Deidra Jones-Snell

Photo by Imani Khayyam.

Deidra Jones-Snell has done her fair share of traveling. Through groups such as Atlanta-based Flying Doctors of America, she had lived for months at a time in India, Mexico and even got to celebrate December 21, 2012, the "end of the world" according to the ancient Maya Long Count Calendar, in Guatemala. Jones-Snell loves traveling and experiencing cultures and places different from her own. Her eyes light up when she describes the time she has spent in other countries on mission trips. Sometimes the best stories aren't from the trips that came together perfectly but from those that went awry.

Consequently, one of the ones Jones-Snell remembered was from September 21, 2013. On that day, she left the United States for Bolivia. Jones-Snell was going to help provide family dental care to children and their parents in the prison system, but as she was making her way through Bolivian customs, Jones-Snell experienced a sickle cell crisis, which a fit of elevation sickness due to the 1,077-foot difference from her hometown of Port Gibson caused.

After they made it through customs, she went to a hospital in La Paz. Jones-Snell didn't know much Spanish, and no one on staff knew much English. She felt a stabbing pain right below the left side of her rib cage. Doctors tried stopping the pain with Tylenol, but her elevation sickness kept her from keeping it down. Jones-Snell soon decided that she had to return to the United States, but despite her mother Carnell Jones and sister Lakeda Jones-Brown's best efforts, they could not get Jones-Snell on a flight back until 5 a.m., almost three days later.

She checked into the Tulane Medical Center at 10 p.m. on September 25. After running a few tests, her doctors told her that the sickle cell crisis had killed off half of her spleen. Jones-Snell was daunted. She is a lifelong Saints fan with season tickets in New Orleans, and her team was playing the Miami Dolphins that Monday.

"I just told them, 'Get me out of here so I can go to that game!'" Jones-Snell says. She was discharged soon enough to watch the Saints beat the Dolphins 38 to 17.

After earning an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from Alcorn State University in 2004, Jones-Snell trained as a dentist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. When she goes abroad, she does dental work for underserved populations. "A smile, that's a person self-confidence," she says.

Jones-Snell is now 33. She works as the dental director for Claiborne County's Family Health Center in Port Gibson. When not at work, she works as a mentor for 11th-grade girls at Port Gibson High School. She will begin working as a dentist with Smiles to Go, a school-based dental clinic across multiple schools, in August.

"I think it gives the kids hope," Jones-Snell says. "When I was there, I didn't see many doctors coming from Port Gibson."

This year on April 5, she married Titus Snell. They have a six-year-old pit bull named Andre 3000, after a rapper from the group Outkast. Although Jones-Snell does like Outkast, she says the dog came with the name.

Despite her rough time in Bolivia, Jones-Snell hopes to continue traveling.


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