The lights may have been out for three days inside in Westfield, but Drs. Stanley and Scott Gersch didn't let post-Irene complications interrupt the best day of a teenager's life — the day they get their braces off.
For three days after the Hurricane blew through town, patients and neighbors could hear the loud chugging of a generator outside the practice, powering enough computers and house lamps to keep the business humming.
Dr. Scott Gersch said his office is powered by the Cranford substation, which sustained significant damage during the storm and left thousands of residents and businesses without power.
"It's a little bit of a challenge but we make it work," Dr. Scott Gersch said. "There are a lot of people in a lot worse situations than us right now."
Still, the week before school is a critical time for the father-son Gersch practice, seeing as many kids want to get their braces either on or off before the new school year.
"It's been an interesting day, but patients are extremely understanding," Dr. Stanley Gersch said Tuesday night. "They appreciate the effort that we want to see them. This is truly orthodontics by candlelight."
Secretaries Liz Drylewicz and Mary Sue Markowitz said parents have been good sports about the darkened office and joked it was "the most romantic orthodontist office in New Jersey."
Some called it "Spa Gersch," while others asked for wine and cheese to accompany the candlelight ambiance.
"We've lost power before, but never had a generator," Drylewicz said.
As the nights without power went on, the practice used anything they could find to illuminate the office, whether lamps from their houses, cell phones, flashlights or candles.
"They called me in to bring the lights and candles, said Cindy Gersch, wife of Stanley Gersch.
Scott Gersch said he and his father bought the generator to prepare for the storm. It's allowed them to see about 85 percent of their patients and continue business as usual with the exception of taking braces off — a task that requires power for cleaning the newly aligned teeth.
With dim lighting, however, the Gersch duo could put braces on new clients, make corrections to braces on existing patients and continue scheduling and consulting. Assistants could make teeth molds in the natural light outside the practice and , an oral surgeon nearby, helped Gersch by sterilizing his instruments.
For the few patients the Gersch team couldn't see, Dr. Scott said he plans to keep the office open late one night as soon as power returns so children can get braces off and start school with a fresh smile.
One patient, Ray Reyes, said he enjoyed the candlelit appointment and thinks the orthodontists should do it once a month to conserve energy and remember Hurricane Irene.
"I think it's actually really creative and out of the box," Reyes said. "I don't mind this at all. ... It's sustainable and everyone has a busy pace. I didn't even expect this but I'm glad I didn't get a call saying, 'Hey Rey, we're going to have to reschedule.'"
As of 6 a.m. Thursday, Dr. Staley said power had restored.
"I still do not have power at my home up on Scudder Road, but our office is up and running," he said. "Some of our patients miss the candlelight."