You know what's funny? Watching somebody try to drink right after a trip to the dentist's office while their mouth is still numb and everything spills down the front of their shirt like a tiny baby. You know what's NOT funny? After the numbing stuff wears off and every single nerve ending is zapping you face with electric hell. I've had some conditions I've had to heal from that have been quite embarrassing, gross, or both, and I wouldn't normally even consider mentioning them, but hey – we throw ourselves out there for the sake of comedy, right?
________________A Tooth Extraction Is A Major Head Wound
The following was written in a pain-induced state on a hot and humid night in July of 2015.
And NO, I DO NOT WHINE!
It’s a hot and humid night in July of 2015.
I hesitate to write about the poor condition of my teeth because I’m from the south and there is a long observed stereotype about southerners and their dental habits, or lack thereof, and I don't enjoy the idea of progressing it. However, I'm moved to do just that in order to tell a complete story.
This narrative officially begins as follows: My teeth are crap.
I don’t mean that I have a few cavities in need of looking into; I’m telling you that what I have are laboratory curiosities. They're brittle enough that I fear being in the proximity of even a mildly talented soprano. The word “cavity” is a misnomer for me, as the plight of my teeth should more readily favor a new word, “cavern-ty”.
So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that I recently had to have an extraction performed. The tooth in question had worn – allow me to rephrase that - it had rotted to the point that it had become merely two broken wedges sticking out from the gum at the back of my mouth. Upon inspection, I found it to resemble the black, volcanic peaks of Tolkien’s Mordor, but it didn’t hurt, so I let it go. The absence of dental insurance will cause one to do stupid things like that. Also, as I said, it was at the back of my mouth and thus hidden, so I was able to smile when I saw my reflection and note that no one would be the wiser.
There's a word in the medical field when something such as a rotten tooth becomes infected. That word is “Abscessed”. In more practical layman terms it means, “HOLY MOLAR, THAT HURTS!” And oh by the way, if unattended, it can kill you.
That happened to the tooth right before a trip to the beach, of course. I’d looked forward to it for weeks while my gums and broken tooth happily played well with each other. Then BAM! “You think you’re going to enjoy the beach trip?” my mouth said to me because it’s a mouth and mouths say things, “How about we amp up the dang it factor and throw a little infection party?!” It’s akin to planning a trip to Universal Studios and getting an ingrown toenail right before you go. (Oooooh, a little foreshadowing.)
You might imagine my festive demeanor among the waves over the next few days and I made an appointment to get it extracted as soon as I got back. For the layman, the word “extracted” means, “Someone just shoved a needle into my gums over and over and then wrenched bone out of my skull in the similar fashion a dog employs when playing tug of war with a rope.”
You may even be interested to note that while the aforementioned round of tug of war was being enacted, I could hear the sound of bone fragments cracking and popping inside my head and I started to laugh about it. I solemnly swear that I was not on any medication that would have induced silliness. It was just that I realized how loud it sounded as the intrusion happened in and around my skull and it made me chuckle. I couldn’t feel much at the time other than the tugging. It did occur to me that it would be my luck to get a dentist that would, much like the dentist in the Little Shop Of Horrors, take my laughter as a challenge. But she remained undaunted and eventually blighted Mordor from the face of Middle Earth. In the course of it all, though, she destroyed my gums.
While the numbing agent was still at work, all was well and once I had my pain meds, it was easy enough to manage then too. But as I traveled to work on a bright Tuesday morning, I had a six-hour commute to think about how two ulcers that had developed over the last couple of days had made the healing process more painful than it needed to be. At first I pushed the idea aside and told myself to be a man! It’s only a couple of sores in your mouth alongside a deep hole where your tooth used to be. It’s no more than three open lesions seriously restricting any profitable use of the left side of my mouth. Then I remembered it was more than that. She'd torn my gums asunder back there.
I HAVE A MAJOR HEAD WOUND! An extracted tooth hole is a head wound; a gaping maw of tender and vulnerable flesh.
