In honor of Friendship Day today, Aug. 5, we wanted to share another special story about Quinnlin and her beary special friend Champerina.
When Quinnlin turned three she visited the dentist, like most kids. Nearly seven years later she still sees the very special Dr. Theodore Levitas or “Dr. Teddy”, as nearly everyone calls him. Dr. Teddy specializes in dentistry for kids with special needs.
On a recent appointment Quinnlin knew bringing Champerina with her to see Dr. Teddy would be fine because Dr. Teddy has hundreds of teddy bears himself. Quinnlin arrived with Champerina, proudly telling him, “This is my bear and I knew you would like her because you are Dr. Teddy and I know you like all kinds of bears!” Having Champerina come with her helps because going to the dentist can be kind of scary. It helped that this dentist had an entire conversation to and about Champerina and that make Quinnlin relax even more.
Dr. Teddy has been a dentist for 63 years. Sixty-three years. If you add up the years of education a student might go through to become a dentist, you might be able to figure out that he is 88 years old. What makes Dr. Teddy even more unique is that his practice is almost entirely made up of kids with special needs. He is the premiere “special needs dentist” in Georgia and families drive from all over the state to see him.
Quinnlin’s family doesn’t remember where they heard of Dr. Teddy. At the time Quinnlin and her brother were pre kidney transplants but on a lot of meds and considered medically “guarded” by their care team and Dr. Teddy considers their medical circumstances in all things he does. He does dental procedures at the same time as other surgeries and considers medication interactions among other things.
Now that Quinnlin and her brother have received kidney transplants there are more complications to consider because they are immunosuppressed– they can catch illnesses and get infections easier than most people. Just a few weeks ago Dr. Teddy came in over the weekend to order an antibiotic in time for Quinnlin’s recent urgent procedure of having 4 teeth pulled, allowing room for new teeth.
Quinnlin’s family asked Dr. Teddy who would take over his practice for him when he retires, as if that will ever happen. “I can’t get anyone to do it, that is why I won’t retire.” He explained that most of his kids are on state Medicaid, for which he accepts, and there aren’t many dentists that will take such a large number of patients on assistance. “There are 3,000 dentists in Georgia and if each one of them would just take a few of my kids that are on Medicaid we could have them all covered.” He explains.
Dr. Teddy addressed the practical aspect of the kids being seen but what about the unspoken care he gives? The soft voice he uses that isn’t threatening? What about how he handles getting the parents out of the room so the child can just focus on him? There’s also the accommodations he makes for kids who need dentistry differently. He makes those accommodations, gladly.
Families of kids with special needs depend on the Dr. Teddys of the world to give their kids different care. Specific to their personalities and differences. Quinnlin’s family hopes desperately they will find another dentist willing to take on the complicated kids…the ones who need extra patience, a different approach, an entirely different kind of care.
On this day and a few days later for Quinnlin’s tooth extraction Champerina felt right at home tucked in the arms of Quinnlin, where she usually is when she tags along to appointments. Champerina provides the extra dose of comfort sometimes needed.
A family who finds an exceptional doctor like Dr. Teddy is a lucky one indeed. To hear Quinnlin talk to Dr. Teddy about her teddy, you know she is lucky as well. “You are both teddys!” she laughs, all the while never easing up on the tight grip she has on her forever friend, Champerina.