Saturday, July 19, 2008

Impacted Wisdom - II

It all started with a poky sensation in the right lower corner of the inside of my mouth. It came in spurts initially trying desperately to grab my attention, and when I refused, it decidedly took the upperhand and became a constant nagging pain in my neck (ear and mouth).

A sudden change of travel plans forced me to consider a visit to the dentist - something I shuddered at for the last time I went there for one complaint, I ended up with 3 painful root-canal treatments. Actually this incident was the preamble to the final showdown. Apparently there are three nerve roots for each tooth which need to be anaesthesized during a root canal treatment. But me being me, I apparently had 5 nerve roots in one tooth, which my veteran dentist could not locate. So I had to bear pains throughout the procedure while she shoved, dug, poked and pulled.

So after the initial shock of seeing me back in her clinic after many years (read - 2 years), Dr. Dentist peered into the hollowness of my mouth, did her customary hmms, shook her head and said "your wisdom teeth, all four of them, have got impacted into the bone. They're half out and don't have any place to maneuver and they're beginning to show signs of decay. (saving grace - she said my brush wouldn't reach the wisdom teeth and that's why there were beginning to decay). Let's remove them. Come tomorrow and I'll remove all four!"

Me: "all four? At the same time?" (Now, I am brave even in the face of Goliath, but removing four teeth at the same time?)

DD: "Of course. It's a small procedure. Each one will take just a couple of minutes. Plus, your school friend SA who is apprenticing with me also got hers removed last week. And she did the procedure on another patient this morning".

Me: "Oh SA, it will be so good to see her. (Then on second thoughts), But I hope you'll be doing the procedure on me".

DD: "Of course. Here take this prescription for antibiotics and gargles and I'll see you tomorrow".


SA: Gives me a bear hug. "So great to see you. blah blah blah. ... she got married.... blah blah blah.... im getting married... blah blah blah... when're u getting married?"

The nurse hands me the consent form. I take a cursory glance and then as an afterthought I look at it horrified as it warns me about severe swelling, other teeth getting dislodged, pain throughout and after the procedure, failure of the procedure and worse a temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) dislocation. Ouch! I don't why and DD wonders why I asked her, "what is the worst complication of this procedure that you've come across?". Portent intuition?

DD: "Relax, it's a routine thing"

So I slip into the large chair, swivel my feet up, gargle, laugh away nervously, and look up to see capped-masked-gowned-gloved DD and SA with syringe-needles and retractors and other scary looking things in their hands.

DD starts poking me with the needle to numb me. And my tissues swell. She takes the scalpel, I reflexly close my eyes and before I know it, she has taken a plier-like instrument and drawn out my first decadent wisdom tooth.

DD: "See. I told you so. But it's a large tooth"

Feeling better and more confident now, I let her take a sharp jab at both corners of my hard palate and lo behold, 2 more wayward teeth were out!

And then the battle began. What seemed as an innocuous tooth removal resulted in a 2 hour ordeal with naked vision, x-ray vision, imagined vision about the orientation, angulation and curvature of my 'large' wisdom tooth. Needless to say, it was disoriented compared to the normal way and so accessing the root was getting difficult. Moreover, each tooth has two roots so that they could be sectioned through the crown of the tooth and each half removed easily - but not mine! My wise tooth had decidedly fused the two roots into one and so it couldn't be extracted by divisive methods.

The drill of the bone grated my nerves, the flush of the suction tickling me but I kept my cool. And then suddenly,

DD: "H, I think I've drilled too close to the inferior alveolar neurovascular canal. I can't go further. Can you come with me to my mentor's place in Matunga. He's an expert in these cases and it would be over in a jiffy".

And in what seemed like after-a-whirlwind, an hour's drive later, my mom, DD and I were sitting Senior DD's clinic and a couple of minutes later, I was "lying on the operating table" (yes - like in the operating theater) and surrendered to the whims and expertise of SDD and DD. Another 10 mins later I was sitting in front of SDD chatting about my Johns Hopkins plans and we struck a deal that I'd pay him by being the conveyor of a gift to one of of his friends at JHH in lieu of Rs. 6000! Nice deal!

So 4 days later, I am sitting with my laptop in hand recounting my tale with a swollen face, toothache, bitten lips, cheilotic torn angles of the mouth hoping fervently that this be an end to my toothy saga - for life.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Unwise wisdom

Too much of anything is bad. I guess that's what happens when one is too wise for one's own good. Wisdom gets concentrated, sedimented and nearly fossilized into the maxillary and mandibular bones (the upper and lower jaws for the layman) and then begins the great war!