Why hasn’t the great jury of society come to this verdict yet? Have we been systematically brainwashed to believe there’s really nothing to it by the ADA? Did three out of four dentists agree that we should keep this information under wraps; great big spit-filled gauze wraps? I want to feel some sort of victory at this discovery, but coming to terms with the fact that I have a major head wound has made me question everything I once believed to be true.
Is there really a silver lining to every cloud? What if the little engine actually couldn’t? Did Joanie truly love Chachi? And what if it’s all about something other than the Hokey Pokey?
I’ve been led to believe that the pit in my gum where a tooth used to be – formerly the deadly destination on the itinerary of hobbits with evil rings - is only a minor inconvenience, but googly-MOOGLY, my mouth hurts right now!
Perhaps a good night’s sleep will help me to make some sense of all of this once I take some of the meds.
Something tells me this rant owes a wee bit to needing the meds.
And now my big toe is beginning to hurt. What’s that about?
I believe that at least once in every man's life, there comes a time when he must do something stupid to make the pain go away. For some men, it may take going through torment to get to that point. For me, it only took realizing that …
An In-Grown Toenail Is A Major Foot Wound
An in-grown toenail is painful. Think about it - there is a hard, sharp item (the toenail) growing inside (in-grown) your toe. One might say that it’s not much to complain about. After all, it’s only a small inconvenience in and around the area of a toe; a tiny body part when compared to say, your chest (another body part that can be problematic if you have pain there – you should probably get that seen about).
But an in-grown toenail is much more than a minor inconvenience. When there is toe pain, you feel it with every step. It’s sort of like a hobnail boot you can’t take off.
What made mine all the more irritating is the knowledge that I could have avoided the whole ordeal had I paid better attention to my grooming.
I don’t like to admit it, but sometimes I forget that there are duties I must attend regarding my feet, i.e., cutting my toenails. It doesn’t happen often, but on occasion I find it would be quite possible to journey up the trees in the park alongside the savviest of squirrels. And because I have the feet of a caveman, with the nails on the two big toes being the consistency of barnacles, I have to take care to make sure I get all but the necessary nail off when I cut them.
That didn’t happen on one of the last sessions and I've paid a mighty price.
I cut the nail on the big toe of my right foot to completion, or so I thought. What I didn’t realize was that I had left a jagged, pointy shard – a toenail spear if you will – that would eventually grow into the flesh at the front of my toe. I suppose the growth was so gradual and I was so completely irresponsible as to the needs of my feet for a while that I just didn’t notice until a fateful day when I rammed my big toe - and the spear growing inside it - into a chair in my motel room.
Words cannot relate the delight I felt and the words of praise I expressed at the discovery of my new condition. Actually, there are words available and I tried my best to use them all, but this is not the place for such pleasantries. EUREKA, by the way, was not one of them.
I am a man. And a man comes up with solutions to such circumstances. My solution was this: Wait for it to grow through the front of my toe, then pull it out.
Hindsight has educated me in the ways of the human body and I've learned it has certain procedures it employs, unwavering from its course. And although I didn't want cutting to occur, eventually it would have to.
I began to try and broker deals with my body on behalf of the big toe, which I came to know by the endearing name of “Ow”. I would have pedicures on a regular basis. I promised to massage my feet every night after a soak in epsom salt. I would never, ever, ever, for-the-love-of-all-that-is-pure-and-holy, let my toenails go without proper maintenance again if Ow would only regurgitate the spear without my having to go to the doctor.
But my body is a jerk. It either didn’t hear me or simply refused because it never relieved me of the pain. I decided to take matters into my own hands and I’m glad I did.
Before I venture into further detail, here is my official disclaimer:
The actions I took which I am about to relate in no way constitute any promotion of self-surgery and any medical procedures for which one is not qualified, including but not limited to: Toenail surgery, Fingernail surgery, Liposuction, General Dentistry, Captain Dentistry, Paleontology, Astrology, Faith Healing, etc. should always be conducted by a professional. (A medical professional, not just like a plumber or prostitute. Either one of those operating upon your person could set you up with much bigger issues.)
