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Dentist gone wrong and I put ya on blast

8 Mar

I rarely use my writing as a way to put assholes on blast, at least once a year someone will call me and tell me about some injustice generally racial that has happened in our fair state and ask me to write about it for my regular writing gig at the Phoenix. I rarely do because stories have to have wide appeal and not be one sided but today I am going to break with my own way of doing things to put someone on full blast.

If you follow me on Twitter you may know that yesterday I had a dental appointment, if you are a regular reader, you can read this post to refresh your memory but long story short, there was a root tip left from my wisdom tooth that was pulled years ago that had started to abscess. If you know anything about abscesses they are not something to play with. Which is why when the general dentist I went told me it needed to be pulled and that he had to refer me to an oral surgeon, I didn’t argue or try to shop around. There is also the pesky fact that since I lack dental insurance and need to pay for all this out of my own pocket without benefit of insurance I really was not in a position to go and get second and third opinions. That’s basically $100-200 a pop just to be told you need to have the tooth removed. Now I did ask the general dentist if the guy he was referring me to was good, he assured me that he was.

I won’t lie I was hesitant, since I don’t exactly have a long term relationship with this general dentist and in the two times I have been to his office, each time I was charged more than the quoted price. Guess I get the uninsured special which is more than what insured patients get.

Look, I will be the first to tell you I have a complex relationship with dentists, I was well into my teens the first time I ever went to a dentist and that first visit was at a free clinic that resembled a torture chamber. This free clinic was also the place that told me at 16-17 I had hepatitis, the kind you get from drug use and or sex….they were wrong but not before they loaded me up on a shit load of drugs. Drugs that at one point had me damn near hallucinating.

I learned early on in life that when it comes to healthcare in this country you get what you pay for. By the time I was on my own with good dental insurance, my teeth were a mess. Thankfully I started going to this dentist who is what I lovingly call a dental God. My old dentist, who is also an oral surgeon, he did crazy amounts of work on my teeth and got me over my dental phobia, in fact he was so good that when I knew we were moving to Maine I was truly sad about losing him as my dentist. He worked through my phobia issues treating me as a human, if I said I was in pain, he stopped and addressed the issue never belittling me or making me feel crazy. Yes, he was expensive but it was money well spent.

Well yesterday’s experience was hellish; the oral surgeon I went to was a chap by the name of Mark Britten. Prior to the appointment I tried getting additional information but despite the fact this is 2011 this chap has no website, even by Maine standards that’s a tad strange. Instead that lack of website was a sign of things to come. I was totally calm until I arrived at the office and was taken to the room….this room looked like it had not been upgraded since the late 1970’s. Nothing in there said oral surgeon in 2011, when Dr. Britten came in, he looked like the guy in a horror movie ready to pull your teeth with pliers and a blow torch. I wish I could say I was kidding. I started by explaining that I am an anxious patient and if that was okay with him, he told me “I will give you Novocain and then you will hear scraping and feel pressure” I admit part of me wanted to get up but knowing that this fragment was causing an infection I felt like as a grown up I needed to make a wise decision and get it out after all how bad could this be?

Sometimes the first thought you have is actually the best, I should have left at that point before he started anything. Well I get the Novocain shot, and 7 minutes later he starts working and I am feeling a lot more than pressure I am feeling naked pain, agonizing pain, feeling like someone is in my mouth with pliers yanking. I cry out and he stops, I explain and he says you can’t be feeling pain its just pressure. Mind you I have given birth two times, once without benefit of drugs I know pain, this was pain on that level but in my mouth. Dr. Britten proceeds to tell me that he pulls 20-30 teeth a day and if he hadn’t stopped we would be done…..is that supposed to make me feel good? I won’t go through every detail but will say by the point he offered to just stop my guns were already open and bloody. I was in tears, I started having flashbacks to a date I had many years ago that went wrong where I was almost sexually assaulted. I felt my body and mind breaking apart in that chair…I prayed, I did deep breaths and I finally sent a text message to my husband who came to the office and demanded to be brought into my room. (The hubster was less than a mile away hanging out with kidlet at the library hence his speedy arrival)

By the time the Spousal Unit arrived it was clear that Dr. Britten had wished he had never laid eyes on my Black ass, but the Spousal Unit who in real life is a medical writer/editor spoke quietly to the dentist and explained that he needed to take me serious and some white guy medical babble that I swear had an impact. (the fact that Britten took my husband’s words seriously could be a post all its own…got privilege?) Next thing I knew Britten was back in my mouth this time far gentler and actually got the tooth out without the extreme pain of earlier and nope he had not given me another dose of Novocain. It took him longer than his usual but I can’t help thinking that had he started off being gentle after I explained how I am this situation would not have escalated.

