Pay it forward: Being part of her mitzvah

Feb. 29, 2008
The hygiene community pays it forward to a colleague who was seriously injured in a car wreck.

By Sandra Berger, RDH, BS

Pay it forward is a book by Catherine Ryan. Though the story is fiction, sometimes fiction becomes reality as it did for one dental hygienist. Jodie Heimbach, RDH, felt blessed and had the ability to pay it forward to a fellow hygienist. Jodie was the proud winner of a full scholarship given by GC America to CareerFlow. CareerFlow is a 5-day workshop designed for dental hygienists that want to change or enhance their careers by learning business skills and networking. During Jodie's CareerFlow experience she met a fellow attendee who had no choice but to reinvent her career.

One snowy morning in November 2004, Debra (Green) Danel, RDH, BS was in a serious car accident. She is now a quadriplegic. Her body was affected but not her mind. Deb spent many weeks in rehab facilities. It was there that she came to realize how poor the oral care of the patients was. After four days of no oral hygiene the sensation of heavy plaque covering her teeth became intolerable. She asked a nurse to brush her teeth. After some difficulty but with the help of an astute nursing staff they were able to find a way to brush. Deb finally was able to feel some normalcy with a clean mouth.

Debra motivated and educated the medical staff to learn how to care for the oral needs of their patients as well as themselves. Her knowledge of the systemic link forged her determination to find a way to bring the much-needed message to the senior and rehabilitated population. This ambition brought Deb to CareerFlow. Lori Brogna and Sandy Pierce, Deb's fellow hygiene friends, agreed to help with her daily needs, allowing her to attend. Deb borrowed a laptop; Lori and Sandy packed her van with the required special needs equipment and drove 12 hours from Utah to California.

Being around Deb was inspirational for Jodie. When Jodie came home from CareerFlow she could not stop thinking about Deb and all of the individual's helping her reach her dream to speak and educate at long-term care facilities. Jodie knew she wanted to help Deb get the tools she needed to succeed, just as GC America had done for her. Immediately after returning from the intensive workshop Jodie started researching laptops and software that would enable Deb to continue her life change.

Asking for financial assistance is not easy. Jodie felt Deb's cause was so very important that she put her inhibitions aside and started asking for what was needed. From Jodie's multi-year experience raising money for The Susan B. Koman Breast Cancer Walk she learned every dollar counts. She spent innumerable hours collecting $1, $2 or $10 donations at local events and never failed to exceed the amount needed for the Cancer Walk. She knew she could do as well for Deb.

Jodie first approached the co-founders of CareerFlow, Beth Thompson and Kristy Menage Bernie as well as the faculty and attendees of CareerFlow. They eagerly accepted the challenge and the money starting trickling in. Jodie then turned to Amy's List, an online listserve of more than 4100 professionals know as Listers. The snowball really started rolling as Lister after Lister donated and/or brought Deb's story to their local components and study clubs. The CareerFlow corporate partners as well as corporate partners of Amy's List offered products to raffle. Hu-Friedy, Discus Dental, Ultreo, GC America, Sunstar and J &J were all instrumental in their generosity.

Jodie approached her own local study club, The Jersey Coast Dental Hygiene Study Club, about a fundraiser. The response was heartening. The coordinator and Directors as well as many members bought raffle tickets and donated funds to the cause.

The total funds raised to date are $3,400, enough to buy a laptop, voice recognition software, as well as the many peripherals needed for Deb to properly utilize the tools. There was no doubt that Jodie would pull this off. Her enthusiasm is contagious, her fervor refreshing. She made everyone believe in the cause and be a part in it, from the hygienist that mailed in 5 single one-dollar bills to the hygienist that conducted a fundraiser and raised hundreds of dollars. In the beginning Jodie was doing this for Deb. Along the way, she realized how much it did for her. "Paying it forward feels good!" Thank you Jodie for bringing Deb's story to light and allowing so many to be a part of your Mitzvah! *

Mitzvah: noun 1: a commandment of the Jewish law 2: a meritorious orcharitable act. The term mitzvah has come to express any act of human kindness

Sandra S. Berger, RDH, BS has been a practicing dental hygienist for 28 years (25 years with Dr. Frederick Selzer) as well as the coordinator of The Jersey Coast Dental Forum and the Hygiene Extravaganza, Drs. Anthony DiCesare, directors She is a proud member of Amy's List, The Jersey Coast Dental Hygiene Study Club, Metro Hygiene Study Club, ADHA, NJDHA and 2007 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction Recipent. Sandra has had the pleasure of sharing many mitzvahs with Jodie in their 21 year friendship.