After several weeks of getting to know Ow and having to clean and dress the toe daily, I realized that it was not going to heal on its own and measures had to be taken. With a $425 price tag attached to a procedure that would be performed by a person of the Doctor persuasion in mind and having noticed that holding it under a running faucet of hot water caused the pain to subside, numbing it a bit, I decided the time had come to add “Surgeon” to my already impressive, if not stupid, list of things I can do all by myself.
I procured the following instruments in preparation:
A razor blade
Large toenail clippers with the little knife/toe-jam-digger-outer in the middle.
A second set of large toenail clippers from the bathroom drawer with only the handle part rusty. The clipper area, though dull, was shiny.
Paper towels to apply pressure to the wound
My favorite bible (for obvious reasons)
Very hot running water
Good old-fashioned man-courage
An imaginary monkey (Monkeys make me smile)
My wife was out of the house, but my son was in the next room and I informed him that he should contact his mother and tell her what I was doing on only two conditions. 1. If he heard a scream that lasted more than 10 seconds, and 2. If a pool of blood began to seep into his room from under the door of the bathroom. He said okay.
Two minutes later, being the loyalist that he is, he entered the bathroom just as I was about to make the first slice with the razor blade and handed me the phone.
My wife calmly asked me one simple question. “Why are you such an idiot?”
“I know what I’m doing, don’t worry.”
“You need to let a doctor do that!”
I did not let a doctor do that, hence the disclaimer presented above.
After about ten minutes of painful slicing and digging into my flesh and periodically spooning blood spray off the sides of the bathtub with my hand, the spear was removed. After it was over, the relief was amazing and all was right with the world. I felt not only like a new, hardcore, bull of a man, but also a little bit like a smarty pants. As a matter of fact, I may submit this article to the Journal of Medicine for their consideration. I imagined all the pats on the back I would be getting from impressed friends and neighbors. I was, for all intents and purposes, a Doctor. I couldn’t wait to call my mom and tell her the good news, in no small part for the fact that she’d been terribly worried about Ow. I dialed her number and told her everything.
She calmly asked me one simple question. “Why are you such an idiot?
“That’s Doctor Idiot.”
The bible can be scary if you read some of the passages, especially the ones about issues that people have had to endure due to either being unlucky or enslaving the people of Israel and refusing to let them go. One of the things that always struck fear in me was any mention of boils. I always associated that condition with uncleanliness and the Days of Good Ol', but now I know it's common and not always because of unsanitary practices. I found out the hard way that ...
It Boils Down To Pain
It never fails to be a humbling experience when something happens to me that I always thought was reserved for tales of olden times or people who refuse to type “Amen” and share a Jesus loves you meme on Facebook. But once last year and now recently I have had the tumultuous experience of living with a skin boil.
That’s right, a skin boil.
And I think I can deliver my message without it having an effect on your lunch. It’s just that this is information that might be valuable if you're to avoid having to deal with a boil of your own. I won’t go into gory detail about what exactly a skin boil is, but instead I'll allow you the opportunity to Google it for yourself, saving everyone but the sick and curious from a grotesque experience. Just know that a boil is painful and depending on where it surfaces, you might wish that someone would crack you over the head with a croquet mallet to put you out of commission for good.
Counting this last one, I have now suffered through three of them; the first was in my crotchety area and that was bad enough. I didn’t know what it was, only that something had seemed to burrow under the skin, way too close to sensitive stuff for my comfort. It became hard to walk and eventually, it had to be “taken care of”. I’ll just say that I have a wonderful wife who must love me more than I could ever know to willingly be the one who “took care of it”.
After the first episode, I did a little research and found that I had been the lucky host of a boil, so I knew what to look for in the future in order to stop it before it could get bad. Unfortunately, the second one apparently knew that I was wise to the ways of the boil and it crept up silently before pouncing onto my back just to the right of my spine. Upon first glances, I took the spot to be nothing more than one of those big ol’ zits one will get sometimes on their back. You know what I’m talking about. It’s like Mount St. Helens has attached there and it feels like there’s lava flowing directly beneath it till it comes to a head and either you or someone who can reach it is able to “take care of it.” It’s those little numbers that always seem to be right at the spot where your back touches everything when you sit back in a chair.
