Friday, August 03, 2007

Knees, Car, Tooth, School

This past week has been stressful. I did not suffer major trauma, really, but I have been in pain and uncomfortable and things have gone awry.

I started the week at a literacy seminar and I actually wasn’t prepared for the commitment I was making to the process. The first day was boring and I can’t say that I learned anything. The second day, which involved techniques for introducing and teaching vocabulary in the classroom, was much better. However, by attending the two-day seminar I found I had committed myself to a year-long process that involved on-sit e classroom visits by the resident experts checking to see if I was following prescribed procedures and several more all-day seminars.

On Monday Hubby met with his orthopedic surgeon because his right knee had suddenly deteriorated miserably and he could barely walk. The doctor held his hand and asked him, “I said only moderate exercise. What in God’s name have you been doing?”

Seems Hubby had been so happy with his rapidly improving knees that he had ridden his stationary bike for 45 minutes three days running, which had sent him backward in terms of recuperation. A stern warning and the last of the three shots were administered.

On Wednesday Hubby decided that our old Lincoln (14 years old) actually did need a new transmission and he located one. He has been hunting around for a good used one at the car-wreck lots most of July. At 5:30 a.m. he jumped from the bed and announced we had to deliver the car to the repair shop within half an hour. He took the dogs for their morning constitutional while I stumbled around the bathroom looking for my toothbrush. When he arrived back home, he apologized, saying he thought it was 7:30 instead of 5:30 and we had another two hours before we had to leave home. After a pot of tea and four slices of toast, plus a small nap taken when fully clothed, we were finally ready to deliver the car for repair.

We left the car and headed straight for the dental school where I was having a root canal on a broken back molar at the tune of $500. Hubby was forced into delivering me because our only operating vehicle now was his huge industrial van which I’m scared to drive. The $500 tooth had infection around it and four deep roots and was a big back molar so I had to go to the graduate student doctor for the procedure and pay the big bucks. The $500 is only for the root canal. Another $400 is required for the crown to top it off.

I’ve had at least one root canal in my life and I actually think there were two, which proves that neither was traumatic or memorable. In my recollection, the dentist deadened your jaw, scraped the root until the tooth was dead and you had no more trouble. This procedure was far different and I guarantee I’ll never forget it.

First, the rubber dam which they use to isolate the tooth, once inserted across my mouth, made me hysterically claustrophobic and I was absolutely sure I was going to die of suffocation. Extreme agitation is only a mild description of my reaction to that awful thing. Plus, I have this small mouth. They stuffed it full of dam and then propped my jaw open with a huge rubber cube that caused me such pain I started to thrash in the chair. No, it was worse than that – I tried to tear everything off and get up and leave. Eventually, my dentist managed to position the cube more to the front so I wasn’t in such awful pain and he unwrapped my upper lip from the dam so I could breathe out of my mouth. At that point I could just barely tolerate the accoutrement in my mouth.

I was deadened by four shots which weren’t THAT awful and the procedure began. Electrodes, heat sensors, probes – two hours worth – all jammed into my mouth. I tried to think of other things, of pleasant thoughts and words to favorite songs, but after the first hour all I could do was count seconds until they would remove all the crap from my mouth. I worked hard not to cry and not to moan repeatedly out loud. The actual procedure wasn’t so awful but all that crap in my mouth was ghastly.

Things began to go wrong for my dentist, too. The electricity in the cubicle we were working in flickered and went off. The x-rays of my mouth were lost. A technician had to be called to retrieve them from the system. The roots of the tooth, four very long ones, had calcified and consequently we broke four probes and wrecked at least six sensors while trying to gauge just where the roots ended. Meanwhile, I’m suffering agonies in the chair, wanting everything out of my mouth. The x-rays were almost impossible to get because there simply wasn’t room left in my mouth after all the apparatus had been jammed into it for the tool holding the film to fit in also. Plus I have a very strong gag reflex.

After two and half hours the dentist called the job complete. I struggled out of the chair and fell into the street, where Hubby sat patiently waiting for me in the 95 degree humidity. We got me into the van and home, where I immediately fell into bed and slept away the afternoon and the lingering effects of the Novocain.

Around 3 p.m. the throbbing in my jaw woke me. I’d never had a problem with a root canal once it was finished. I thought, incorrectly obviously, that once the roots were removed and the tooth was pronounced dead, you wouldn’t feel anymore pain. However, because the bottom of the tooth had shown infection surrounding it, the dentist had poured acid (yes that was the term he used) on the roots and had let it sit for 20 or so minutes. That and all the heat and dental probes have clearly riled things up and I was hurting. Popping ibuprofen seemed to ease the pain and though I was up most of the night, I was coping.

On Thursday I attended a four hour Macintosh workshop to learn about Mac and Microsoft 2003 programs. Again Hubby was required to drive me in the big old van (which has minimal to no air-conditioning). When he picked me up, he was carrying the ball-joints from the Lincoln as a “show and tell” item. The Lincoln seems to have nearly all its original parts, which, as would be expected, are now beginning to rot, wear, and fall away. Both front ball-joints had to be replaced before the transmission could be installed.

Thursday evening the jaw began to throb in earnest. I spent most of the night propped up in bed reading novels and trying to ignore the pain in my face.

Friday morning we had planned to have a leisurely breakfast out and do some final shopping before school starts next week. Though we were still without the Lincoln, we decided we could manage in the van one more day. But at 9 a.m. the endontic dentist called, very upset. In reviewing my final x-rays, it was evident that one of the four roots had not been properly filled. “Could you come in right now? We could get this done immediately.”

Once more Hubby ferried me downtown to the dental school. My mouth was already so sore that I opted to do this procedure without Novocain. This time I cried through the entire ordeal. The moment he pulled out that rubber dam I started the water works. The huge rubber cube caused more. “Please,” I moaned, as he jammed it into my mouth. Of course, my nose stopped up and then I couldn’t breathe at all except through my mouth. Eventually I took to moaning, low, animal sounds, snuffled through my tears.

The poor dentist worked as hard and as fast as he could. He even sang me pop rock songs from the 1960’s trying to take my mind off my mouth. His assistant wiped at the tears and they patted my hand. I cried harder. The tooth itself really didn’t hurt but everything around it ached mightily. I was only there for forty-five minutes but I’m sure it seemed longer to everyone in that little cubicle. At the end, they filled my fists with pills and scripts for heavy duty pain killers.

Once released, I hobbled out to Hubby as fast as my legs could carry me. We stopped and got Hubby some lunch and me a big bag of pain med and then took me home and put me to bed, where I lay, surrounded by dogs, a bottle of water, and a couple of good books, the tears still streaming down my face.

Meanwhile Hubby went out and test drove the Lincoln. The air conditioning hoses went belly up during the drive, so we’re still in the industrial-sized van and no ETA on when the Lincoln will finally be completed. Hubby’s knees are feeling better after he finally eased up on the exercising and he thinks the shots will be beneficial. My pain pills are a God-send. For the first time in three days my jaw is not shooting lightning bolts into my head. In fact, I feel a little light headed. I’ve been given permission to pop two pills at a time until bedtime. I bet I have sweet dreams tonight.

Next week is the first week of school. Hopefully, by then, I’ll be off the medication, the car will be in the driveway, and Hubby will be prancing around on sturdy knees. Until then, I’m keeping these lovely big pain pills handy.

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