Robert Hampton

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30th August 2014

Jaw! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.
Posted by at 10.23pm | 2 responses | It's My Life

“Yeah, you need to go back to the hospital.”

I didn’t like the casual way the dentist said this. I also didn’t like that I had barely taken my coat off and plonked myself in his chair before he said it.

The story so far: I had a wisdom tooth removed a couple of weeks ago. Then it became infected. A week on from a feverish emergency dentist appointment, I had been lulled into thinking all was well and had even gone back to work on Wednesday. The next day, I was scheduled to see the same dentist, and assumed that he was going to give me the all clear.

Oh sure, I was still all swollen up, and there was still a certain stiffness in the jaw which left it unable to open wider than a centimetre. This meant a continued diet of soup and porridge. Well, it was either that or post slices of Tesco Value wafer-thin ham through the narrow gap.

I had hoped that this was all just a side effect of the surgery and it would clear up on its own, even if it was a little slower than usual. But when the dentist gave the bad news, deep down it didn’t come as much of a surprise.

I went straight home and phoned up the clinic where I originally had the operation done. After a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing on the phone (not helped by my not being able to remember my surgeon’s name) they said that they could maybe offer me an appointment next week sometime, and they would call me back.

Screw that.

So on Thursday afternoon I marched into the A&E department of Fazakerley Hospital. A super-duper new A&E is being built there at the moment, but I had to contend with the older, slightly run-down building. It felt slightly cramped (probably because of the amount of people waiting) and there was a Coca-Cola vending machine with a partially peeled off sticker by the coin slot, proudly declaring that it was “New 5p and 10p ready!”

I was sitting amongst people in wheelchairs, with broken ankles, and one woman who kept wincing and clutching her stomach in pain – I felt a bit guilty for troubling the system with what I thought was a minor ailment. Disappointingly there was no sign of the ultimate clichĂ© – a kid with a saucepan stuck on his head.

My Mum, ever-present moral support, had accompanied me. She had been telling me for days to get back to hospital, but to her credit, she kept the “I told you so” comments to a minimum. On the other hand, she did, at one moment, point at one of the other patients and said to me, in a voice that was just a little too loud, “I wonder what’s wrong with him?”

I was assessed quite quickly by the triage nurse, but there was then a long wait. This was understandable – it was busy and other people with more serious injuries had to take priority. I thought of that episode of Frasier where he has to go to the Emergency Room:

Frasier: I was just wondering, I filled out my paperwork about half an hour ago.

Receptionist: They’ll call you. We’re seeing people in order of importance.

Frasier: Oh really? Well, I do have my own radio show.

Receptionist: The importance of the injury!

I killed time by staring at the TV in the waiting room. Hairy Bikers’ Meals on Wheels gave way to Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is. We were up to round 3 of Pointless before I was finally called in.

The doctor (totally dishy, if my mouth had been working properly I don’t know what I’d have done) examined me. My jaw was so stiff he could barely fit his fingers in to examine the inside of my mouth (in fact, I’m sure I bit him at one point – sorry doc!).

He sent me down the corridor to have an X-ray. While waiting in the X-ray waiting room a series of geriatric patients where wheeled in and out by sympathetic porters. Again, I felt guilty for troubling the system when other people’s need was clearly far greater.

The X-ray procedure has become boringly routine for me. Seriously, I’ve had so many done recently I’m surprised I don’t glow in the dark.

Back to the other room and the doctor informed me, from looking at the X-ray, that a tiny piece of bone or tooth had remained behind after surgery and it was this that was causing the infection.

No question about it: it needed to be removed. Antibiotics would clear it up temporarily, but the source of the infection was still there. As soon as I stopped the antibiotics, the infection would come back. So, the consultant asked: did I want to be admitted that night and have further surgery the next day to remove the fragment?

This came as something of a shock. I naively thought that they would just stick a needle in and drain the pus, like a large-scale version of a zit being popped. When I went the dentist that morning, I told my colleagues at work that I would probably be back in an hour or so, as long as the bus turned up on time. Now I was looking at a minimum two-day stay.