I waited for the slightly uncomfortable, yet tolerable, pimple to head up and go away, but it had other plans. It was only the tip of the iceberg and when I got home from play rehearsal two days later, I noticed that it had become hardened, painful, and very large. It had become a boil. The third one happened to be on my elbow. And while it was equally as gross as the other two, it didn't hurt at all. It mainly just caused children to cower and dogs to bark at me when I passed.
Why, you may ask, am I even telling people about it? Wouldn’t I want to keep something like this private? Do I want to be a disgusting medical oddity on a TV show about medical oddities called Disgusting Medical Oddities?
The answer is simple and, I believe, honorable. I want to be that messenger that lives on in history books and lore, galloping through the internet on my data horse shouting, “The boils are coming! The boils are coming!” I want to be remembered as the one who saw through the fog that our bodies glaze us over with when they’re about to infect us with infectious infection. And now that I have witnessed the heights my body is willing to go to in order that it could fool me and sneak this abomination onto my back, elbow, and crotchy groinous area, I think it’s only fair that I pass along any hypotheses I may have developed as to other devices your body might use on you.
So here’s a list of conditions you'll want to watch out for.
The Susan Boyle Boil – So you’ve settled in for the night and started a lovely flame in the fireplace. All you want to do is sit by the fire under a nice warm blanket and jam to the soothing voice of the one and only Susan Boyle. And why not? She was an over night sensation who would soon find her CDs in thrift stores everywhere. But there is danger here. Because when Susan sings, you become carefree and at ease with everything around you. You loosen your grip on caution and that’s when boils are at their stealthiest. You’ll never see it coming. One minute you’re belting I Dreamed A Dream with one of Britain’s finest voices, the next you have a boil on your neck the size of Big Ben. You may as well draw a clock on there and hang a bell because you’re gonna be a very painful spectacle for several days.
The Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle Boil – Similar to the one above, you may think you have your best, most attentive eye on things as you, via delving headlong into your reading, become the greatest detective the world has ever known. You are living vicariously through Sherlock Holmes and nothing will get past you. The tiniest detail will be scrutinized and thus, always before you. Yet you are deceived, my friend. You are the victim of diversion. Before you know it, there might well be a hound the size of a St. Bernard in the area of your Baskervilles and there’s nothing to do but let it bark at you with every step. It can be tamed, but it ain’t fun. Trust me.
The Mohel Boil – No one is safe from the danger, even those who do Yahweh’s work. If you think you’re a mentsh and performing a spiritual duty will keep you from having to do a little suffering, you’re wrong. Look at Job. I think he may have been covered in boils before it was all over with. You feel good about the circumcision you’re about to do, but you realize that this is a super sensitive task. You’re dedicated to having all your concentration focused on the foreskin at hand … so to speak, and that’s when it happens. The surgery goes okay, but when you get home you realize you’ve got tsuris, or serious troubles, on your tuchis. Don’t be a putz. Get it seen about before the pain makes you destroy some poor kid’s svantz.
The "To The Victor Goes The Spoils" Boils – It would seem that being a winner is ideal. Who doesn’t want to come out on top? But I doubt you’ve ever been hoisting a huge trophy with the number one glued to it and thought, “You know, I’m not really defending myself against boils right now.” Welcome to intense sorrow. You should have been on alert. You should have blown the race or fumbled at the goal line because now you’ll be dealing with an avid fan that goes everywhere you go for a while and it’s a pain in the pigskin. Did you ever hear that the winner takes it all? My friend, you’re gonna take it ALL.
Now if after looking at this list, which is nowhere near exhaustive, you've decided that life is too short to go about your day unaware of the potential threat of getting a boil somewhere on your body, then you've taken one step closer to a happy existence and I applaud you.
But if you think it would never happen to you, I can truly say that I’m sorry and I hope that you’ll remember me when you realize you’ve been intruded upon by a ninja boil you never saw coming.
I'm glad I brought all of this to light. Everyone has things that have happened to us and some of them are embarrassing, but confession is good for the soul, I guess. I just hope you can enjoy a good meal after this trip down medical lane.
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