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A Smile Returned

Roberto Sacchetin, who was being treated this spring at the Center for Hope in Sco

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A Smile Returned

Roberto Sacchetin, who was being treated this spring at the Center for Hope in Scotch Plains, N.J. understood that he was at the end of his life—but his appetite for a good meal was unwavering until a set of partial dentures failed him in mid-May. Having broken the teeth and without a backup set that fit properly, the former Kearny, N.J. resident, who passed away in early June, needed help fast. Administrator Nancy Rager, RN stepped in to see what she could do for him.

“Mr. Sacchetin had a healthy appetite in spite of his condition and missing his two front teeth made eating more difficult, plus he was upset about how he looked,” said Rager. “With time of the essence, I knew we had to work quickly to restore his smile and good spirits, and make it easier for him to eat.”

A visiting dentist to the Center said a standard partial denture would take six weeks and over three thousand dollars to make, neither of which Sacchetin had. The Center offered to cover the lab costs through its charity care fund but even then, Sacchetin didn’t have six weeks to wait for them to be made. Rager called her dentist, Dr. Domenic Monaco in nearby Fanwood, to see if he could help and enlisted her husband in the effort as well. This was right before Memorial Day weekend—and as it turned out, the right approach.

“I told Dr. Monaco we have a terminally ill patient who needs to eat and that cosmetically, replacing the front teeth would do a lot to lift his spirits. Dr. Monaco didn’t hesitate; he told me to bring Mr. Sacchetin in and that there would be no charge for his services. When I told Mr. Sacchetin, he was deeply moved.”

Rager’s husband came to the Center first thing that Tuesday morning to bring Sacchetin to his appointment. Monaco took the dental impression and fitted Sacchetin with a “flipper,” an appliance that is commonly used for patients who require something the same day, whether due to trauma or extraction. It was ready that afternoon.

“My heart really went out to him. As soon as I saw him, I knew it was the right thing to do,” said Monaco, who not only waived his fee but also covered the lab costs out of his own pocket. “I was eager to help out in any way I could for someone in need like that,” he added.

When he got his teeth back that afternoon, Sacchetin turned to Monaco with a huge smile of thanks and said, “Beautiful.”

Monaco said the experience nearly brought him to tears. “It really showed that human part of all of us that says ‘I want to leave this world with a smile, looking the best that I can.’ He was so happy when the flipper went right in with a perfect fit, and it was so important to me that he was happy.”

Rager’s husband brought Sacchetin back to Center for Hope where he showed everyone his new teeth. Although he only lived another week, he did so with a big smile.

“Roberto was miserable missing his front teeth,” said his cousin, Miriam Rosenberg. “The Center was a godsend. We could not believe the care, the love and compassion they gave to him. He deserved to die with dignity. We’ll never forget what they did for him.”

Michael Cunha, a close family friend agrees. “He didn’t smile much before Memorial Day weekend because he was self-conscious about his missing teeth. When I saw him the next week he put on a big smile ear to ear, he was so excited. We got to share a really special moment because of this.”

Rager noted that hospice care is a holistic approach that takes care of multiple aspects of a patient’s life—physical, spiritual and emotional. “This was something that nurtured Mr. Sacchetin’s self-esteem and emotional state, and made it easier for him to eat. We are so grateful to Dr. Monaco for finding a quick solution and for helping us to make a difference for a patient in such a meaningful way.” SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J., July 19, 2017

Submitted by: Caryn Starr-Gates, The Center for Hope Hospice & Palliaitve Care

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