Tag Archives: mariel hemingway

Observations of My Oral Surgery

Today I had the initial part of my implant work done to replace the departed “Undead Tooth of Terror. This was the first time I had oral surgery vice normal dentistry.  If you have never had it the only comparison to regular dentistry is that it involves teeth.  It is real surgery, albeit not like getting your noggin or ticker opened up.  However in the weeks leading up to this surgery I experienced a fair amount of anxiety and even a couple of nightmares related to the procedure, including if something went wrong. When you prepare for something like this, or any other medical or surgical procedure you sign a consent form. These include the risks associated with the procedure as well as the anesthesia.  One of these complications or risks is death which is not on my list of things that I want to experience in the next 30 years or so.

Implant Screws

I’ve done a lot of hospital work in major teaching hospitals, mainly in critical care, ER, Medical, Surgical, Burn, Neurosurgery and Pediatric ICU’s.  I have become quite adept at learning about what goes on in those places, to include understanding something about how critical care intensivists of all types work to include a lot of the technical things that they observe with patients.  I am probably one of the few chaplains who that has a copy of The ICU Book and can read heart rhythms, understanding the relationships of blood pressure, cardiac output, oxygen saturation levels as well as a host of other cool to know things.  When the Abbess was in the Emergency Room at a local hospital I made the diagnosis of her Epiglottis before the physicians.  After that one of our attendings at my hospital told me that wasn’t too late to go back to Medical School.  The thought is intriguing but alas, even Padre Steve doesn’t want to go back to school for that long at this point in life.  However I could probably play a very convincing doctor in film or on TV if given the chance.  I will entertain offers if someone wants to shoot something like MASH.

Today was interesting.  I was taken into one of the oral and maxillofacial surgery operating rooms.  These are equipped with the kinds of monitoring equipment found in an OR or an ICU.  I have observed these on quite a few patients and can read them rather well.  Today the difference was that they were monitoring me and not another person.  So this intrigued me, I have not been to a operating room since I was 7 years old at Bremerton Naval Hospital.  Things have changed in the 42 years between visits, or at least my perspective has changed.

I was seated in what looked like a dental chair on steroids.  I was hooked up to the monitor with a 4 lead EKG and pulse oxygen monitor and had a nasal cannula. An IV was placed and I was asked a litany of questions.  With all the monitors hooked up my doctor came in and talked about the procedure and a light anesthesia ‘cocktail” of drugs including Fentanyl and a couple of others that I cannot remember right now.  A large table was placed before me with a large number surgical and dental utensils.

Normal Sinus Rhythm

I looked up at the monitor as they got things going and made final preparations.  My heart rate was in the 58-67 range in normal sinus rhythm, in fact a very nice looking rhythm. My respiratory rate ranged from 5-11 a minute and my SPO2 or oxygen saturation ranged from 96-99.  Noninvasive blood pressure was 116/71 with a mean of 86.  Not bad for someone nearly 50.  The drugs we injected through the IV access point and I entered what is called “twilight” sedation.” It is a state where you are sedated but can still follow simple commands from the surgeon if need be.  I could hear what was going on but it was like being in a dreamlike state.  Occasionally I could hear the surgeon giving directions to his resident and also the noise of the drill, which was not the normal high pitched sound of a dental drill.

When it was over they brought me up out of the sedation and I looked around, my numbers were still close to what were on the monitor to begin with so I was still alive.  I was allowed to see the x-ray with the placement of the implant mount which is actually screws into the jaw.    I was informed that a bone graft was done and that I would only be able to have liquids and soft foods for the next two weeks.  I’ll have a follow up next week, be off of work until the New Year holiday, no PT for a week and light duty, including being told “not to talk too much” to allow the implant and graft to heal.

As I was collecting myself  I saw the corpsmen disposing of trash and “hazardous waste from the room.  In clear container, actually a container that is used for suctioned fluids from the mouth, was something that looked like a strawberry daiquiri, it was the blood and water suctioned from my mouth during the procedure and was about half full.  I commented to the corpsmen what I thought it looked like which caused them to laugh in agreement and said that I was a beer drinker.  I was wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair to the Abbess waited for me in my trusty 2001 Honda CR-V. I can’t drive through tomorrow and am to take it pretty easy.

The pain has been manageable and has been a far cry from the agony I went through during the summer with the Undead Tooth of Terror, something for which I can definitely thank the Deity Herself.

This has given me a small glimpse at the perspective of one of the patients that I see every day, so it has been worthwhile in a number of ways, and not just as a means to better dental health.  I remember Henri Nouwen’s book Beyond the Mirror which recounts his experience as a patient following being hit by the mirror of a truck alongside a road.  Such experiences are important for those who provide any kind of care, especially pastoral care.  For me the almost surreal experience was to borrow a phrase from Star Trek’s Mr. Spock simply “fascinating.”

All I can say is that at least beer is a soft food and though I have an implant I will never look like Mariel Hemingway.


Padre Steve+

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Implants? On my 13th Anniversary of Being a Priest…What’s up with that?


I found out today that I’m going to get an implant….and I can’t believe it. And I find out about this on the 13th anniversary of being ordained as a Priest and I was not a happy camper.  The dentist looked at me and told me that the root canal which I had come in to complete would not be possible.  This kind of pissed me off, not at him but for the fact that I knew that this was going to happen.  Going in to today I knew from the first dentist who examined me two weeks ago that there was only a fifty-fifty chance of saving the tooth, but only a ten percent chance of that.  So when the dentist showed me the live camera images of the abyss that used to be the inside of my tooth and the fractures on both sides of the abyss I was not surprised.  Not happy, but not surprised.  Of course I was hoping and praying that the root canal would be done with and that I would not see dental again until my next exam.

