Indulge me for a moment as I reflect on PAIN. The electric word, pain, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time, but… wait, no. Wrong lyrics. It’s more like I have stood here before inside the pouring rain. But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain.
(TANGENT: Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there is a song for every occasion. And my life is a never-ending jukebox of extended play soundtracks, product jingles and sitcom theme music. But I digress…)
Pain comes in various levels of intensity that I personally believe can be classified by the initial or ongoing reaction of the body. For instance, there is the OUCH variety. As a parent you become intimately acquainted with this type of pain, since it is usually the result of being caught in the crossfire of flying toys, or stepping on a Lego brick for the 2 millionth time. Then you have the NAG variety. This is pain attributed to something like a paper cut, or in my case, the silent and invisible slice of the skin that occurs when you’ve lost your patience while trying to open the 124 jumbo pack of size 4 diapers. After the initial intake of breath from the sudden sharp cut, this pain follows you around for a day or so as it reopens repeatedly because you’ve forgotten about it, and failed to take it easy on the tickle attacks. Of course, there is the THROB level of pain. Most of us are probably familiar with these dull waves of soreness that gather in your arms, feet and legs when you finally sit down after a long day of errands, decorating and playing host to a couple dozen tyrant gradeschoolers for a birthday party.
Why am I saying all of this? Because on Tuesday of this week I was finally at the point of no return with one of the more devastating levels of pain… which is BLINDING. Blinding pain is when the pain is so intensely excruciating that you squeeze your eyes shut uncontrollably. It’s the kind of pain that wakes you up from a dead sleep and laughs at your feeble attempts to ignore it for the sake of rest. It’s the kind of pain where panic sets in because you are quite certain it will never go away and you seriously consider the horrific thought of what it would mean to endure this kind of torture for the rest of your life. Yep. That was me. It was a toothache. And you can chuckle all you want, but when your head feels like someone is shooting bolts of electricity through the roof of your mouth and directly into your brain, no amount of head-holding, temple-massaging, hot packs, or acetaminophen is going to provide you any relief. It was the kind of pain that you can’t run from though you desperately wish it were possible.
(TANGENT: This is second only to MIND-NUMBING pain in which the pain is to the point where the body shuts off all sensory perception and you knock out. This happened when I was 12 and was hit by a car. You can read that story here.)
Fortunately for me, I have a wife that likes having me around and wants to keep me around for a bit longer. So she set up an emergency appointment for me with the dentist that afternoon.
A little background on my relationship with dentists… I’ve developed a bit of apprehension about visiting them. Why? Well, not because I’m the kind of person who’s afraid of going to the dentist’s office. But it’s more about how the dentist treats me. As a kid, if I had a cavity the dentist would say something along the lines of, “If you don’t lay off the sweets, all of your teeth will fall out.” Now I know that this approach works for some people, but for me it just felt eye-roll worthy. As I got older, the dentists I visited seemed to only get worse. Instead of a jovial “Lay off the sweets,” I’d get a more accusatory “You’re too young to have this going on in your mouth!” or something equally degrading. Their comments were the antithesis of encouragement. “Hey Doc, I’m fully aware of the crummy condition of my incisors. That’s why I’m here! Can we skip the personal insults and just cut to the part where you fix my teeth and take away the pain? Thanks.”
I was happy to find that my wife (you know, that crazy-beautiful lady that tolerates my imperfections) had let the dentist and office staff know of my previous experiences. Because of this, they were extremely gracious. The dentist who took care of me that day was not only compassionate, but genuinely concerned about my overall comfort level. God bless her. After an initial examination I was told that my wisdom tooth in the upper right was broken and infected. I was given antibiotics, pain medication, and scheduled for an extraction appointment in 3 days. The next few days brought my pain level down from BLINDING to NAGGING with the occasional BLURRY thrown in for good measure. In any case, I made it to today.
My appointment was at 7am, which allowed me to get up this morning a whole half hour later than usual. I pressed through the rain, into the car, down the street, and into the familiar strip mall that contains our dental office, along with a smoke shop, a juice bar, and a much-frequented 99 Cents Only Store. As before, the office staff received me with knowing kindness and before I knew it, I was in and out with a mouth full a gauze and one less wisdom tooth!
I’m still taking the antibiotics and the occasional pain pill. But the blinding pain is thankfully in my past.