Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Wisdom Teeth; Or, Terrible and Ridiculous Things That Happen to Me

I had my wisdom teeth removed a few years ago.  And by "removed," I mean, my gums were sliced open, my wisdom teeth were busted up into tiny pieces that would allow for removal due to the extent to which they were impacted, and I had huge hollow spots in the back of my mouth where copious amounts of food ended up everytime I tried to eat something solid.

Also, I fainted.

PART I:  Needles

It all started, obviously, with the teeth.  My dentist recommended it and so I dutifully added myself to David's dental insurance plan, scheduled the surgery, and started interrogating everyone I knew about their wisdom teeth removal experience.

This, of course, varied widely from, "It was a complete nightmare and my face swelled up so much I couldn't talk and then I got a fever and almost died," to "I took a couple Advil and when I woke up from my nap, I was fine."

(Like my brother, who stayed awake for the procedure, had his wisdom teeth pulled with local anesthetic, and was like totally fine the next day.)

So really I had no idea what to expect, although I had heard that the "prep-talk" was the worst part--you know, when they tell you all of the terrible things that might possibly happen while you are under anesthesia (FYI: you could die).  I was a little anxious when we got to the orthodontist's office and so I asked nurse or assistant or whomever it was who wore scrubs and called me from the waiting room if my husband could come back with me.

She said no.


(To her credit, I think she later regretted telling me no, as she ended up having to go fetch David not even five minutes later.  He had been reading a magazine and was like, "What?  Is it over already?"  Ha.  Not hardly.)

I was feeling a little more nervous by the time I sat down in the reclining dental chair.  And, let me just add, that I am not at all freaked out by the dentist.  I love the dentist!  I think this is because I have never had a cavity (I know, I am a dental marvel) and so going to the dentist is always a pleasant experience where the dentist tells me what great teeth I have and reminds me to really brush way in the back on the left and then sends me home with shiny polished teeth and a free toothbrush and a travel sized toothpaste.

It was not the dentist thing that was getting to me.  It was the humongous set of long, scary needles left sitting out on the countertop.

I mean, seriously.  Who does that?  There at least five, maybe six of them.  I can see them still.  Long, silver, and horrifying.  The nurse saw me glance at them and I must have had some kind of visible reaction, because she quickly covered them with a paper towel.

But it was too late.  By this point, I couldn't stop thinking about needles going into my mouth and gums and the "prep-talk" was in full swing and when she got to the part about why I want to avoid a dry sockets, I lost it.

By which I mean, I fainted.

While reclined in the dental chair.

I think I managed to mumble, "I don't feel so good," and then I woke up with wet paper towels on my forehead, an oxygen mask on my face, and David staring down at me, looking kind of pale and shaky himself.  (Looks like there was enough room for him to go back with me after all!)

Once I came around, I felt OK, even though waking up from fainting is one of the least pleasant experiences ever, except possibly slipping into fainting.  The nurses were all friendly and sorry and they joked with me that usually it's only the big guys who faint on them.  And then they explained that they would not be removing my wisdom teeth that day because they can't put me under anesthesia after I've fainted of my own accord.

They rescheduled my appointment but couldn't get me in for an entire month.  The orthodontist also gave me a prescription for Valium that he suggested I take the morning of my next appointment.  Also he said I should eat ice cream the night before to keep my blood sugar up.

So I went home and repainted the bathroom and tried not to think about the fact that I had to go back and face it all again in just a few weeks.

PART II:  Jury Duty

In the meantime, I got called for jury duty, so a week and a half later, I reported to duty downtown.  I was secretly sort of excited because I watch Law and Order and I imagined myself helping to serve the justice system in a meaningful way.  Or at least get to sit in on an interesting trial.  I knew that most of them were drug violations and most trials only lasted two or three days.  I brought a couple of books, thinking I'd just pass the morning by reading, but there were televisions blaring so loudly I couldn't hear myself think, although I could hear every word of every cell phone conversation that every person around me was having and it was miserable.  I sat there all day and finally my group got called back.

We had been selected to be jury members for A Very Important Trial that might last THREE to FOUR weeks.

Of course, everybody around me starts shifting nervously and looking panicky, and I'm right with them, imagining myself sequestered in a stinking motel with these people and thinking, "No!  I have to have my wisdom teeth out!  And also we've already bought plane tickets for our trip to Oregon!"

