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Excavations

Su Lum

I lose track of the number of injections, but my nose and tongue are numb and still, when he starts to cut, there are a few live nerves and out comes the syringe again – not a little flu shot needle but huge, made of metal and loaded like a shotgun with cartridges of anesthetic.When the excavation begins in earnest, I feel like the cartoon character Calvin, imagining that my mouth has turned into something the size of the Obermeyer demolition (“Suddenly the ground begins to shake! A cloud of dust appears on the horizon!”) with steam shovels and bulldozers scraping down to bedrock, jackhammers rattling my numb eyeballs and burr drills grinding. The noise is of hard hat intensity but coming from inner amplifiers. And this was just the pre-show, the warm-up.Well, I asked for it. Dr. Drazek usually knocks people out for this procedure (three implants in my lower jaw), but cheerfully agreed when I begged to do it live. I hate being put to sleep, and don’t want to miss anything, but early on I wonder if I’ll make it through the 2 1/2 hours.This isn’t a procedure, it’s Surgery. All of my body except my face, which has been painted with iodine, is draped in sterile wraps, and the doctor and his assistant are dressed in space suits, rubber gloves and caps, reassuring smiles hidden behind masks, he looking especially alienwith magnifying jeweler’s lenses attached to his glasses.Blood is everywhere. “It’s like a M*A*S*H episode,” I say, surprised that I can speak and even more surprised that they can understand it. “M*A*S*H, yes,” laughs the assistant, “and this time you’re IN it.” Now I know I’ll make it.Drilling through bone is fast. Dr. Drazek likens it to drilling through wood, making me wonder how solid these things are going to be. The actual operation – the planting of the posts, screwed in with a tiny electric screwdriver – takes a very short time and then it is all over except for the sewing.The sewing takes a half hour and I should have counted stitches (the dental version of sheep) to keep my mind off longing to be out of the chair, out of Grand Junction and back home in my own bed with an ice pack, a high-octane 25-gram protein drink and a Vicodin.Then it’s over, I get swabbed down, rinsed out, wiped off and undraped and totter to the waiting room where my friend Ruth is ready to take me home.On a comparative scale, I’d say it wasn’t so bad, not nearly as bad as having cavities filled in the ’40s when they gave nothing for pain and you just held onto the arms of the chair and tried to keep from screaming. Having babies was more fun.I don’t know if it was as bad as being on a ventilator for 10 days in 1999, because they kept me knocked out most of the time and gave me an amnesia drug to make me forget whatever was left, so I missed the whole thing. I still wish I could have kept some of that. Su Lum is black and blue and can’t believe she scheduled this surgery on the very weekend that the first Olathe corn was at the Farmer’s Market. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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