I am still processing this whole experience but am already planning on contacting the folks who license this man as well as lodging a complaint with the local dental society. I also have no intention of going back to the dentist who referred me to this jackass. If that is their idea of good, I would hate to see what constitutes bad but sending me to a guy whose personality was lacking with not one iota of patience and antiquated equipment is not my idea of a good surgeon.

This whole dentist experience has me seriously thinking either I need to plan a week long vacation back to Chicago to see my old dentist for the other $2000 worth of work I need or maybe I need to go to Mexico as many Americans are now doing for dental care. Maine is a state that has a shortage of dentists, it’s not so bad where I am but the situation is grave in more rural parts of the state. It’s not uncommon to see people with teeth in bad shape with clearly rotting teeth, at least not for me though this may be a side effect of the work I do. Granted I worked with a similar population in Chicago and rarely saw teeth in such bad shapes. I do think the side effect of having a lack of dentists is that the ones who are here have almost a God complex at least the ones I have encountered and it’s really not cute. At the end of the day I have the right to be treated with dignity and compassion. I won’t let this stop me from taking care of my teeth but I will be a lot more discerning about who works on my mouth and trust my instincts.

When the dentist finished he just walked out the room and didn’t speak to me nor did he come back instead having the assistant give me the follow up instructions.

Teeth are optional in the USA

22 Feb

Warning I am in a pissy mood…so if you aren’t in a pissy mood, feel free to catch me some other day. I woke up Sunday morning, still reeling from the great relocate Dad to Maine project that ended abruptly and without resolution. After all my Dad leaving while it’s nice in the short run to have my house back still doesn’t solve any of the problems that we/me was hoping to solve. While lying in my bed letting the thoughts run through my mind, I realized that my mouth didn’t quite feel right, not quite pain but definitely uncomfortable. So I ran to the bathroom and grabbed a mirror and flashlight to look in my mouth and sure enough noticed that my back gums seemed inflamed. Initially I didn’t worry too much but by Monday morning, it was clear whatever the issue was, needed the care of a dentist.

Uh-oh…like millions of Americans I don’t have dental insurance. Shit, I was only just at the dentist in November and while my visit did reveal a few things that needed to be done, the truth is I simply didn’t have all the money at once to pay and explained that I would need to do the work one procedure at a time spread out over time. The office staff and dentist said they understood but the vibe I got was that to be honest they didn’t get it. Oh, the very helpful office lady told me I could apply for credit via Care Credit to finance my dental work. Yeah that was real helpful. Considering that we are still digging out from the 18 months of unemployment I had back in 07-08 and the Spousal Unit’s decreased client load, our credit has more holes that a hunk of Swiss Cheese and I already knew that Care Credit wasn’t an option because they turned me down a few days before I went in for my exam. I had sorta sensed I was going to need a bit of work and was trying to be proactive but I didn’t share this with the office manager. Instead I smiled sweetly and said, I will be in touch.

The treatment plan has been sitting on my desk in the inbox since November and I have been trying to work the various procedures into our budget…eh, it’s been a mixed bag. Oh I only need a few fillings which alone aren’t too bad but I also need a new crown which with a whopping price tag of $1034 simply is not going to happen until after houses taxes and insurance are paid in a few weeks and the tax man gets his money on April 15. I was pretty okay with waiting until this new issue came up.

Well yesterday after waking up in great discomfort…who am I kidding, shit I barely slept. I realized fuck let me call the dentist. Turns out the dental office was closed for President’s Day so I left a message and after an hour decided to call their emergency number. The on call dentist called me back and while gracious enough to call in a prescription for antibiotics was adamant that I needed to come in this week. No, shit Sherlock! By the way what is it with these people speaking to folks like you are all of two years old?

Nope, the real fun started this morning when the office staff called me back to schedule that appointment and I brought up the matter of what was this little visit going to cost. I guess they aren’t used to folks asking that question but this is already the office that charged me more than I was quoted earlier for a visit and didn’t include the cleaning I was told would be included. So I will admit I am already on the fence about them, but since this is all coming out of pocket the idea of starting with yet another dentist and paying yet another couple hundred for an initial visit doesn’t make sense to my wallet.

While on the phone the office gal stressed that depending on what the good dentist finds when I go in later today they will have to get started today. I calmly explained that while I understood, I was concerned with matters of paying for this emergency work…I could hear the blank face look through the phone. I do have a few hundred that I can use today but the truth is if the good doc tells me whatever work he needs to do exceeds my ability to pay, either we need to look for a cheaper option (extraction) or I will have to delay this a week or so until I have some more money. As I nicely told the lady I can’t manufacture money…I suspect there is a notation in my file now that reads bitchy patient.