I am sure with our evolutionary history, as homo erectus and homo sapiens, we needed 32 teeth to bite into flesh and leaves. But if you trace our monkeyed-heritage, you'll notice a distinct change in the size and the shape of our homo sapiens sapiens faces. Our faces have become daintier, foreheads have flattened, shapely eyes, sharper noses, less-pouting lips, smaller ears and finally a smaller jaw.

So when all our facial features have shown developmental regression, isn't it a natural progression that nature would start to modify our teeth accordingly? My theory is that 32 human teeth are actually inhuman - considering that the four wisdom teeth hidden away in the recesses of the mouth have for all purposes become vestigial. I mean we don't use them to chew or bite and our brushes don't even reach that far into the cave. They don't even contribute to aesthetics and cosmetics and finally more than half the world needs to get them out.

And in propounding this hypothesis, I am ably supported by my exhausted dentist who is minting money while pulleying and pulling out stubborn wisdom teeth and gracefully admits that "God made man and wisdom teeth, man improvised and made dentists and dentists make merry with wisdom teeth".

My teeth and I have been enigmatic nemeses. We reside in the same body, eat together, chew on thoughts, spruce up each other, even go to bed together. But, where I grew up readily and steadily and entered adolescence and adulthood with relative ease, my teeth were a bit redundant. So when my friends and peers would show up cheerfully with missing-teeth-smiles, I would rush to the bathroom and try to pull and push and shake and coerce my teeth to grow up and get uprooted.

Stubborn as they were, they would shake from their slumber, but refuse to get out of bed. So each time one of my milk teeth showed signs of falling, I'd get excited and wonder what to wish from the tooth fairy. So you can just imagine my annoyance at the regular visits to the dentist to get each and every obstinate milk tooth pulled out. Each and every time! Ice creams galore but no tooth fairy! My mom began to rue the fact that I was a milk-magnet as a baby. Anyway, that was a long time ago or so it seemed. For the second part of my epic struggle with my teeth was yet to begin.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Genetic Habits

Clumsiness and absent-mindedness, as I have earlier mentioned, are traits I have inherited from the maternal side of my family. I have 3 cousins and a grandparent and maybe an aunt who have preceded me as the yellow peas in this Mendelian family tree.

I also have this habit of rubbing my fingers against each other (much like Abhishek Bachhan in Sarkar) and an even older habit of rubbing my nose when I am in deep contemplation. The nose habit - is more like trying to remove the grease from my oily skin.... My friend Amol was the first to notice this peculiar habit and make me aware of it. Since then, whenever he catches me doing that, I know the sidey nickname of 'doggy' will not be far behind.

Curiously, I discovered that this habit is also hereditary and comes my maternal side again. This time from my grandma's family. She was here with us during the hot summer months to escape the cruel sweltering heat of Madras (Chennai I know is politically correct - but correctness be damned!).

So it one of those lazy May afternoons spent studying and figuring out how metabolic acidosis drives hyperkalemia as if I were trying to unearth one of the great mysteries of the world. Like I said, my fingers were subconsciously drawn to my nose (maybe I smelt a clue). I don't know for how long it was, but when I looked up, my patti was staring at me, wide-eyed with her hand on her cheek and head tilted in admiration.

Turns out that I reminded her of her brother (whom we affectionately call BM) and her father, my great-grandfather. Apparently, her father would sit in the same way when he was neck deep in work and in deep concentration. Tears welled in her eyes as I brought back memories of her beloved dad, leaving me a lil awkward.

Life works mysteriously. We think that death takes away our loved ones and all their reminders away. But that's not true. A part of our dead lives on with us and lives on with our children and theirs too. Mendel's laws are unshakeable. They work - All the time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Back to the Grind

I took a nice vacation away from my fat books. I just realized that I haven't had a real vacation in 9 years! Even the holidays between the after-final-year-exams and before-start-of-internship were ruined by incessant worry over whether I would manage to scrape through the Surgery exam.

I've been enjoying this holiday for nearly 4 months now - free of worry and illness. I had planned to take the Step 2 CK of the USMLE this July-August, but I think my body simply revolted against this idea. Now I am actually beginning to admit to myself that maybe, maybe my body and mind craved for this break. I always compare my life in the last 9 years to an F1 racing car that was running at top speed beyond the control of any gear or speed break - it was destined to crash against a wall the moment I slumped. And so it did.