So then they say that if we have a hardship, we need to get up and stand in line to go tell the judge about it.  Now, I had no idea if the judge thinks wisdom teeth and vacation are hardships, but I sure as hell do, so I got in line.  I was pretty nervous, too, because I had to walk up to the judge on the bench, surrounded by all these lawyers with yellow legal pads, who were scribbling furiously as I explained my hardship, punctuating every statement with a lilting-question tone because I was nervous and therefore sounded like a nervous person trying to imitate a Valley Girl circa 1992.

I cleared my throat:  "Ahem.  Well, you see, I'm scheduled to have my wisdom teeth removed? And maybe that's not such a big deal, but it is the second time I've had to schedule it because I have this needle phobia?  And so I passed out last time?  And so I had to get this anti-anxiety prescription to go back?  And also we bought plane tickets to fly to Oregon the first of August?  So I don't know if that qualifies as a hardship..."  and then I trailed off and stared desperately at the judge.

He sort of smiled and said, "Um, yes.  I think it does."

And so I was dismissed.

PART III:  Surgery, Addiction, and The Apocalypse

And you might have thought it was smooth sailing once I got out of Jury Duty.

The fact was, I did get my prescription and I got to the orthodontist and this time--guess what--they said it was fine if my husband came with me while I was being prepped for the surgery.  So David held my hand and then I woke up all loopy and told the nurses how much I love him until he dragged me out of there and home to the couch.

Recovery was pretty brutal--my face was bruised and swollen and my lower jaw was incredibly sore because they'd really had to dig around in there.  I kept popping the pain pills but I also had this crazy fear that I was going to get addicted to the pain pills because I don't know pain pills are addictive, right? but when I tried going without the pills, well, I was in pain.

I sat around with a bag of frozen peas on my face, feeling generally miserable, and David did the caretaker thing he always does, which is to be really attentive for about ten to fifteen minutes and then to lose interest entirely and ignore me until I feel better.

Just in case recovery seemed to be going well, the day after my surgery, a huge summer storm rolled through.  Damage was incredible--fallen limbs, fallen power lines, flash flooding.  Our block alone lost three Bradford pear trees.  You couldn't drive anywhere without a tree limb (or entire tree) forcing a detour.  We lost electricity.  I kept mumbling that this was why we needed to be prepared to live off the grid or at least have a generator.

Losing electricity meant that we lost air conditioning.

Also our ice maker.

Also the ability for our freezer to keep things cold.  Things like bags of frozen peas and popsicles, which were my only forms of comfort and sustenance, respectively.

We spent a hot, sleepless night at home.  The next morning we took refuge at my friend Jamie's apartment while she was at work.  It was about 110 degrees in our house, and Jamie still had AC and a freezer.  So we loaded up the dogs and drove over there.  She was like the only place in the world that had power--we were supposed to call and check in with the orthodontist--they had no phone line.  David was trying to make birthday reservations for me for a dinner that I could store in the huge gaping holes in the back of my gums--the restaurant was closed because they had no electricity.

Part IV:  A Dramatic Confrontation Followed By Tears

So we dragged ourselves to Jamie's apartment.  David was watching the ballgame when the dogs started scratching to go out.  Obviously David was long-past his attentive-caretaker stage, so he let me take the dogs out while he watched the Cardinals.  I had Cooper on a leash, but I let Little Mac wander since she will never run away and leave us (even if we wanted her to, which we only sometimes do).  As the dogs sniffed around and did their business in Jamie's front yard, a man came over and wanted to know which apartment we were in.  I told him that we were visiting apartment 1W.  At this point, I was feeling a little loopy from the pain meds, but it occurred to me that he looked vaguely familiar.

About the time I realize that he is the landlord I met when I went with Jamie to tour this apartment, he tells me that he is the landlord and that dogs aren't allowed in the apartment.

It is difficult for me to talk because my face is at least twice its normal size and also my lower jaw hurts like hell from teeth-bone being busted up in it, but I explain to him that our power went out with the storm and it's too hot to stay at our house.

He repeats that it's fine if we are there (oh, yeah, like we need your freaking permission to be in a friend's apartment?) but no dogs are allowed.

At this point, Little Mac runs into the street and nearly gets hit by a car.

And I lose it.

By which I mean I become slightly hysterical.  I scream at Little Mac and get her back in the yard, then I start making sobbing, hiccuping noises and I ask him if he wants me to take my dogs home and leave them there to roast because it is 110 degrees in my house and doesn't he think that he can make an exception for a freaking power outage and I'm not sure what else I said because I was hysterical and loopy.

