Monday, April 21, 2008

Pain: Pt. 2


Ren Höek Suffering In Dental Pain While Trying To Sleep—Just Like Me.

I'm posting this from a radio station across the street from my dentist's office.

I'm waiting for a prescription to be filled. I am in a word, in AGONY.

I have great teeth, having never gotten a cavity until two years ago—a pretty good track record of forty-plus years with “no drillin'/no fillin”.

But it is my gums that have betrayed me. or rather—one section of my gums.

I've had an issue with a “pocket”—an area where there is a gap between the tooth and gum (lower right, second tooth from the back), and there is a bit of bone loss there. The tooth itself is fine, it's the underlying bone 'neath the gum line that is the issue. Where that should be, is a space. And into that space drifts stray bacteria and gunk that all my brushing, flossing and “swording” cannot penetrate.

Last Tuesday, I felt a bit of discomfort. By Thursday, it was a dull ache. By Friday, it felt like The Mole Man himself and his minions were tunneling into my jaw to hide from Reed Richards and The Fantastic Four.

The area was inflamed. I brushed, and Water-Pik-ed. I flossed. I gargled with warm salt water, regular Listerine, then Hydrogen Peroxide. I could feel the inflammation de-stabilizing the tooth itself. There was a palpable “heat” from the obvious infection. I began gulping ibuprofen every four hours to get through the day. My tolerance has built up considerably to where after the medicine kicks in—which takes about an hour—it then works for an hour, and then I feel it cycling off for the next two. And then it's another two pills.

I couldn't sleep. The throbbing was too much. Every four hours. Brush, gargle with three solutions, then pills.

Made an emergency appointment with the dentist last night for today. Saw 'em.

I will need gum and bone replenishment surgery to finally fix the pocket. I asked them if they could just “take the tooth out” because it hurt so much but the reply was. “We don't remove healthy teeth. Your tooth is fine, it's the underlying oral structure that's at issue.”

Which made a painful bit of sense.

Therefore, on Thursday, I will be back to see the oral surgeon after the antibiotics I have been prescribed kicks in. The swelling in my gum should have faded a bit, as will hopefully, the pain. The enhanced painkillers he scripted will help me to sleep a little and maybe release my waking mind from the waves and stabs that distract me so.

I have a pretty high pain threshold. I don't moan, I don't cry. I just get through it. But this is some next level shit. I swear, when the doc poked around in there a little while ago, it took everything I had in me to relax my body and not cringe into a fetal ball from the probe's jabs. Just biting down on the oral reflector to enable the X-ray they did nearly blacked me out. I've dislocated both of my shoulders, nearly broken an ankle, been knocked unconscious while boxing as a teen, and been blindside tackled by a 270 lb offensive lineman who thought I'd slept with his girlfriend.

Much as those things hurt, THIS pain kicks them all in the ass. It's an almost exquisite pain. Chameleon-like in its way. It can at one minute feel like a cold butter knife slowly being wedged between tooth and gum and then levered up and down to dislodge the tooth to a dirge-y rhythm. Then it can quickly morph into something that feels like Bruce Lee windmilling an “Enter The Dragion” nunchaku ballet on the area with steel-studded, brine-soaked “chuks”.

That last sensation almost blacked my ass out early Saturday morning. The nervous system is one hellafied machine.

I'm hoping to be on my way to being rid of this beast by this Thursday. I hope so. My mental “thought collecting/word-find” features are very much blocked out by this hurt. Trying to be light, I joked with the dentist's receptionist through my swollen jaw that I considered pulling a “Tom Hanks” move—his bit from Cast Away where while suffering with a badly infected tooth, he removes it brutally with a blow from an ice skate's blade edge.

Lonnie the receptionist didn't laugh. She looked at me seriously and said. “Don't joke. People do silly stuff like that over a long weekend when we can't help 'em.”

Her aide de camp behind the desk nodded affirmatively and ruefully.

Which brings me to this: There have been numerous horror stories—not fables or urban legends, but REAL HORROR STORIES about how folks without adequate insurance can find themselves not just in unbearable pain from a simple, yet nerve-torching malady like mine, but actually fucking DEAD from it. Whatever your feelings about this campaign season, and the people involved in it, one of the next goals I see for us hated online folk to embark upon is a concerted effort to get decent health care to as many Americans as is humanly possible. In the early nineties when the first initiatives on this were effectively and proudly “drowned in the bathtub” there wasn't the rapid-fire, mass-response ability that we have nowadays. I went into and out of my dentist's office today, had X-rays, an exam and was prescribed an antibiotic script and paid exactly $10—and that was for the prescription itself. The emergency visit was free. The oral surgery will be a few hundred dollars. I got a phone call from a pollster about two months ago asking all sorts of detailed questions about health care in New York state. Did I agree with the idea of revamping the system? Should the state take a stronger role? Should the federal government get involved? Would I pay an extra $40 a year to help subsidize the care? $50 dollars more? $60 dollars more? The pollster didn't appreciate my off-script reply “What's that? Two 7-Day “Unlimited Travel” Metrocards? A few frosty Starbucks beverages? C'mon man.”

Having health insurance is a blessing. And a blessing isn't a thing you can count on. Decent health care is the one thing you shouldn't have to pray you can have access to.—what with the basics of said care being in many cases the simple difference between life and death.

People die from stuff like this—as noted in the Deamonte Driver tragedy from last spring and another case here in NY a couple of years before, another under-medicalized child.

Along with FISA, and the war and all the other gaudy, brightly lit things we scrap for online, this one is as important as any of them, and strikes at our very cores—our physical bodies and the health maintenance of them.

I got help today, and will get the rest later this week and hopefully, and I do mean hopefully my pain will be alleviated. But for every “me” who can get the care, there are countless others who will suffer for days, and weeks, and months in spiraling pain and equally spiraling ill health.

Let's work on that, too. Blogswarms are fun and all for all the bright and shiny things. But some hardcore action on this issue would be a truly wonderful thing.

Now, with that—my prescriptions are ready. And hopefully this pain is ready to go.