All I've ever wanted for Christmas are my 4 front teeth.......

by Antonio P. Casias
(Taos, New Mexico, USA)

My name is Antonio P. Casias. I am a 30-year old aspiring musician and community activist who has dedicated my life to working in my community with kids doing gang intervention and violence prevention as well as facilitating domestic violence offender intervention groups. Most importantly I am a father, son, husband and brother.

I became involved in the community work I do because of my own personal experiences. Like many young men in my community my life has not always been easy.

I grew up in an extremely poor family of drug addicts and had to learn to survive on my own since I was very young. I was exposed to violence and abuse as a child and have spent my adulthood trying to change this reality for my own children. I have three daughters and two sons and my goal in life has been to create a life for them free from the trauma I was exposed to as a child.

I have found that working as a mentor with youth who are going through similar life experiences as I did and trying to support them through a positive life path has not only impacted my community but also gives me inspiration on a daily basis in my own life.

My struggles in my life have much to do with an act of violence that happened to me when I was 18 years old. It was the most horrifying and traumatic experience I have ever had to go through and it is only now recently that I have been able to put it behind me. Seven days after my 18th birthday I was the victim of an extreme act of police brutality.

On my way to my birthday party at my family’s home I was pulled over in what I thought was a routine traffic stop. Due to mistaken identity, six police officers proceeded to pull me out of my car and beat me. Police abuse is a common occurrence in my community and I knew of other individuals who had been hurt or falsely arrested by law enforcement, but I never thought it could happen to me. The six officers forced me to my knees and beat me repeatedly with their batons on my face, head and body. They took me to jail unconscious still without me understanding why I had been detained to begin with and I woke up later in the hospital. At that time, doctors informed me that I had a fractured skull, broken nose, a shattered jawbone, and four top teeth had been knocked out. I remained in a coma for almost three weeks and was in recovery for almost a year.

At the time that the incident happened, I was a student and was working part-time to help support my mother and sister. I had no insurance to cover my medical costs and no money to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit.

I tried to seek legal recourse myself through the courts but was told I needed a lawyer for that level of legal intervention.

All of my pride and dignity was taken away that night because of a mistake by law enforcement but yet I was never given an apology much less compensation for my trauma.

Health-wise the loss of my teeth have changed my facial structure (so much so that I look drastically different than I did even ten years ago); have pushed my other teeth around; have complicated my oral hygiene; have made eating many types of food very difficult and have caused me pain throughout my mouth.

Additionally, I lived for years with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of what happened to me and eventually turned to drugs and alcohol to help me cope with the depression, anxiety and humiliation I suffered daily from that day on. Unfortunately my life spiraled downward until I decided to change my life around.

With my family’s support I am proud to say that I am now sober and drug-free. However, my self-esteem has suffered greatly as I live each day without my four upper teeth. I find myself covering my mouth every time I smile and not ever feeling comfortable enough to express myself to talk to new people in certain settings because of my insecurity.

I am embarrassed to say that my teeth have been the biggest obstacle to me in realizing my ultimate goals with regards to my music career and community-wide work.

It is extremely challenging to talk to kids everyday about making positive choices and having self-love and good self-worth when I myself lack so much of my own confidence and self-esteem. I tell myself everyday that it doesn’t matter because appearances aren’t indicative of a person’s character, but I would be lying to say it doesn’t affect me every single day in a negative way. Despite all the changes I’ve made in my life, despite all my education and training, and despite all the positive work I do in my community I still feel insecure and relive what happened to me every time I look in the mirror and every time I see people look at me and judge me because of my teeth.

I still do not have insurance nor the financial capability to afford implants. By pure luck, my wife was doing research on the Internet on dental work in Mexico and found your website. It seemed like a sign as we had just been talking about how badly I needed to fix my teeth the day before Christmas but how it would be impossible for us to afford them- and there was your website! We are taking the chance that my story will be compelling enough to be chosen and I am sending this to you with total sincerity and hope.
Thank you so much for the opportunity you will provide someone and for taking the time to read my story.

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