Dental News

Dentist brings his work on overseas 'vacation'

July 29, 2003

Spearfish’s Dr. Randy Sachau is volunteering his skills in Romania.
By Tim Velder, Northern Hills Bureau

Spearfish dentist Randy Sachau and his wife Donna are joining a group of dentists who will be flying to Romania in August to provide free dental care to the poor of that European country. They will also present hundreds of stuffed animals to the children the group will work with in their travels. The toys have been provided by area residents. Journal photo by Steve McEnroe

SPEARFISH — Dr. Randy Sachau will celebrate 25 years in dentistry by working 14-hour days in an underdeveloped nation in eastern Europe.

Sachau and his wife/dental hygienist Donna will leave for Romania on Friday, Aug. 1 for a 10-day mission with Serving H.I.M. (Healthcare International Ministries.) Sachau is the leader of a team of dentists and hygienists that will donate time and supplies for the dentally underserved Romanian people.

Other South Dakota dentists Lance Griese of Platte and Tom Udager and James Cunningham of Rapid City also are going on the trip. “There will be a couple days of travel to and from the town and four days of work,” Sachau said. “We will be seeing 350 to 400 patients.”

Most of the work will involve cleanings, fillings and minor surgery such as tooth removal. “There will not be time for multiple appointments such as crowns,” he said. “We will be working in a medical clinic that is converted to a dental clinic.”

It is Sachau’s second trip to Romania with Serving H.I.M. He went on a similar trip in June 2002 and took his college-age daughter along. Serving H.I.M. officials asked Sachau to lead a team in 2003. “This is the first year that more than one group went to Romania,” he said. “There are four trips planned in 2004.”

Serving H.I.M. is associated with the Christian Church in Romania in the Black Sea town of Braila. The church operates an orphanage and Bible College there, and the Diaconia Medical Clinic is part of its ministry.

Sachau is a Spearfish native who will mark 25 years in dentistry on Aug. 7. At that time, he will be in the middle of the mission. The dentists and staff also spend time with the patients discussing Christian principles.

Sachau chose the same week as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to leave the country. “Imagine that,” Sachau said. “It seemed like a good time because Romanian schools are out for the summer. We will be able to use (Romanian) young people as interpreters because they teach English in their schools.”

Sachau said Romania has dentists but they are generally working on a backlog of emergency cases and preventative dentistry is far behind that of the United States. “The people are so poor. They make $20-$30 a month and they have a limited budget for dental care.”

Sachau’s team will treat severe dental decay and chronic pain cases first. “We will do the most critical things for as many people as we can,” he said.

This trip will focus more on treating young people. “We will see as many kids as we can from the orphanages,” Sachau said.

There is some gratification for the hard work. Sachau said the ministry would eventually have a positive impact on Romanian culture. The country is still influenced by its former communist government and many of its resources are undeveloped, he said.

“Christians are the ones with a death grip on the value of freedom,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about them being involved in corruption or payoffs. Besides, that was the first time I have ever had a patient give me a hug and a kiss after relieving her years of pain.”

In addition to taking dental professionals, the group is loading several boxes of equipment and supplies, including four cases of toothbrushes and toothpaste and hundreds of stuffed toys to give away to Romanian children.

Donna Sachau said she initially was taken aback when her husband suggested the trip. “I said ‘We’re going where? To work how many hours a day? And this is a vacation?'” she asked. She said she is looking forward to the trip and is packed up and ready to go.

The group still needs some sturdy boxes to carry the equipment and supplies across the ocean. The trip will take them to London for a direct flight to Bucharest and then a bus to Braila. “Last year, we took 52 pieces of luggage, and we arrived in Braila with two,” Sachau said.

Sachau said the Romanians are very appreciative of the treatments and interested in American culture.

“They worry when we have problems,” Sachau said. “They know if we don’t do well, it will be difficult for them to solve their problems. It is nice to go to a place where Americans are liked.”