In the process of growing up and experiencing life, we are supposed to gain wisdom, right? Well in MY case, I lost wisdom by growing.
It actually happened: I caved. “‘No doctor‘ Rose” went to the scary oral surgeon last Tuesday.
I submitted myself to the torture that is having four large teeth pried from the back of my mouth, coming out, perhaps, in pieces and fragments, and letting them be thrown into a random “hazard” waste can somewhere. Picture it: a mouth that’s just oozing and leaking blood. Unnatural holes. Incredible swelling of the face. It was quite the experience for a “first-timer”: I had never had an IV, never been put under anesthesia, and never cried in front of a whole staff of medical personnel — in this case, dental staff composed of a short, blonde oral surgeon and his plucky bunch of “cooing” female dental assistants. I’ll tell you all about it.. the whole thing.
The torture really began last month, in September, when I drove to a local dentist office for a simple, yearly check-up. No cavities, no weird gum disease, and the ‘excellent-flosser’ award: check, check and mine! It was great. The dental assistant who cleaned my teeth was young and chatty, dark-haired, brown-eyed and slim, full of stories about family in Mobile, her and her boyfriend’s date plans that Friday night, and what her favorite Pandora stations were. “So what kind of music do you listen to?” she asked, scraping at a piece of plaque behind my lower front tooth.
“Ahhlterrnatiffv,” I mouthed carefully.
“That’s cool! So are you in school right now?”
I considered nodding but decided it could be dangerous, so I said “Uh huh.”
“Neato.. and you work too, right?” (uh huh) “So where do you work at?”
She had temporarily removed her metal.. scraping.. cleaning utensil, so I responded “___ Credit Union — the one on ___ Road.”
Soon after the cleaning had ended, the main hauncho dentist walked in and introduced himself. After exchanging pleasantries with yours truly, he reviewed some black and white x-rays of my teeth that had been taken just moments prior to the cleaning. He wheeled his rolly chair over to my patient chair and explained that my wisdom teeth were what you would call “impacted”: one was growing out sideways and ramming into my lower-right bottom teeth, and the others were quickly following behind it, starting to protrude their rough, white heads through my soft, pink gums at similarly weird angles. He paused to look at the x-rays again.
“So you’re saying I need to have them removed?” I clarified.
“Yes,” he said, returning his attention to me. “And probably soon.. I really wouldn’t recommend waiting longer than six months on these.”
So that was it. Doomsday. I am an obsessive-compulsive, paranoid freak of nature, so between the two evils (one: submitting myself to an oral surgery and two: refusing surgery and watching and waiting as the four wise teeth destroy my mouth, smile and hopes of a happy future), I chose surgery. I scheduled an appointment for October the 16th with a Dr. Clark (who works in Inverness) and requested the week off of work (for recovery). It was all set it hard, grey stone.
And I spent the next month anxiously anticipating the awful torture that awaited me. Coworkers laughed and friends marvelled at my intense fear of and apprehension about the surgery. People thought I was crazy for being so concerned about it. “You’re totally over thinking this,” they’d say. “It is so easy.”
The day finally came — and it turned out to be the day after my husband’s father’s funeral. Life has a funny way of hurling tons of misery, sadness and chaos at you all at once, like you’re the skinny, red-headed nerd walking down the hallway at school and some big, built football player throws his brown and white ball of fury full-speed towards your head – from behind you – yelling “THINK FAST” right as it grazes your ear. Like that.
My husband Chris drove us to the oral surgeon’s office that chilly Tuesday morning. I had woken up and taken a shower — I presumed it would be the last one I’d get to enjoy for at least a couple of days. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything that morning, so life was boring; we left the house early in hopes of getting to the office a few minutes before our appointment. Turns out that I can’t read Google Maps properly and got us lost in a woodsy “suiteville” about a half a mile down the road from where the actual office is located. We spent at least fifteen minutes parking the car in various spaces and running into huge buildings that held hundreds of suites, frantically trying to find the one belonging to our oral surgeon. Eventually Chris looked down at the phone I had been using for our navigation and he realized that I had confused the office’s street number with its suite number (they are two distinct and separate things). Our issue was quickly resolved and our frustration was left inside of the car doors we slammed behind us as we walked into THE oral surgeon’s office.
The normal stuff followed. Have you seen us before, no, please fill out this paperwork, okay. We finished the paperwork and continued sitting in the uncomfortably erect, gray waiting room chairs until a side door opened and a middle-aged lady wearing scrubs summoned my name.
Chris followed me into a backroom office and we were quickly briefed by a short, dark-haired “bitch on heels” (you’ll see) about post-op care and the amount we would “be paying today.”
