Saturday, December 22, 2012

In Which I Almost Die From a Brain Infection (...only not really)

The top of my phobia list is without a doubt, bar none, totally and completely - the dentist.  Whether it's genetic, the fact that I come from a long line of Brits, or just luck of the draw, I have really crappy teeth.  I think I had my first root canal before I was 20.  The pain from an abscess is probably only comparable to child birth or having a limb cut off with a saw.  I heard somewhere that in times of war, dental work has been a form of torture (well, pulling teeth with pliers, and such but potay-to, potah-to I say...).  My second root canal was done partially without freezing (torture) because it was the end of the day, the freezing had worn off and the dentist did not want to wait for more freezing to take effect.  I sat in the chair with tears streaming down my face as the hygienist held my head down by the pressure points (so I could not move) and the dentist said, "This is a painful lesson to learn, but hopefully you've learned it..." 

Yes, I learned my lesson very well. 

Never, ever, ever go to the dentist. 

When I do have a dentist appointment, I work myself into such a tizzy I have to cancel because I am physically sick to my stomach from worry.  My third root canal I bailed on (only postponed, really, because I've learned the need for a root canal does not simply *go away* like a cold or food poisoning...) the morning of the attack on the twin towers. 

Generally, years and years go by before I can summon up the courage to go to the dentist.  And usually, it's only because I am in some sort of pain.  Logical people would say, "the more often you go, the less it will hurt..."  But I think we've established I'm not all that logical to begin with, and phobias don't often have much to do with logic anyways.  Appointments made for the dentist are usually only done with tons of pep talks from caring friends, and a bottle or two of wine - and that's just to get me to *make* the appointment...

About four years ago I found this awesome dentist.  He is handsome to look at, super nice, and has reaaaaally pretty teeth.  He specializes in *sedation dentistry* however, I've never needed to use it because he talks me through every single step of every single procedure.  I still avoid him like the plague, but it's a little less worrisome when I know Ativan is in the cupboard if we need it. 

Three years ago, I had a filling fall out.  I left it for a year.  Sadly, a year was too long.  He filled it saying he thought he had saved the nerve but we couldn't be sure.  He said if I ever woke up with a swollen face, to get to the hospital right away.  Otherwise, we'd wait and see.

I've been a ticking time bomb ever since.

Two weeks ago, I wake up to this bump in my gum right where that tooth is, so I do what anyone with a disabling fear of the dentist would do...I ignore it.  A few days later, and the bump gets a bit bigger...going right into Christmas...this is all I need.  Determined to just leave it, I google...

"Can you die from a tooth ache??"

...and in less than a second I have pages and pages of examples of people who have died from an infection in a tooth.  The most extreme cases - the infection spread from their eye tooth (the one tooth I'm having a problem with...) to their brain and they died of a Brain Infection.  Well, literally the next second, I was on the phone begging to get in to be seen.  The last thing I need is to leave my child motherless because of a tooth ache.

"Aggressive" is the word my dentist kept using to describe this bump in my gum above the tooth.  "Ah...this infection is aggressive."  "Can't we just do an open and drain?"  I ask (as this will now be my 5th root canal, I'm familiar with the lingo).  "No," he says. "It is too aggressive."

So instead I do two different antibiotics for a whole week - three times a day.  And book a root canal for January 17.  (I'm feeling ill at the thought already)

The meds are done.  The bump is still there.  My dentist is on vacation out of the country until January 15. 

And I'm left with the instructions, "If you wake up and your face is swollen and you have no movement of your facial muscles, you must get to the hospital right away.  It means the infection has spread to your nasal cavity and you've gone septic."


For someone who has irrational fears of dying from a totally obscure way, this is the last thing I need to hear.  I seriously check my temperature 5 times a day to see if I'm *burning up* from some infection that is ravaging my body.

The funny thing is...I have no pain.  And...while the swelling hasn't gone down, it's not getting worse...

...I have a sneaking suspicion it might be a canker sore.

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