Tooth Saga — Week 3

When last we left each other, it was August 10 and I was waiting to hear if I’d be released from the hospital where I’d been incarcerated for 4 days receiving IV antibiotics for a dental infection-turned-cellulitis. I was, indeed, released that day.

Spent the next 4 days getting worse and experiencing the kind of pain that I last experienced 16 years ago while in labor, when I nearly broke the anesthesiologist’s arm until he got the epidural in. Only this time there was no epidural, just increasingly worthless opioids. Finally landed back in the hospital Tuesday with an abscessed jaw infection requiring surgical incision and drainage.

Can I just say how much fun the past 3 weeks have been? In 3 weeks, I’ve been on three antibiotics (oral and IV) two steroids (also oral and IV), multiple Vicodin prescriptions, dilaudid (thank god for IV dilaudid), morphine (didn’t even touch the pain), and handfuls of probiotics (got to keep that c.diff at bay). I’ve lost 7 pounds (not complaining) but I also lost all that great muscle definition from my hard work at the gym this summer.

I’ve lost more work time than I care to count, met and got to know a new presence in my life called “pain” that I will never again invite to visit , and feel like I’ve fallen into some kind of Kafkaesque uber-reality called the health care system.

The irony? I eat, live and breathe the healthcare system in my work. In fact, I should title this blog, “Why You Do Not Want a Medical Writer” in your hospital. I wrote about some of that in the previous post on this site, so I won’t go back into it all — with the exception of a couple of things that still need repeating.

Love, love, love the nurses and aides. They are smart, they are careful, they are communicative, they are honest, they are proactive.

Hate, hate, hate the food services. It’s outsourced and there is absolutely no excuse in this day and age of quality, healthy food for the food in an institution that prides itself on patient-centered care to be so bad. Everything is overly salty. The coffee is dishwater. The food is cold when delivered. The delivery people have room temperature IQs as evidenced when they bring you coffee with no sugar and tell me that I have to call down to get the sugar. Um, no. Remember me? I’m the one in the hospital bed with an oozing drain in her neck.

For those of us who can’t open our mouths wide enough to eat solid food, our only options are heavily salted soup (unless you remember to ask for low sodium) or a milkshake or yogurt. No protein smoothies. And despite the fact that most people in this hospital are or have recently been on antibiotics, there is no live culture yogurt on the menu. The person who delivers your meal can’t take the tray out, And it goes on and on.

Stop, stop, stop rapping on my door and then walking right in. Housekeeping, food service, aides. People who have no medical need to see me keep walking into my room as if it were their own living room. And when I tell you that no, I do not want you cleaning my room because I’m taking a nap, don’t then ask me if you can just empty the trash. Did you not hear the “no?” Oh, and it would be nice if you all introduced yourselves, as in, “Hi, I’m Andy from Housekeeping.”

But the most important lesson I’ve learned from all this (besides the fact that I will never go to the dentist again and am planning to write an article about the risks of dental infections) is to listen to my body. The doctors kept saying everything was fine when I told them the pain was worse. The oral surgeon told me I didn’t look sick enough for IV antibiotics even though all my reading told me that any swelling in the next during dental infection was an emergency situation (the next morning I was admitted after CT scan showed spreading infection). When I called the ENT crying with pain Monday and he saw me in his office, he told me to take more pain meds. When I called crying the next morning, thankfully, he ordered another CT and admitted me (duh!). By that point I was woing to the ER and begging for IV pain relief regardless.

I will never, ever again allow any medical professional to marginalize my symptoms or pain unless they can cite me evidence as to why the situation is not as dire as my gut says it is.

Bottom line: Our doctors and nurses need to listen to–and hear–us, if they want us to listen to and hear them.

More later. 


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