However this whole situation got me to thinking about the millions of folks that have dental issues who really lack the ability to pay at any point. While I don’t have a great deal of funds, I know I can move some stuff around and more importantly once I get a few things off my financial plate, it will free up some cash but some people are in situations where there is never enough money to do that…ever.  Based off some of my Google searching that seems to be a lot of people. I was on one site where people were looking for home made remedies for dealing with dental abscesses. Yikes! One of my former staff folks had really bad teeth, broken teeth, missing teeth and at one point an abscess but in the two years he worked for me he never went to a dentist. Why? Because he couldn’t afford it. I remember when the abscess got bad he went to the ER for treatment. I wish I could say he was an isolated case but in my line of work I see plenty of people who are in this shape, even in my center I have some teens that have bad dental issues.

People who don’t know better often say well can’t folks go to a sliding scale clinic? Good luck with that one. I know in my state, it takes months to get an appointment and frankly these appointments are never conducive to folks who work. Ask me how I know? Yep, I tried that last summer before breaking down and saying fuck it, I’ll just have to deal with full dental prices. In many states adults on Medicaid are not covered for dental care unless it’s a major medical emergency. So by the time you have teeth rotting out of your head and you have multiple abscesses then you can see a dentist and at that point you are saying bye bye teeth. Its extraction for you! You didn’t need those teeth, eat mashed potatoes and oatmeal.

So is it better for kids? Depends. Due to low reimbursement rates many dentists just pass on accepting Medicaid patients even with the tykes or the wait is so long…well you get the picture. The not so funny thing is the fact that good oral health is needed for overall health yet we live in a nation that does not make that connection as more and more employers simply don’t offer dental insurance. For many families struggling to survive, teeth and dental health are seen as expendable in the family budget and who the hell can blame them. If dental cleanings and exams average $135 (what we pay for my kid) to $200 (what I pay) and you have 2-3 kids plus the adults, that’s a lot of extra cheddar. That says nothing for if cavities are discovered or heaven forbid more work is needed. To the few Americans that are more or less still financially solvent that may not be a big deal but to many it is, if the choice is the mortgage or dental work…most folks will take the mortgage. Can’t live in them teeth.

Yet the issues with dental care in this country and make no mistake it is an issue, after all remember this case. Kid in the US of A died due to a lack of access to dental care. The issues with access to dental care are simply part of the other things that are broken in our system. We the people at some point have gotten confused; we have all started buying into a dream that is just that…a fucking dream. Instead of demanding that we all have access to good schools, good healthcare, etc we instead see it as moral issue and spin it as those without are simply lazy bastards. We see the folks who will still take a stand as leeches on the system, maybe what we need to do is examine ourselves after all in these turbulent times, our fate can change with the wind. As for me, fingers crossed the dental issue is minor or else I might have to put on my Spanx and look for some side work if ya catch my drift.

Life without Weight Watchers

13 Jan

I figured I would write a brief post on how life is going since I officially said good bye to Weight Watchers. If you are a regular reader of my blog you may recall I did a post not too long ago where I mentioned that despite being a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers I was thinking of calling it quits. I read Geneen Roth’s Women, Food, and God and it truly resonated with me. Despite having been with Weight Watchers for years frankly I have often felt their program brought out tendencies in me that are just not good. I am almost 40 and frankly I don’t want to live my life always writing down or inputting what I eat on any given day, I am tired of counting points. The changes to Weight Watcher’s program recently were the initial kick in the ass I needed and after reading Roth’s book I really felt much stronger. I also figured worse case I can always go back to Weight Watchers if I fall flat on my ass.

So I made in through the holiday season with no weight gain. I admit I had hoped for a bit of a loss but knowing that I have not been moving nearly as much as I could, that was probably too much to hope for. However making it through a month long period where my holiday baking included Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cake, Pecan Pies and Cinnamon rolls, let’s face it to gain no weight is a good thing.

It means I am still roughly 13 pounds or so above my “goal” weight yet I am starting to think this place may be the weight my body likes to live at. See, when I first started gaining weight years ago, this weight was eventually where I came to rest for year. It was my pregnancy and  postpartum period that took my body to a place that was truly unhealthy. I knew it was unhealthy when walking became difficult for me and yeah my vain side didn’t exactly like the way my face started to resemble a chipmunk. This weight is also the same place where on Weight Watchers I spent about 6 months after dropping 20+ lbs but still had more to go until I could reach my goal. When I was actively on Weight Watchers striving to get to goal, I basically started living off fruits and veggies primarily to get the numbers on the scale to move downward. I share this to say that I do think for some of us our bodies have a place they are comfortable at.

