August 19 marked my one-year anniversary in Peru. Instead of celebrating it with my fellow PCVs, however, I found myself on a plane to Panama City where I would be having my next surgery.
As I had discussed in my previous blog, medical evacuation, in my first surgery the doctor had to re-do my root canal (in which she extracted the entire root and tooth). The root canal had to be re-done because in the initial procedure, the dentist had punctured one of the roots, which later resulted in a pretty serious infection in the root of my tooth, and I was told if it wasn’t taken care of immediately, the infection could spread to my brain. Unfortunately the infection also caused some bone loss in my jaw, for which I would need a bone graft (transplant) to fill in the hole. Since the surgeries were each so delicate, the procedures needed t be spread out to allow for healing time in-between. I had recovered from the root canal and tooth extraction and before I knew it, it was time to return to Panama for the next procedure, the bone graft.
As soon as I stepped off the plane in Panama City, I felt my anxiety begin to grow. The previous procedure had been pretty painful and I could only imagine what the bone graft might be like…
A couple days after my arrival I had my first appointment for a consult and a cleaning. The doctor told me the last time that it was a good idea to do a cleaning before the graft was performed. Since I still had some time before the surgery I went into the appointment feeling relaxed and looking forward to having my teeth cleaned. It had been over a year since my last cleaning in the US so I was pretty excited about it.
I sat down in the dentist chair and began to make myself comfortable as the doctor came in to greet me. “OK are you ready to do this?” she asked me with a serious look on her face. “We’re going to be using human bone…” she continued. I didn’t hear the rest of what she was saying because I had been distracted by the wave of panic and fear that had swept over me. “But I thought this was just supposed to be a cleaning… they told me that is was only a cleaning…” I stuttered. “Well if we’re both here now, there’s really no reason to wait” she said. “Ohhhh” I sighed in disappointment, realizing I didn’t have much choice in the matter. So I sat back, took a deep breath, and tried to prepare myself for what was to come.
The doctor took out a small circular container filled with small white granules “This is the human bone which we will be using for the graft” she explained. I nodded, not really wanting to know any of the details, but at the same time wanting to know everything. She gave me a few injections of anesthesia with a long sharp needle in the roof of my mouth and gums and began the procedure.
I felt a lot of sensitivity at first, especially when she began cutting right in the middle empty socket where my tooth had been extracted, but the Novocain eventually kicked in and I didn’t feel everything as much.
About an hour later, the doctor had stitched me up and I was sent on my way. She told me not to exercise for a few days, and to stick to eating only cold, soft foods. It turned out not being much of a problem because I was experiencing so much pain in the days that followed that the last thing I wanted to do was eat anything or move.
All in all, the whole experience wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Although I was terrified going into it, it was over relatively quickly and I was once again thankful to the Peace Corps staff for their continued support.