Dr. George Vardakis The PAction Man
Upon meeting Dr. George Vardakis, I created a new word: PAction. Passion + Action = PAction /ˈpakʃən/
Since living in Greece, I came across many loud Greek men. Some of them told me that they were not loud but passionate. I became curious about the true meaning of passion, and if it’s true that passion brings people to the verge of explosion. If so, all those enlightened people must have forgone all their passions.
Dr. George Vardakis is full of passion for many things. During the four dental appointments I had at his clinic, I learnt about his passion for dentistry, photography, motorcycle, rock music and the colour orange. His passion doesn’t make him explosive but calm and serene because he materializes his passion through actions. Whatever he has passion for, he takes actions. Therefore, I nicknamed him PAction Man.
Super Human or Mutant Greek?
An excruciating pain in my gum and teeth started suddenly one fine evening. After a sleepless night, I contacted my wonderful dentist who informed me that he was out of town till the next week. Fortunately, Dr. George Vardakis The PAction Man who listed himself as an emergency dentist came to my rescue.
Naively, I thought the pain would go away on its own – I didn’t see any sign of tooth decay anywhere. It’s only a bad dream! I must have imagined the pain! By the time I attempted to find a dentist, it was Saturday afternoon and all the dentists listed online were closed. Except for Dr. George Vardakis whose website says
24/7 emergency dental services. Dental emergencies don’t always occur during normal business hours. We’re here for you.
There was only one small matter: Dr. George Vardakis has two websites for his dental practice. One of which is Dental Holidays Crete. I didn’t know that people travel overseas to fix their teeth. What I know is that there’s a certain kind of Mutant Greek People who thrive on cheating tourists. And his clinic is at the touristic part of Heraklion City. Hm…
If you want to read about my encounter with Mutant Greek People, please go to Santorini – What to Expect. I also wrote about the lack of Mutant Greek People in Sitia (Eastern Crete) – Lukewarm Heaven.
I left a message at both Dr. George Vardakis’s phone and messenger. When he called me back, I drilled him on the prices. He said he couldn’t know till he made an examination. They all say that! In the end, after I told him I was afraid he would charge me 1000 euro or more like stories I had heard, he thought I probably needed a root canal treatment and that would cost 200 to 300 euro. He also told me that there is no extra charge for the weekend.
While researching for this article, I found that Dr. George Vardakis has a Price List Page for all his dental services. When clients email me for prices, I often scratch my head thinking why ask me when I have listed all the prices in my Prices Page. Now I can answer my own question: I didn’t see it!
What I saw was this, which is found at the bottom of Dr. George Vardakis’s dental website:
I investigated. It’s the same George Vardakis, only that on this other page, he’s a fine art photographer. Something fishy going on?
Anyway, there was no other options and I was too intrigued to miss this. Saturday 6pm, I went to my first appointment with Dr. George Vardakis. I went there armed with PhotoMan (my husband), just in case.
Orange Rock Therapy…
The clinic door was opened but we didn’t see anyone in there. PhotoMan and I settled ourselves in the reception room. PhotoMan looked at the photographs on displayed with interest. I was delighted by the orange chairs and décor.
I also noticed the mini model motorcycles which reminded me of a friend who is a dentist in London. This friend told me that he wanted to become a dentist because when he was young, he had an uncle who rode motorcycle, wore leather jacket and looked the coolest amongst all the adult men he knew. He wanted to be cool like this uncle so he became a dentist like his uncle. I wondered how Dr. George Vardakis decided to become a dentist.
A minute later, Dr. George came out of the pantry to greet us and lead us into his office. There was a beautiful dark wood desk in one corner. The other part of the room was full of cupboards and dentist things. Rock music was playing softly in the background.
Unexpectedly, tears rolled down my cheeks when Dr. George gestured me to get on the dental chair. My legs became watery and didn’t want to carry me over where judgement was going to take place. I didn’t cry because of the anticipated pain or discomfort associated with dental treatment, but from remorse for not looking after myself. I was terrified to find out what horrific state I left my teeth and gum in.
Dr. George looked uneasy and said he couldn’t take it when women cried. He assured me that it wasn’t going to hurt and that if I didn’t stop crying, I would have to leave. I made a decision to get on with it but there was another small issue: Dr. George couldn’t find the problematic tooth because none of my teeth hurt anymore. The crying took the pain away. He deduced the loose tooth would be the one but he wanted to be certain before treating it. I was sent home to check my teeth by tapping on them to see which one hurt when the effect of tears subsided.
The next day (Sunday!), after another sleepless night, I welcome the anesthetic shots. While waiting for the drug to take full effect, I started asking Dr. George questions.
‘There are a lot of orange things here.’ I was staring at a stripe of orange colour on the otherwise white ceiling while Dr. George fastened an orange bib around my neck.