Right now my goal is simply to start moving more, I strive daily to put a decent share of fruits and veggies in my body and of course the water. But I enjoy food and I want to have a healthy relationship with it and I see more movement which in general increases my mental well being as the key. Not a weekly meeting and not what was almost obsessive behavior over what I was eating. Interestingly this past month during my menstrual cycle, a time where generally I give into whatever cravings I have, I had very few and didn’t see the normal 2-3 lbs period gain that I have had for years.  Now that I am no longer holding myself back, it seems there is no reason to play the food games with myself…if I want  Cheetos, I will have some. No reason needed.

So life is going good without Weight Watchers!

The best thing

11 May

Excuse the bouts of silence here on the blog, it seems I have pushed myself too much post surgery and my body has pushed back. The result being I have another six weeks to take it easy, damn, there it is again. Take it easy. In a world that goes 24/7 and warp speed, taking it easy is one of those cliché sounding things. Its easier said than done. Yet as I have learned, we live our lives bitching and kvetching about shit, in many cases absolute bullshit. How many times do we focus on what we don’t have rather than paying attention to what we do have?

I know I have been guilty of that more times than I care to reveal. Up until this surgery, sadly there are folks I connect with yet I finish being in their presence and feel like I am less of a person. Why? I don’t have a house as nice as theirs, don’t earn as much money, etc. You might be laughing but I suspect many of us are like this; caught up in the what we don’t have, what we want, and just ignoring that many of us have the best item anyone could hope to have. Guess what? When you are in good health, you are truly rich. Prior to this surgery I have never known true sickness, never truly been in a place where I cannot take care of myself, can’t just get up and go for a walk. Pain, so bad that all you can do is cry.

No, as I slowly make the trek back to full health, I am determined to stay focused on the fact that when you have good health, you have a fullness of life. Sadly most of us don’t recognize that fullness until it is gone. Good health is far better than riches, there are no substitutes for good health. A healthy poor person may not like eating beans and cornbread but at the end of the day it does the same thing as a gourmet $500 meal. No, it may not excite the senses in the same way but beans will fill you up.

So I say to you if you are in good health, never been unhealthy, stop and take a minute to reflect on what a marvelous thing that is. Cherish it.

PSA to all the ladies

15 Sep

Its been a busy past few days as we settle into our new routine with girl child not attending daycare, and today it got even busier which brings me to the point of my post today. Since late last week, I had been having some discomfort in my left shoulder, chest and side. Initially I figured it was one of my infamous panic attacks, as someone who has suffered from panic attacks since the age of 19, I am pretty good at knowing when I am in the panic zone. Over the years I have started using meditation, deep breathing and Bach Flower Remedies to stave off an attack.

Well over the weekend, I was doing everything in my arsenal including breathing into a paper bag and the discomfort I was feeling, was just not going away. Last night, things got worse when my left arm started tingling as well. I shrugged it off and went to bed but when I woke up not feeling much better, it dawned on me that maybe this was not a panic attack. A call to my health care provider ended with a command to get thee to the emergency room.

So I took girl child to her first ballet class (made a promise and didn’t want to let her down) and then had the Spousal Unit take me to the local emergency room. It seems when you walk in and state you are having chest discomfort, you spend little time waiting. So, I was hooked up to the monitors, given an EKG, a chest x-ray and after the physician on-call examined me, he determined that I was having neither a heart attack or a panic attack but some musculoskeletal distress, and felt that I most likely had a pulled muscle. Of course picking up the girl child and carrying her which I do on that side that was causing me pain was most likely the culprit. I most likely will follow up with either a osteopath who does manipulation or a chiropractor, as well as no longer picking up girl child unless it’s an emergency.

So all is well. I admit I was embarrassed but both the doctor and nurse told me I did the right thing. See, heart attack and heart disease in women does not present with the same symptoms we assume to be a heart attack. In fact women generally get mild(often intermittent) pain compared to men, anxiety or even indigestion. Other symptoms include sweating, lightheartedness, fatigue, even an impending sense of doom. For most women it’s not the dramatic crushing pain and breathlessness we associate with having a heart attack. In fact if you look at the symptoms I listed or do your own research you will see its easy to see how women could easily mistake a heart attack for just being tired, having a panic attack or any of the other things that so many of us deal with occasionally.

So just a PSA to say if you do ever find yourselves thinking you might be having an issue with your heart its better to be safe than sorry, get thee to the ER. Hopefully this week, I will get back with another post but I admit this is the worse week to be starting our new schedule since I have a conference to attend and a speaking engagement so I suspect I may be away from the computer for a bit.

Have a good week!