In the beginning, it was sheer torture. I thought I was being penalized for some unknown reason. The only holiday I was used to was the weekend Sunday (not even Saturday) and that was fruitfully spent in sleeping. But how much could I sleep? My cousin kept teasing me about how I had forgotten how to enjoy a holiday. And I think she was right. Somewhere down the line, I was in such a hurry, that I had forgotten to enjoy life. I had forgotten how to enjoy life poetically - to stop in my track and enjoy the beauty around me!

So, I am glad I took this break. I am feeling so rejuvenated now. The fact that I am able to come with something to write almost everyday is evidence of my rest and relaxation. Fresh, renewed vigor, re-energized, that's me now.

I know I am ready to face my own world again. A world that is punctuated with tests and exams at every opportunity. But that's the way I like it - I am so used to it now, I find it difficult to sit in a place without having a hundred to-d0 tasks running in the back of my mind. I am all set now. To re-enter the world I left a few months ago. To get back to the grind.

But what will be different this time - I will recognize when I need to take a break and chill out. And more importantly, I will actually take the time to do just that - do nothing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Birthday bumps

It's nearly the same everytime - atleast has been for the last twenty years.

So this is how it goes - I try my best to stay away till the midnight bell strikes and brings in the 1st of July. I really try and sometimes have been successful at staying awake to receive the first of the calls at 11:45 pm Jun 30th so that this friend can continue talking to me for the next 16 minutes, promptly wish me at 12 am and then hang up rather abruptly at 12:01!

The morning of the b'day, my parents enter my room singing the b'day song just as the colors of the dawn pass through the curtains into my room. I wake up from my slumber later to find a gigantic b'day card - with love from Mom and Dad, the Great.

Usually, I am besieged by phone calls from 8 am to 10 pm on my b'day - makes me incredibly popular. Mom usually makes my favorite sweet - Pal Paayasam for me and the menu is more or less centered around what I like. Even if I have already made lunch plans with friends.

There is of course the new dress! Or dresses.

On reaching school / college, I'll be hugged and patted. Smiles everywhere. A huge one plastered on my face. Feels good to be born and live here, I tell myself. B'day cards and flowers come my way. There is the cake and then the gifts. s).(I am a real pain when it comes to buying gifts for me - cos I am horrible when it comes to accepting gift

Acquaintances sending me good wishes. Threats of the birthday bumps. Friends demanding that I loosen my purse. Some daredevils snatching away my wallet and treating themselves with the money in it!

Back home, dad will be waiting for me to return so I can cut the cake he secretly went out to get.
It's almost always a Black Forest from Monginis with the biscuit base. There would be the standard family dinner and I'll be back home, a happy girl!

As a kid, this would actually be different. I would share chocolates with all my classmates - after they sang aloud wishing me a Happy Budday - and then escape from the boredom of classes under the garb of sharing sweets with all the other teachers. Interestingly there was a lot of politics involved here. I was allowed to take another girl to accompany me in the adventure and you can just imagine how nearly everyone in class queued up to be my 'friend' for that day. In the end, loyalty won hands down and I'd take my best friend with me and we'd disappear for the next two classes.

In the evening, after my afternoon nap, I'd wake up to find my home decorated with balloons and other confetti and a large cake. I especially remember my seventh birthday with a cake baked to resemble a swimming pool - i still remember the aquamarine icing. It's quite amusing how most of the kids who would attend my b'day parties (complete with cake, wafers, samosa, sauce, chocolates, juice and return gifts) have all grown up and gone their own ways! I was of course the centre of attention and attraction - and my, did I love it?

It was different this year. Very different. The first sliver of silver in my life. A silver jubilee of birthdays...

Happy B'day Haru!

Yay! Another birthday. Another day of celebrating my existence. Another day of re-iteration of how many friends surround me. Another day of my family closing-in around me with warm hugs and kisses.

This year was slightly different. I couldn't stay awake till 12 - but my sis woke my up anyway. Mom and dad let me sleep for as long as I wanted to. I cooked - dahiwale aloo and theplas. There was no college. Only very few of my friends are here in the same city and even they're busy working hard. So there were the phone calls, but I missed the reverie! No flowers this year, but there were e-cards and a lovely chocolate cake sent by my close friends Namrata and Anita in connivance. (They're still arguing as to whose idea it was originally). I bought my dress on my b'day - okay, admittedly I bought a couple of them. And we closed the day with the traditional family dinner.

I miss the cacophony of being with friends on my b'day. But at 25, I guess, we're no longer kids anymore. Everyone's gone their separate ways. And b'days are going to be low-key from now on.
I am 25. I have most likely completed a quarter of my life. Wow! I wish I could believe it...

Happy Birthday to Me.