I have never stayed in a hospital overnight. The prospect of doing so was terrifying. But I’d been labouring under this infection for the best part of a fortnight, and I was thoroughly fed up. I asked them to book me in.

A few minutes later, the cannula was in, ready for the first of many doses of Metronidazole.

I then had to wait around for a long time for a bed to become available. This did have one good side effect that my sister and her husband could very kindly fetch some essential overnight stuff for me; I hadn’t brought any stuff and was still dressed in my work clothes. Worse, my mobile phone battery was running dangerously low.

It was close to 11pm, about six hours after I had first arrived at A&E, that I was shown up to the ward. I was exhausted after a day of roller coaster emotions and flopped straight into bed. Two weeks after my first operation, I was going to have to do it all over again.

The next day, I was back on nil by mouth mode – no food or drink (not even water) allowed before the surgery. Just like last time, it was torture – especially when a snack trolley came around the ward loaded with tasty treats. I’d been told I was on the trauma list, so had to wait while other more urgent cases took priority. All I could do was sit and get hungrier and thirstier.

Mum and Dad showed up to visit just after 3pm, complete with a long tale of woe involving the number 17 bus not turning up for them. Their timing proved to be exquisite, as at 3.10pm someone showed up to take me down to the theatre.

I got put into one of the flattering surgical gowns that open at the back, although at least I managed to tie mine together, unlike the man in the bed opposite me who happily let his buttocks hang out for everyone to see.

I was led down to the exact same area where I had had my previous operation two weeks earlier. I sat there, watching Countdown on Channel 4+1, for quite some time. An orderly popped his head in and apologised for the wait. Apparently there was “a problem” with the person before me. These were not reassuring words.

Eventually I got taken through to the theatre. My experience two weeks ago was still fresh in the mind so I knew exactly what to expect. Sure enough, the oxygen mask went on, the anaesthetic started to flow and within seconds I was gone. The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room, with a very numb mouth, but otherwise fine.

When I got back to the ward and turned my phone, there was a voicemail waiting for me. It was the secretary from the clinic that I’d originally phoned. She was returning my call to offer me an appointment on 5th September. Yeah, thanks for that.

A bowl of Weetabix was produced which I wolfed down eagerly despite my tender mouth. Amazing how a simple bowl of cereal can make you so happy when you haven’t eaten anything for a whole day. Yet more antibiotics were pumped into me. I started to fill in the bumper book of Puzzler crosswords that Mum had left behind for me, but to tell the truth I was feeling too sluggish to do much of anything, and soon settled down to sleep.

This morning I was examined again and – oh, frabjous joy – I was told I could go home, but not before I was given a fearsome bag of medicines from the hospital pharmacy to take during the coming week.

The good news is I feel a whole lot better than I did three days ago. The last two and a bit weeks have been… difficult, shall we say? Fingers crossed that I’m finally out of the woods.

Again, all the staff at Fazakerley Hospital looked after me very well. It’s just a shame that I had to go back at all. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have gone straight back to the hospital and got them to look at it, rather than faffing around with dentists and such. Of course, at the time I didn’t realise how serious things were.

The other thing I’ve taken away from the whole experience is how wonderful my family is. Ever since this whole situation started, everyone has rallied round to help out – offering lifts, phoning up to check on me, the whole works. My poor mother has been in full-on babysitter mode, and has coped well with me being angry and irritable (more so than usual). That’s what families are for, of course, but I think I take them for granted a lot of the time. I need to take time to appreciate them more.

My sister-in-law came to pick me up from the hospital. On the drive home, she said that I would get a good blog post out of it. She was right.

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2 Responses
  1. Comment by Scott
    30th August 2014 at 11:09 pm

    The most traumatic part of that is you got to round 3 of Pointless but didn’t see how they did in the final.

  2. Comment by Alexander Walker
    31st August 2014 at 12:10 am

    I hope you’ve fully recovered. I’m glad to read that your family are so supportive of you.