Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

HOPE FUND; Woman's Dental Healthgoes from Bad to Worse 'I'm Only 46' but She Can't Afford to Get Dentures That Fit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

HOPE FUND; Woman's Dental Healthgoes from Bad to Worse 'I'm Only 46' but She Can't Afford to Get Dentures That Fit

Article excerpt

Byline: Shannen Hurst

When Irene Bays, 46, was in her late 20s, she made a decision that has haunted her for decades.

At that time, Hurst, who had suffered for years from tooth decay and multiple abscesses, decided to have her teeth pulled - one by one - until she had less than 20 left.

The pain had become the equivalent of having a "migraine" in each tooth, Bays recalled, becoming so unbearable that it affected both her vision and ability to sleep.

"It [was] awful," said Bays, who lives in Jacksonville.

The multiple tooth extractions have only complicated Bays' overall dental health in the years that have followed.

She eventually got dentures, but they fit so poorly that she could have them in her mouth for just an hour at a time. Two years ago, she could no longer use even those inadequate dentures - and her longtime inability to afford dental insurance has kept her from being able to properly address the problems with her teeth.

"When people see me, they think I'm homeless," Bays said, "I want to be able to take pictures, and not feel old. I'm only 46."

Bays and her family live in a small, two-bedroom house on the Westside they barely get by on a day-to-day basis.

Bays is unable to work because of numerous other health problems, including osteoarthritis and painful joints.

Her husband, Sean, is also unable to work after becoming physically disabled; he receives a relatively small disability payment each month.

Overall, the household struggles to meet expenses and medical bills.

It depends largely on free health care provided by Community Health Outreach, a service that doesn't cover all of the family's costs for treatment and doesn't provide the ability for Bays to receive dentures.

If Bays could raise $450, she might be able to afford a full set of dentures from a local dental clinic.

Even that would be a daunting task for Bays, whose hopes to finally have adequate teeth may depend on a generous local practitioner being willing to volunteer to provide her with those services.

It would be a good deed that Bays said would brighten her outlook on life - and dramatically improve her sense of self-esteem.

"If I could smile, maybe the people wouldn't stare," Bays said.

"Maybe people would look at me like [I'm] a normal person. Instead of how they look at me now."

HOPE FUND DONORS

Total as of Thursday: $38,763.

- The Elise Bear & William D. Pollak Family Charitable Foundation Inc. …

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