Wednesday, July 31, 2013

$600 bought me two hours with Tomas de Torquemada

If I asked you what your favourite thing in the world was, (and you were honest) you'd say feeling really really good, and sex, or chocolate, or booze, or marijuana or laying on a beach somewhere naked, with somebody you also really really like, also naked, with a big box of chocolate and some booze and a joint, and that would be your favourite thing in the world. 

I could walk up and down Stephen Ave Mall asking every person I met what their favourite thing was, and though most of them would lie and say, "A good book, or dinner with my boyfriend, or a weekend skiing in Louise," you and I would both know that's a load of cobblers.

One thing no one is going to say is that their absolutely favourite thing is spending the afternoon in the dentist's chair, having what was supposed to be a "small cavity which would probably not even require any freezing to fix" turn into a spelunker's dream which leaves the dentist crying to his assistant. "Look Madge! There's an unexplored cavern 150 yards to the right in this molar! Hand me the jack-hammer! NO! Not the small one, I want that big mother! The one with the 10 HP Briggs and Stratton engine!"  

So yesterday afternoon was not marked "FAVOURITE DAY! on my calendar, nor did it have a happy face on it. Most people go to the dentist, get a needle, are the recepients of some unpleasant but not dreadfully uncomfortable burring and buzzing and poking about, and leave the office numb from nose to chin, drooling and unable to do more than eat soup for supper.

I have the genetic misfortune to be totally immune to the effect of local anesthesia. I don't "freeze". So for the last 10 years I've had IV sedation for dental procedures. This has always worked a treat. I go in, they check my vitals, put me on a cardiac, blood pressure and oxygen monitor, start an IV, and once the sedation kicks in I am off in some timeless dimension, quite possibly naked with a box of booze and a bottle of chocolate. I don't know. But it costs $600 a pop so the dream better be good. I awaken, a bit woozy, dental work done, and I'm off to eat soup for supper.

Yesterday I had no reason to expect anything different. This is a new dentist for me, but he's as careful as your old granny and sweet as candy. He's Latin. Tall, heavy-set, dark-skinned and curly-haired and I'm just thinking all I need is that medication and I don't care if he is young enough to be my son. It's my damn fantasy and if I want to lie on a beach and eat chocolate with my dentist that's between me and my drugs.

The first clue that this might not go as well as might be expected was that the anesthesiologist couldn't find a vein that would hold a butterfly needle - which is hardly thicker than a hair. Finally after wrapping my arm and hand in hot wet towels for a few minutes they try the underside of my forearm, find a vein and start the IV.

All is in readiness for dream land. Dr. Sugar gives the okay for the first level of sedation to kick in. But dream land eludes me. Through my complaints that I am feeling every rotation of the damn drill and dig of the pick he keeps reassuring me that I won't remember a thing tomorrow. He is terrified that he will over sedate me, so he doesn't give me enough sedation.

"Tomorrow you will think back and say it was painless. Why, you've even been sleeping," he said.  No. What I was doing was what I've had to do all my life when I had dental work, wall my mind off to the pain and meditate. Until I was in my 50s I had no idea that having dental work wasn't akin to a information gathering session with the Spanish Inquisition. I didn't realize that it didn't hurt everyone the same way it hurt me.

Over the space of an hour the "wee cavity" is drilled right back to my jaw bone, reamed out, done whatever to. He keeps giving me hits of lidocaine (or water) same thing. He complains that my mouth is too small to get the needle deep enough in the gum.

He finishes the tooth, then says, "Uh Oh. It's bleeding from up in there somewhere, so he tears out the just completed filling looking for the "bleeder",  seals it, fills the tooth again, scrapes the edges, smooths the surfaces. Pronounces it done. Moves on to tooth number two, a wisdom tooth which had been capped years ago and had simply sheared off one day.

"This one's gonna hurt," he said, "and I've used up almost all the lidocaine." But to my immense relief it was only a root tip left and it popped right out. He filled the cavity with a foam that stops bleeding, stitched it, and yes I felt that damn needle go in and come out for every stitch. 

And finally I was done. They took the IV out, peeled off the layers of tape, and brought in a walker I did not need. I paid the bill, instructed them to which pharmacy to FAX my prescription, arranged for a follow-up visit, went out and bought sushi and pie from the hospital's excellent deli, and caught a cab home.

But, you can be assured that if ever Dr. Sugar does another procedure on me we will be after a long and emphatic conversation about how much sedation I require. For $600 I want two hours on the beach, not two hours with Tomas de Torquemada.  

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