Friday, February 07, 2003

Comfortably Numb

What I Did On My Thursday Vacation

Last night the rumors began to fly. Before study hall, they were confirmed. No School. They cancelled school today because everyone is sick, including the nurses in the health centers. Last night's email announcement to that effect called it Health Day.

Ah, irony.

It would have been nice to have a day off, as intended. What we had instead was an adventure. Northfield to Brattleboro. Brattleboro to Northfield again. Northfield to Greenfield, to Fitchburg, to Greenfield; home. Three hours of driving, three hours of waiting rooms for Darcie and Willow, three hours of pale blue vinyl operating chairs and white textured ceiling tiles for me. A dentist, an oral surgeon and a plethora of assistants. And shopping, for good measure. I love a good adventure. Not all who wander, after all.

And I love a good surgery, too. I have an average pain threshold -- unlike Darcie, who can suffer in silence through almost anything -- but my natural curiosity makes me eager to see inside myself. I'm the guy who asked to watch his own orthoscopic surgery and, later, his wife's Cesarian. So, truthfully, when the dentist said that I'd need to get in the car and drive an hour to the oral surgeon right away for a root canal, I was more excited than anything else. It's like the universe has once again honored me by making my life interesting, despite the old Chinese curse.

In a root canal, the stuff your dentist calls pulp -- really a mass of live nerves which once helped the tooth grow but has no practical function in adults -- is removed. Through the skilled use of long narrow pins and drills and an occasional infusion of chlorine to clean the work area, what was once a living tooth becomes merely a piece of bone in your mouth. The whole operation takes about 45 minutes.

So there we were, in the car, the tooth gradually increasing its ache, as if to justify the trip more each mile. By the time we found the endodontist's office I was ready for anything to stop the pain. But the shots didn't hurt and the pamphlets were clear; the endodontist was friendly under his mask, and his assistant was competent and comforting. The rubber-dam-and-wire superstructure which transformed relaxed mouth into stretched-out operating table was coolly weird, as was the tiny metal stirrup clamp which secured the tooth on the bed therein. A series of seven X-rays tracked our progress; over the course of what turned out to be over an hour, as rotors ground the hollow of molar #18 into acrid smoke and powder, I got to see the ghosts of my nerve bundles first rotting, then empty, and finally cemeted and capped. The entire time, my face was another's face, numb from ear to chin.

Darcie needed paper and stickers for this weekend's Valentine's Card crafts activity, so we stopped by a Michael's Crafts Supplies before hitting the road. The an hour back, trying not to bite my own thick tongue, only letting my teeth meet gingerly, for soft foods at the cool new grungyhealthycool Cafe Koko in Greenfield: spicy peanut stew and warm cornbread and a vanilla latte in a tall sundae glass. The braless waitresses cooed at the baby; I guess even the hippes aren't immune to the charms of the Platinum Haired One. I think I've heard the phrase Is she always this happy? an average of five times a day for the past three months, and the answer is always the same: only in public.

Anyway, home. The Darvocet's got me flying. I've got most of the feeling back in my face, but hardly any pain at all. All in all, a surprisingly fun day. I'm a sick duck, aren't I?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:16 AM |

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