He started backing away from me, looking panicked, and then and he sort of stammered that he supposed it was okay as long as they dogs didn't stay the night.

And then I shouted at him, "You think I WANT to stay here tonight with these dogs?  You think that is what I WANT?"

And then the dogs and I went inside and I started screaming at David for sitting in there watching the Cardinals game while I fought with Jamie's landlord with my huge fat bruised and swollen face and then I sat down in Jamie's computer chair and started sobbing.

David turned off the TV and said, "That's it.  We're going to the lake."

So we drove home, threw some stuff together, and loaded up the car and drove to his grandparents' house.

Part V:  Refuge, Bowling, and Digestive Distress

David's grandparents had no land lord, plenty of air conditioning, a freezer, ice cream, popsicles, and, mostly delightfully, special geriatric ice packs for elbows that fit perfectly around my jaw.

I camped out on their sofa for about two days and then decided I felt good enough to join them on their weekly pilgrimage to the bowling alley.

Where I, still looped up on pain meds, proceeded to bowl the BEST I have ever bowled in my entire life.  I mean, seriously, my bowling score is usually somewhere in the 80s.  But THIS day, I bowled a 144.

I wasn't close to beating any of the old farts on the g-rents' team, but I was hanging in there with the special ed group home kids on the lane next to us (who quickly became my biggest cheerleaders and best friends).

High on my bowling victory, I then proceeded to down an entire large Frosty from Wendy's while we trekked through the SuperWal-Mart on David's grandma's weekly shopping pilgrimage.

Then we went out for Chinese.

My stomach started lurching before we got to the restaurant, and I tried to subtly communicate to David that I seemed to be having a serious form of digestive distress, but Chinese buffets hypnotize David to the extent that no one's needs matter more than his own desire for cashew chicken.  And also fried okra because this is the Chinese buffet in Branson.

He actually told me to just wait a minute and then added that I didn't have to eat if I didn't want to.

Not wanting to scream at him in front of all the old folks we had met up with for lunch, and also not sure I could open my mouth without vomiting, I tried to endure my agony in silence.  I spent most of the lunch hour in the restaurant's bathroom where (horror of horrors) his grandma and her friend came to check on me.  Finally when I staggered back to the table, clutching my stomach and looking at least as miserable as I felt (still with the bruised and swollen face), David managed to pull himself away from the freaking dessert bar long enough to see that I was doing my best to disembowel him with my glare.

He quickly surmised (at long last) that I needed to get the hell out of there before I murdered him and had explosive diarrhea, the order of those events being totally equivocal.

So he drove me back to the g-rents' homestead while I moaned piteously and told him that if he ever chose a Chinese buffet over my digestive distress again, that we were seriously over.  Seriously.

I got to the g-rents' house just in time to lose it.

And by lose it, I mean that I threw up my Frosty all over their guest bathroom, which made me thank my stars that David's grandma is the most fastidiously clean person I know because if you have to lie on cold bathroom tile that is not your own, at least you want to be sure that it is freaking clean.

I felt much better after I barfed up the Frosty.

The next day the power was back on at our house (the answering machine finally picked up--we'd been calling every few hours) and my face was shrinking back toward its normal size (thanks to the geriatric elbow-ice treatment) and we headed home.

And at the end of the day?  Well, I got out of jury duty.  I hit my bowling record.  David has not had to choose between me and a Chinese buffet (and for the sake of our marriage, I kind of hope he never has to).

And I'll never have to have my wisdom teeth removed again.


  1. OMG what a nightmare!! What are the odds of all those things happening at the same time?

    Glad you are feeling better and your husband has been set straight on the priority front!

    (makes for a funny blog post, though. You tell it so well!)

  2. I read that entire thing imagining you describing the ordeal quite fastly. Needless to say, I'm rather amused. :-)

    Point of clarification, however... You fainted in the dentist chair before they put you under? As in, you weren't "out" yet and you saw all the needles, and then fainted?

    In my case, when I had mine out in the early-2000s, I don't remember even seeing the needles they were going to use. The put the mask over my face, had me count down from 100...and before I hit 98, I was out. I didn't even need to use the narcotics the prescribed: only heavy-duty Ibuprofen.

    The rest of your story, however, I can't really related to. Sounds pretty bad to me!

    But for the record, we haven't had to turn our A/C on yet this year. :-)

  3. @Andy - yes I fainted before they even started to put me under. No drugs involved!

    And as for not turning on your A/C, I think I'll wait for the Iowa weather report in January before I start envying your temperate climate...