By Rod Moser, PA, PhD
A few minutes ago, thinking that something was between my teeth, I was startled to find that I had broken a molar! Half of it was gone; swallowed most likely. Since I hadn’t eaten anything today and didn’t notice it when I brushed my teething this morning, I have no idea what happened.
I called my dentist, but there were no appointments available until next week. What is going on? Am I falling apart one piece at a time? At some point, we will all die, but perhaps my demise is going to be more of a gradual disintegration. The human body does wear out. I know, because I have been fixing broken people for about four decades now, but I can’t say that I have been prepared to have it happen to me or my contemporaries.
My personal degradation seemed to start a few years ago with a bout of kidney stones, followed a few years later with another bout of kidney stones. These were not your typical, pass-on-their-own kind of stones either. These were the ones that had to be pulverized by lithotripsy or retrieved through surgery. Then came the rotator cuff tears, and I do mean tears with an “s”. So far, I have had two surgical procedures, including one with a creepy cadaver part inserted, and now I am facing yet another procedure for…yes, another tear. I am not a sedentary person, but I have been careful with this bum shoulder and have not abused it. Yet, new tears continue to happen. If I don’t get this third procedure, I am looking at total shoulder replacement. While hiking at a higher altitude on vacation last year, I blew out a lung. And, medical researchers say that walking is good for you. Right.
When older adults get together, conversations eventually lead to a litany of human afflictions. Of our close friends, I counted at least a half-dozen different cancers, orthopedic surgeries (ankles, feet, and my shoulder, of course), arthritis, high-blood pressure, vascular disorders, and two heart attacks. At least we have topics in common. I refer to these dinner table conversations as “organ recitals”.
My older brother called me on Face Time. Earlier this week, he sent me the new iPad Mini as a gift. It was engraved as the “World’s Best Brother”. I had planned on getting a new one, but never got around to it. I have an older, first-generation, non-camera, iPad that I use primarily to play Scrabble now, but my techie brother could not wait until I got around to updating to a new one. Less than an hour after I opened the box, the new iPad rang. My brother’s face appeared on the screen. He was wearing an eye patch. This morning, he had the first of two cataract surgeries. After a few obligatory pirate jokes, we had a nice video conversation; the first of many face-to-face ones, I am sure.
I am not sure where this video technology is going when it comes to medicine. Already, people are posting some darn good, medical quality photos on WebMD’s Ear, Nose, and Throat Community Board, asking me to diagnose a rash or some “weird thing” in their throat. Last night at work, a new parent insisted on showing me a photo for her baby’s poop for my professional comment. I guess this is better than the usual alternative by whipping out the actual diaper.
The house phone rang. It was my dentist. If I could get to their office quickly, they could see me now. There was a sudden cancellation and the spot was mine if I wanted it. Still in my day-off, work clothes, I jumped in the car (with my new iPad Mini in case there are not good magazines in the waiting room), and drove the 45 minutes to my dentist. As it often happens with medical and dental providers, finding a good one is so important, that you keep them even if you move away.
For the next two hours, the dentist meticulously prepared my broken molar for a new crown. I wasn’t really mentally prepared for this today, but like any other of life’s little emergencies, you just deal with it. Two hours later, after discussing the current flu epidemic, concussions, and other subjects of mutual interest, I left with a numb lip, tongue, and of course, a temporary crown. Incidentally, I see the dentist’s children in my practice.
Maybe I am a bit more sensitive to this falling apart stuff because I am a medical provider. I definitely HATE being a patient. I hate sitting in the waiting room, waiting (obviously) for some young person to open the door and shout out “Rodney?” Although that is my name, it seems odd to hear it. I would have preferred “Rod” or the very least, Mr. Moser, but when you are patient, all of us in the waiting room are more-or-less equal in the eyes of the staff. I never expect any special services because I am in the “biz”, but simple respect in courtesy is always important.
I am home now. My broken molar feels fine. I may be gradually falling apart, but I am sure pleased that there are professionals out there to fix the broken parts.