As his team dug around in my mouth the dentist told me that they were going to have to set me up with Oral Surgery to extract the tooth and put an implant in its place.  Since my mouth was still full of crap I had difficult time trying to reply.  The crap included a rubber dam and its suspension system.  I was informed that this was to keep crap out of the abyss and keep it from getting infected. The dentist didn’t say crap, but that is what I inferred. I also had a butt-load of anesthetic aboard.  When he asked me the question: “Are you familiar with what an implant is?”  I mumbled an unintelligible answer that went something like “yam eh ike marl hmmmn wah”  And I kind of motioned over my chest with my hands to try to give as visual but my attempt at communication failed.  He said, I’ll wait until we’re done for you to answer and I said “thang u er.”  Since my woeful attempt at communication was not understood so I relaxed as best I could for the remainder of the procedure.

steve at dentist

When they were finished the resident had sealed the abyss, removed the dam and washed out my mouth.  My mouth, which still hurt some from the work two weeks ago, and the tooth which still had some throbbing as a bit of nerve had survived the first go round caused me some persistent pain even through this morning.   This particular tooth had been repaired twice as a child, the first by Doctor Mengele and once as an adult before it erupted two weeks ago.  Now after being excavated for the second time in two weeks my mouth felt like a battle zone even with the full effect of the anesthetic.

The dentist then asked about if I understood what an implant was and in my smart assed way said, “Yes, it’s like those things that they put in Mariel Hemingway back in the 1980s right?”  The dentist looked at me funny and then, maybe being just a bit older than me then shook his head and started laughing and said “No not that kind of implant.”   The resident and the technician being a bit younger than us took a bit longer to get it, and the dentist said, “I saw you motioning with your hands but just didn’t understand the connection.

So I will be getting an artificial root for the old tooth which will be surgically removed possibly under a general anesthetic.  I wonder which is worse, enduring a great deal of pain or going under as I am a fan of neither.  They say it will take 6-9 months to have the artificial root to be fused into the jaw bone, after which a new crown will be constructed over it.  I’m told that the entire process will take about a year to complete.  I get my consultation with the Oral Surgeons the middle of August so this story will probably go on in future blog posts in the coming months.

Today is also the 13th anniversary of me being ordained as a Priest at what used to be the Cathedral of the Resurrection, Life in Jesus Community when it was part of my Church.  I am ever grateful to the bishop who ordained me back then, in those days he was a teacher and father.  We parted ways when he led his community out of the Church after having his Archdeacon tell me that he was not leaving as the Church experienced a major crisis.  While his leaving bothered me it was the deception that I found most difficult and combined with actions of two other former bishops in the church which impacted me in a very personal and hurtful manner which ended our relationship.  Since he left I understand that he was removed from the leadership of his community and that the community was not doing well.  That saddened me as back in the mid and late 1990s it was a wonderful place where the ancient and modern converged, where hospitality and kindness was shown and people were blessed.  I do not know what happened over the years, but it is sad as I cannot go back to the place where I was ordained and have it be the same.  When the bishop’s council on ordination recommended that I be ordained I was told by one of the priests said “Steve, you’re home.”  Unfortunately only one of that council remains in the church, and that community is no longer home.

891Christmas Eve in Iraq

Since then I have been blessed.  I was ordained on the evening of July 7th the eve of the Feast of Saint Killian and his companions, an Irish missionary to what is now the German area of Franconia where at Würzburg he was martyred in 689 AD.  It was just a few weeks later as a mobilized Army Reserve Chaplain I reported to Würzburg to support the Bosnia operation in my first assignment as a Priest.  I lived in town as there was “no room at the inn” on base and since I spoke German I would head downtown in the evenings for Mass at the Killian Dom (Killian Cathedral) as well as visits to many of the other churches.  I found it interesting that the occasion of my ordination was the eve of feast of the man responsible for planting the Christian faith in the first place I would serve as a Priest.  I feel quite a connection to St Killian as a result of this and whenever I go to Germany I attempt to attend a Mass at the Killian Dom as well as a few steins of Würzburger Hofbrau Pilsner.

killian domKillian Dom Wurzburg Germany

Since then I have celebrated the Eucharist and served God’s people around the world in places that I would have never dreamed.  My first Eucharist at sea was on the USS Frederick LST-1184 on Easter 2001, the same ship that in high school Navy Junior ROTC I first felt the call to be a chaplain in March of 1978.  I’ve celebrated near the fence line at Guantanamo Bay, all over Al Anbar Province, been a base chaplain and served in units and at sea all over the world.  I celebrated my 7th anniversary celebrating at the ruins of the Martyr Church of Saint Phillip the Apostle in Pamukale Turkey, the site of Ancient Hierapolis.

Today for the first time I spent it in a dentist’s chair.  So my mouth feels like a bombed out combat zone, I have the shattered shell of a tooth being held together by a temporary patch and praying that it won’t come apart before it is extricated and I have to wait over a month to just begin talking about the details of how process will unfold with the Oral Surgeon who will perform it.  Tonight I will try to eat something soft so as not to tempt fate, drink a good beer or two or three and get ready for work tomorrow.

Pray for me a sinner.

Peace, Steve+

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