New lease on life for 75 year old who refused food as doctors suspect cancer.
- October 26, 2015 5:02 am
As an English teacher in China, it was easier for Yi Yu to assimilate when she was re-united with her family in Australia in 1995. Things began to change 5 years ago when her daughter, Min, noticed that her mother was getting a little slower with her speech, and the problem was getting worse and worse. Min took her mother for some tests. After having an MRI, the doctor told the family that Yi Yu suffered a mini-stroke, which affected her speech. Yi Yu never regained proper speech, but apart from the challenge of communication, she was otherwise well. This small challenge was one that almost cost her her life when she couldn’t communicate the pain that she was having in her mouth, and just stopped eating.
51 year old Min recalls, “My mother stopped eating. She lost 10 Kg very quickly and became frail and old. She just refused food. We didn’t know why this was happening so quickly, so I took her to the doctor. Everyone suspected cancer, but all the tests came back negative. I soon realised that it wasn’t that she didn’t want to eat, she just couldn’t eat because of her wobbly teeth and swollen painful gums. I decided that perhaps we should remove her teeth and fit her with dentures, but when the carer at the nursing home showed me a drawer full of peoples dentures, I knew that this would be a waste of time as there was no way she could tolerate dentures because they just loosely fit in the mouth. I remembered when I was doing research about my own deteriorating teeth I refused to accept this denture option for myself, why would I accept this for my mother, who is now elderly and has less tolerance. I wasn’t ready to just give up.”
Min was herself a recipient of dental implants treatment in 2012. She received the “All-On-4” immediate teeth replacement by Dr Alex Fibishenko, who pioneered these procedures in Australia. Below is Min’s before treatment and then 24 hours later:
Min remembered how quick the process was and how this affected her life. “I remember being put to sleep, and the next day I had teeth. The same teeth that I still have today. All I had was some temporary swelling and very mild bruising. I had no pain, and felt like I can bite and chew straight away. I referred my husband, who had gum disease, to have this treatment, and also a friend of mine, and everyone had a very similar experience. It was expensive, but that was what I wanted for my mother. The process appeared so simple, I was sure that my mother could handle it”, even in her weak and delicate condition.
Min brought her mother to Dr Fibishenko, but because of the rapid weight loss and Yi Yu’s frail state there were some concerns in respect of her being fit for the operation. Min pleaded “I understand that there is a chance my mother might not make it through the procedure, but this is not life that she is leading right now. This is just suffering. I can’t watch her suffer like this. Even if she lives only another 3 month, I want her to have some quality of life. I want her to be able to eat.”
After consultation with the anaesthetist, Dr Mark Alter, and a management plan by the All-On-4 team, Dr Fibishenko agreed to undertake Yi Yu’s treatment. After removal of her diseased and broken down teeth, Yi Yun received installation of All-On-4 dental implants in the upper and lower jaws, in an operation of less than 2 hours. Typically the patient’s teeth would be fitted the very next day, but in Yi Yu’s case Dr Fibishenko decided to let her recover from the anaesthetic for a few more days, and fitted her teeth on day four. Min was anxious to see her mother with teeth again and was there right beside her (pictured below) as the All-On-4 team fitted Yi Yu’s teeth.
“It was just how I remembered it from my own All-On-4 surgery”, said Min. “My mother had no pain, very little swelling, and when they fitted her teeth, I couldn’t believe how they made the teeth look just like they used to be. I felt like I got my mother back.” Below are Yi Yu’s pictures before treatment, and immediately after:
The special emotional moment for Min came when her mother was handed a plate of food. “She was eating. I couldn’t believe it. And she didn’t want to stop, she was hungry, she hadn’t eaten in weeks.”
Yi Yu was welcomed with applause into a room full of dentists and specialists from her part of the world, who were undertaking advanced training with Dr Fibishenko. She just couldn’t stop smiling.
Dr Fibishenko works with various practitioners out of facilities throughout Australia. He says, “Stories like these can be very emotional. They are powerful and motivate our entire team to continue doing what we do. Nothing in Medicine or Dentistry comes without risks, and we always weigh up the risks against the potential benefits. What we need to keep at the forefront of our mind is that we don’t just treat teeth or jaws we treat people. We treat individuals who have functional, personal and social needs, and the impact of what we do affects their quality of life. Yi Yu’s story was heartfelt because eventhough her daughter suspected that she might not have long to live, she didn’t give up and wanted whatever time her mother had left to be pain free and joyous. I can very much relate to the quote by Robin Williams in the movie Patch Adams, ‘you treat a disease, you win you loose; you treat a person, you always win’. ”
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