I shuffled nervously while Chris pulled out his credit card.
“I’m feeling really nervous,” I offered weakly.
“You’ll be fine,” she consoled me in that condescending, patronizing sort of way. I fidgeted a little more. “He — my husband, I mean — he can come back with me while they put the IV in, right? It’s my first time and I just..”
“No,” she cooed, “I don’t think we can do that. You’ll be fine though,” she repeated. A nurse returned with Chris’s credit card and asked him to sign a receipt. Bitch on heels remained sitting at the desk in front of us, bent over a clipboard and asking if we would like to have the prescription filled or called in.
“Filled or called in?” Chris repeated. “I’m sorry,” he shook his head, “what’s the difference?”
She stared at him for a few seconds without speaking.
“It means,” she said slowly, “that we can either give you the prescription, or we can call it in for you.”
“Okay, well, either,” Chris responded. “It doesn’t really matter.. we usually go to the Walmart in Hoover.”
She stared at him for a few seconds. “Okay.. do you have the phone number?”
“Uh no,” Chris responded, visibly irritated at this point, “but this is the age of the smart phone, so if you give me just a second I can find it for-”
“No, that’s fine,” she cooed. “We’ll find it.” She flashed a fake, two-second smile and excused herself from the room, saying the doctor would be in “shortly.”
And he was. A short, middle-aged, blonde-haired surgeon walked into the room seconds later and shook our hands. He was kind but quick — it felt more like a passing job interview with the manager at Cracker Barrel who is asking you about your medical history while wondering if Jose, the cook in the back, has finished the Country Fried Steak re-order for table 42 because the first one that was sent out was “cold.”
“So did you have any other questions?”
I looked up. Blondie was looking at me, smiling, his head tilted and eyebrows raised in that quirky sort of way that says, “we should be clear and ready to go! right?”
“Nope,” Chris interrupted his gaze. “I think we’re good to go.”
“Excellent!” He clapped his hands and left the room, his white coat flying behind him. Bitch on heels returned and introduced me to the dental assistant who would lead me to a room further back — a scary room, with a patient chair, tubes, monitors and other “instruments.” Chris and I parted at the door; he said “I love you,” but I couldn’t say anything back. I was just a few seconds and breaths away from bursting into a sobbing fit.
I sank down into the patient’s chair with a few militant tears streaming down my cheeks. The young dental assistant smiled warmly at me and put her hand on my knee. “You are going to be fine, sweetie.. I promise it’s not bad!”
“Have.. have you had your wisdom teeth removed?” I asked softly. Yes, I’m in full baby-mode at this point.
She nodded. “And it really wasn’t that bad. This procedure will only take a few minutes and you will be asleep during all of it!”
Two other women (presumably assistants) entered the room and started “doing things.” Someone put a round, sticky button-like object on my chest, and another one on my belly. I don’t know what they were for, and I was too panicky to ask. Then someone took my right hand. “Make a fist for me,” I heard one of them say. I made a fist. There was a sharp sting.. then nothing. “Okay, you can relax your hand now.”
I knew the IV had been inserted at this point but I refused to look at it. Stuff like that just freaks me out. The doctor came walking in quickly and mumbled something to one of the ladies. “Hi, how are we feeling now,” he asked me absent-mindedly.
“I am extremely nervous.” I focused my gaze on the white cabinets across the room. What is in those? What devices of torture? I wondered to myself.
“Where do you go to school?” He asked.
“Jeff State.. the one in Hoover.”
“And where do you work?”
“__ Credit Union.. it’s right by my house.. I get to go home and feed my dog, Bruster, during my lunch break.” I was volunteering information at this point; I understood that this was small talk and he was just trying to ease my nerves before they sedated me and got this thing started. I didn’t realize that the deadly, magic potion was already dripping through the IV into my arm.
“Bruster.. we named him after that ice cream.. shop. We went on dates there and..”
I blinked once, and when I tried to refocus my vision, everything was already dimming. It felt like twenty minutes had just flown past me and I forgot what on earth I had been talking about.
“Hey.. you guys are starting to look kind of blurry..”
It was total black.
AND I LOVED IT!
I loved it so much IN FACT that I want to do it AGAIN (not the surgery.. the anesthesia). I literally didn’t realize that I was being put to sleep — it just happened. I thought I was just getting drowsy. I had actually thought (the entire month preceding the surgery and even the morning of) that my will power was so strong that the entire staff would be AMAZED: this girl is so afraid that we can’t put her to sleep. The medicine simply will not work. Whatever are we going to do?
