Fun fact about me: I have wonky teeth.
I wore braces throughout most of high school, and then after getting them off, I had one tooth go so rogue that I had to put them back on for a year in college.
When I was about 15 years old, I went in to get my wisdom teeth removed. While I had four, the dentist decided it was best to only remove the bottom two, because they were drilling a hole in the roof of my mouth to pull one of my teeth down from somewhere I can only describe as oblivion. (That’s another story.)
At the time, I can imagine they thought they were saving me from total mouth trauma, but I kind of wish they would have just gone for it. If they had, maybe I wouldn’t have found myself back at the dentist, almost 15 years later, hearing that my top two wisdom teeth were coming in (sideways, I might add) and that I needed to get them removed as soon as possible.
Sitting in the chair before the surgery this past Tuesday, I was nervous, but trying my best to look calm. I clutched onto my sweatshirt, which I’d been required to take off so they could put a blood pressure monitor on one arm and an IV in the other. The nurse told me I could keep the sweatshirt on my lap, so that after I woke up I could slip it right back on.
“Okay,” I said, trying my best to sound nonchalant. She seemed convinced, that is until she put a heart rate monitor on my pointer finger and it alerted the entire room that my pulse was over 100. Still, I took some deep breaths and tried to smile.
WHAT IF I DIE IN THIS CHAIR? my darkest fears wondered.
“Yes, I had a good holiday,” I said aloud to the nurse.
The doctor then told me he was going to give me the medicine that would put me to sleep, and that I would probably feel lightheaded and a little groggy. I nodded, blinked a few times at the bright light above me, and then looked down at my watch, curious how close we were to the 1:30 p.m. start time, so I could see how long the surgery took to finish. My fingers fumbled with my watch a few times, but when I was finally able to read it, I saw the time said 2:20 p.m.
I also noticed I was now in a wheelchair.
And my sweatshirt was back on.
And my mom was there.
Oh, so…I guess we’re done?
Speaking to her the day after my appointment, my mom said I looked calm, peaceful even. She said I wasn’t pale, and aside from the swollen cheeks and mounds of gauze in my mouth, my coloring and overall demeanor suggested that I was doing remarkably well.
On the drive home, we stopped at McDonald’s to get me a vanilla shake (and a spoon) so I could put something in my stomach before I started taking my medication. Going through the drive thru, I widely praised my mother’s sense of direction for choosing a McDonald’s so close to the pharmacy. I also gave her a recap of what had happened, most of which surrounded the mystery of how my sweatshirt was put back on without my noticing.
“Also,” I said, disappointed and full of sass, “I can’t believe the nurse didn’t go over the post-op instructions with me.” Because even high on laughing gas and pain medication, my priorities were rules.
“She did,” my mom said, “I think you were just distracted and you didn’t hear her.”
When we pulled into the parking lot at the pharmacy, I was holding my vanilla shake.
“I’ll be right back,” my mom said, and then I nodded, watched her walk inside, and then sat there, staring forward for about 10 minutes.
Now, I don’t remember seeing anyone else in that parking lot, but I can tell you that if someone saw me, sitting stiffly and staring unflinchingly, all while holding a vanilla shake in her left hand like a prisoner, I can imagine they probably kept walking, quickly.
While sitting there, I texted my sister: “I am out and alive and everything is moving in slow motion. Also I have a vanilla shake.”
A summary in its purest form.
Shortly after, I arrived home, where my sister was waiting with ice packs, water, and Top Ramen. After a few hours, I asked if I looked swollen.
“Only a little,” she said, maybe truthfully, maybe kindly, but then she added, “When you first got home you were very swollen.” Which only brought new life to my vanilla clad serial killer persona in the pharmacy parking lot.
As of now, I am still a little swollen, and still eat a little bit like the squirrel I appear to be, but I am on the mend. I am spending my days mostly on the couch, watching murder documentaries and a series on YouTube where celebrities get interviewed while eating hot wings, and I spend my nights dreaming about crunchy foods and the ability to open my mouth past the halfway point. By this time next week, I imagine I will be back to nearly tip top shape, though I can’t say if I’ll ever figure out who put my sweatshirt back on.