A Glendale dental specialist is lending a hand to poor and indigent transplant patients around the state and country — helping to ensure their life-saving surgery doesn't kill them.
Transplant patients must have a disease-free mouth to receive a new liver or kidney and Dr. Nadim Baba, along with the Fair Allocations in Research foundation, are making this possible for those who cannot afford the expensive and specialized work.
Without it, patients cannot be on the state transplant list. After a transplant, Baba said, patients take medication that suppresses their immune system, which can allow a small infection to spread and turn fatal.
Dr. Richard Darling, who founded the organization to help make the distribution of organs more equitable, said his group needs many different types of specialists to do their work.
"When we reached out to Dr. Baba for help, he was very enthusiastic," said Darling.
Baba, a prosthodontist, has been involved with the Palm Desert-based foundation since last year. He specializes in dentures, veneers and crowns, fixing gaps in patients smiles.
"There are 33 million Americans with no teeth and it is our job to provide patients with a functional smile," said Baba.
Baba grew up in Lebanon and moved to Canada when he was 21. He is a Boston University graduate, and has practiced in the Jewel City since moving to California. He also teaches at Loma Linda University.
"I love dentistry because you share this connection with people that you don't get in medicine," said Baba. "It's very rewarding."
The office is open three times a week with one other dental technician on hand to assist.
Despite the efforts, transplant patients don't always make it.
Tracy Hunter was on both the state kidney transplant list and liver transplant list. The liver transplant list often helps the sickest patient first, said Baba. The kidney list is much different and helps the first in line.
Unfortunately, Hunter died from kidney failure just a month after she received treatment from Baba.
"I'm a very sensitive man," said Baba. "Losing a patient is always hard."
JONATHAN WILLIAMS is a freelancer writer.