad for the soul, and Clarke was dragged down by that demon many times in the past year when she was too weak to do the things she always did and would look in the mirror at a face she barely recognized.

And it’s changed her life in ways you might not imagine.

Not only has she changed physically — she says she feels 20 years younger and had to go shopping at the second-hand store for clothes now that she’s gained back the 22 pounds she’d lost on her soft-food diet. It’s also changed how she feels about herself and the face she shows to the world.

Everyone knows despair is bad for the soul, and Clarke was dragged down by that demon many times in the past year when she was too weak to do the things she always did and would look in the mirror at a face she barely recognized.

“I was just about close to a nervous breakdown…,” she acknowledges.

“The bone was getting more and more softer and crumbling. … But I’m strong-willed. I’ve struggled through it and I’ve come a long way. …

Linda Clarke before her surgery. — Telegram file photo
Linda Clarke before her surgery. — Telegram file photo

“Now I’m on cloud nine. I feel so good that I’m not ashamed to smile anymore, I’m not ashamed to get my picture taken. I had to fight for it, but I’m still thankful that somebody listened. There’s no way I could ever thank them enough or repay them.

“I feel so relaxed now, and happy, and can do the things I couldn’t do before. I feel self-confident again — I got that back.”

A person who is grateful for simple pleasures, Clarke says she stocked up on Creamsicles when they went on sale recently (“I can bite the ice!” she says triumphantly.)

Perhaps the greatest pleasure she finds these days is basking in the affection of her husband, Hayward — her greatest champion.

“He says, ‘Linda — what a difference! You look beautiful!’”

And she is.

Recent columns by this author:

Pam Frampton: Pets are not property

Pam Frampton: No sanctuary here

Pam Frampton is a columnist whose work is published in The Western Star and The Telegram. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton


 

Recent Stories