Michael Gomez doesn't know when a dentist last looked inside his mouth. Maybe it was five or 10 years ago; no, closer to 10, he says.

"Some of it is just because I've got so much other stuff going on," he said. "It's hard to go get my eyes checked, too."

Gomez, 52, lost both of his legs after complications from diabetes. He now does dialysis three times a week for kidney failure. He cannot drive and relies on his parents to pick him up at his house in Pflugerville to go to doctor's appointments or dialysis while his wife, Nora, 45, is working.

The other reason they both haven't been to the dentist, Nora Gomez says, is her insurance premium went up, and they could no longer afford dental insurance.

The Gomez family, which includes twins Mikey and Alyssa, 17, and Briana, 21, is one of 12 featured families in the Statesman Season for Caring program. They were nominated by Meals on Wheels of Central Texas.

All the Season for Caring featured families will receive dental care through the Capital Area Dental Foundation, which has donated more than $105,000 worth of care to Season for Caring since 2011.

"The Season for Caring campaign is a powerful demonstration of the positive impact we can make on our community through collaboration," said Capital Area Dental Foundation Executive Director Adam McKeivier.

Earlier this month, Capital Area Dental Foundation held a Dental Day to assess the needs of the 12 Season for Caring featured families. Volunteer dentists took X-rays and examined each family member. Dentists then compared notes to come up with a treatment plan of everything, from a cleaning to crowns to teeth replacements. The foundation then pitched each case to local dentists to donate their services.

Dr. Kent Macaulay is one of those dentists who has volunteered to take a Season for Caring case. He was on hand during Dental Day to assess patients.

"We are honored to provide care," Macaulay said. "We have a gift that not everybody has."

CADF estimates about $30,000 worth of care will be donated to Season for Caring this year, but that number could rise once all the families complete their treatments.

The Season for Caring Dental Day at Walton Family Dentistry was one of three Dental Day locations Nov. 17. The other two locations saw non-Season for Caring recipients. Since last year, when Capital Area Dental Foundation began holding Dental Days, 265 patients have received $145,000 in care. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the foundation has donated more than $1 million in services to more than 1,400 Central Texans through all its efforts.

"Through the skill and expertise of our volunteers, we have the ability to relieve pain, restore dignity and instill hope," McKeivier said. "CADF is committed to improving the health of our community and remains motivated by the opportunity to transform the lives of these families in need through healthy smiles."

When the Gomez family saw the volunteer dentists, they were worried about a chipped tooth that Mikey got when he was 7 or 8, and they wondered if Mikey and Alyssa might need braces. Nora Gomez also knew that she had some gum issues and would need a deep cleaning.

Michael Gomez never thought he would be on the receiving end of holiday philanthropy. Years ago, he volunteered with the Optimist Club organizing barbers to come to schools to give free haircuts to kids.

"This is something great that you guys do," he said of Season for Caring.

The Gomez family has many other needs. The biggest one is transforming a half-bathroom downstairs into a full bathroom. This will enable Michael Gomez to shower inside the house rather than using a garden hose in the garage or back porch. The family also needs a wheelchair ramp, a wheelchair lift for the car, new appliances, pots and pans, laptops, dressers and drivers' education for the twins.

To find out more about the Gomez family or to donate an item on their wish list, contact Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 512-476-6325, mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org.

 


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