‘Orange is my favourite colour.’ He said he had orange colour whenever he could and pointed things like a disposable cup and tissue paper out to me.
I like orange colour too especially during the tooth drilling. It had a uplifting effect on me.
Dr. George told me he had had his dental clinic for 26 years and together with 2 years of practice in dental school and two years working as a dentist in the army, he had many years of experience. From what he wrote in his website, he seemed to have a genuine interest in this field and was constantly studying the latest technology. His dedication induced trust in me and I was able to relax into the rock music that was playing in the background. I had never thought of rock music being therapeutic but there it was, comforting me amidst the drilling sound.
During my subsequent visits on Dr. George’s normal operating hours, his children were there too. Like I mentioned in the story of Mountain Men of Mount Parnassos Part 1, it’s normal in Greece to have a meeting with someone and their family members show up. I didn’t think this would happen at a dental clinic but there we were. The children were both adults. A daughter who was finishing medical school and was working there as an assistant; and a son who was studying dental medicine and was there as an apprentice.
I continued to ask more questions. Obviously, I couldn’t have asked questions when Dr. George was doing his Super Human things. But Dr. George always had time to talk about his passions. His children often joined in telling his stories and the love and adoration they had for their father were so endearing to witness.
Dr. George said there were three things he wanted to become: a dentist, a truck driver and a pilot. He ended up choosing dentistry because he liked working with his hands.
He explained that dentistry was like making sculpture with teeth. His son chimed in with an example about how when there was a hole in a tooth, not only they had to figure out how to fix it but in a way so that it was in harmony with all the other 31 teeth. Dr. George said, ‘It’s like making art.’ He didn’t think I would see it the same way but I actually began to see it too when I was reading his website. There are so much more in dentistry than I previously thought.
When Dr. George told his parents about his choice of career, his parents were happy because he would become a doctor. It was an entirely different story with his fondness for motorcycles. The father disapproved. It didn’t stop Dr. George from pursuing his passion though and he proudly told me that he now had two motorcycles.
I told them about the friend who became a dentist because he wanted to be cool like his motorcycle-riding and leather-jacket-clad uncle. Dr. George promptly showed off his motorcycle outfit.
Dr. George’s son told me he could relate to my friend. When he was six years old, both Dr. George and his wife traveled to Athens for work conferences and when they returned home, their son declared that he was becoming a dentist too because he would like to travel often like his parents.
Dr. George said he always had a small camera with him but only started being immersed in photography when he returned to university for his PhD. A professor informed him that he needed a camera in order to document his patients’ teeth. He had to research which camera to buy and his interest in photography seeded from then.
Since then, he spent a lot of his free time in photography, ‘burnt’ through many rolls of films in order to learn the mechanism of the camera and the lenses. He also joined the Hellenic Photographic Society of Crete which offers photography workshops and seminars. Now he is one of its committees. During the economic crisis in Greece around 2005 to 2009, he had less patients and so he dedicated more time to photography and started engaging in various projects, sometimes on his own and sometime in collaborations with other photographers, even traveling overseas to exhibit and was member of the photography team for the Greek film Kazantzakis.
Dr. George told me of some of his photographic projects. One of his ongoing project was puzzling to me – photographs of his patients under the dental operatory lights. His photography website says, ‘Focusing on the eyes of my dental patients the photographs capture in a single shot all the emotions that accompany the patients: agony and fear, expectation and hope, relief and cure.’
He would like to publish these portraits in a book one day. He said very few photographers were privileged to have the opportunity to photograph dental patients in this setting and he thought there would be people interested in them. I have no doubt he would succeed in all his ventures because his passion is infectious.
My favourite of his projects is titled ‘Ethniki Odos’ which means ‘highway’. It was in collaboration with another photographer. Together, they documented the street vendors dotted on the highway in Crete selling fruits, vegetables and other local produce. During the project, a car ran into one of these vendors who passed away. Since then, these stalls are no longer permitted on the highway. Dr. George and his colleagues’ works became part of the history of Crete.
What I learnt from this saga of my teeth was that the truth does hurt sometimes whether you know it or not. It’s better to seek it out than to bury one’s head in the sand. Therefore, when Dr. George Vardakis The PAction Man asked if I wanted to have a panoramic dental x-ray to make sure nothing else needed attention, I said ‘yes’ right away.
Finally, let me tell you how much I paid in case this is what you are here for:
Initial check-up on Saturday – no charge
Emergency root canal treatment (Part 1) on Sunday – 150 euro
Root canal treatment (Part 2) – 100 euro
2 extra fillings – 100 euro (50 euro each)
Panoramic dental x-ray at a radiologist – 25 euro
*I do not receive any money or material reward from writing this article or any other articles in my blog. The reward I get is the joy of telling stories and recommending wonderful people and the wonderful things they are doing.