But no. The magical potion worked its.. well, magic.. and I submitted — I voluntarily (but unwittingly) gave in to the darkness. It was all black. I dreamt of, I knew, I felt, I heard, I sensed, nothing. And the next thing I remembered was Christopher’s sweet voice, beckoning me back into consciousness.
I opened my eyes. Christopher. His face. What is he saying? My eyelids are heavy.. I close them. Lava. Red lava, everywhere. I see a snake (or is it a worm? an alligator?) swimming through the red lava. I follow it with my hand, I move my arm the way it is moving.. I hear laughing in my head. I work through the blackness, the darkness, and force my eyes open again. Chris, his face, laughing. “What are you DOING?” He asks. I try to talk. I can’t.. talk? WHAT?
“Whaah isss goeng onn?”
“No no no, don’t try to talk baby, it’s okay. You are done! The surgery is over!”
I felt my face.. something wrapped all the way around my face.. cold..
“It’s an ice pack, sweetie.. it’s going to help keep the swelling down.”
black. I close my eyes again. More red lava. Snakes, swimming through the lava.. I feel compelled to follow them.. I hear laughing in the back of my head. I open my eyes again: Chris.
“Rosie, what on earth are you doing?” He is smiling at me, clearly amused. I try to talk again. What is in my mouth? I point with my finger.
“There’s gauze in there. It’s.. drying up the blood. Just leave it.”
“I cannnt swawwow,” I mutter.
“I caant SWAWWOWW, goeng to CHOWKE!” I am getting frantic.
A nurse comes over and explains that I can swallow. I just need to do so carefully. “The gauze will stay where it is, don’t worry!” She smiles. I don’t recognize her. “I’m going to go get a wheelchair and we’ll get you guys out of here in just a minute,” she says mostly to Chris. He nods and looks back over at me. I’m just staring back at him.
The nurse returns and I sort of, kind of remember standing up (with help, of course) and being transferred into a wheelchair. The rest Chris told me later.
We’re driving to Walmart.
“You’re a goof ball, you know that?” He laughs and pulls into the left turning lane. “I should have gotten that on YOUTUBE. The nurse is pushing you down a ramp, I’m a few steps ahead, and when I look back, you have your hands up in the air.. like you’re on a rollercoaster or something!” He laughed again and looked over at me. “The nurse laughed and I made some small talk to make it less awkward. You’re so crazy.”
We parked in front of Walmart. Chris walked inside to get my prescription, and I uploaded a picture of my “confused self” onto Facebook for friends and family members to laugh at it and offer their condolences.
That’s pretty much the end of the story.. or the most interesting part, anyways. The rest of the week sucked. I vomited four times the next day (don’t mix dairy – particularly organic, key lime yogurt – with the antibiotic Clindamycin) and experienced a lot of sensitivity in my upper right gum. Sleeping at night was impossible (I’m a side-sleeper) because I had to lay flat on my back and keep my head elevated (I woke up at 2:30 in the morning three nights in a row to take medicine) so I seemed to get better rest just sitting in my recliner during the day. I also experienced the sad torture of wanting pizza (the forbidden) more than anything else in the world every single day following the surgery. Literally.. every day.
Chris came home one day after work when I was standing by the freezer, gazing at food I couldn’t chew and meals I couldn’t enjoy. “Baby,” he whispered, wrapping his arms around my waist,”I just want to be at home with you more than anything else in the world right now.” He smiled.
“I just want pizza,” I mumbled into his shoulder. He and I both laughed.
But other than that, it was a great experience. I just sat in the recliner all day, every day for four days, Bruster (my German Shepherd) my faithful companion and Chris my wonderful nurse. He brought me baby food and applesauce, cooked me eggs (on the third day, this became doable), carried my ice pack back and forth from me to the freezer, kept the house in order, fed and walked the dog, and most importantly, he just sat there with me and held my hand. My amazing friend Cate (and I don’t use the term lightly; there are few people I call true “friends”) took an entire day off of work so she could come sit and watch TV with me. I watched hours upon hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other random movies Chris and I had checked out from the library before my procedure. My body enjoyed the rest. My aching mouth enjoyed pills and distraction.. and Bruster enjoyed having mommy home for a week (albeit in a compromised condition).
And now, eight days later, I feel good. I haven’t taken pain meds in two days and I ate ravioli for lunch today. Imagine it.. a twelve-minute procedure put me out of work and basically debilitated me for four days! But I’m well on the road to recovery and my next college speech isn’t due until next Tuesday. Life is good.
And next Tuesday, I think I just might be ready for a $10.99 Whole Foods PIZZA.