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More Time with the Oral Surgeon, Thank God for Global Warming and Randy Johnson Retires

More Time with the Oral Surgeon, Thank God for Global Warming and Randy Johnson Retires

Back to the Dentist

Well I had my follow up visit with my oral surgeon today and well, it was not a routine “it’s all good go away” kind of visit.  On Saturday night or Sunday morning one of the stitches came out of the site.  I wasn’t bleeding from the site; it was a little sore so I called the resident on call who said that if it got worse to come in.  The day was uneventful although I wasn’t feeling that great and the pain got a bit worse during the day requiring Vicodin before I went to bed.  I woke up Monday not feeling too well but was behind on a bunch of things that I needed to do.  I scheduled my follow up appointment for today but by 1300 on Monday I was feeling bad enough to need more Vicodin so the boss sent me home to take it and get some rest.  I came to work not feeling a lot better and still a bit under the influence of the medication and went in to dental.  When they took me back they saw swelling and the first dentist saw puss and called the oral surgeon.  He immediately went to wore and had the site irrigated and then took me back to one of the oral surgery rooms where once again I was hooked up to monitors, and had an IV placed and was given a bolus of 250 ml normal saline prior to an infusion of IV antibiotics.  He told me that we needed to do this because if the site got infected it might necessitate removal of the implant as well as the bone graft.  After that I was given a prescription for more antibiotics and sent home with instructions to take it easy, take the antibiotics and keep the site irrigated and to return to work Thursday with a follow up appointment for early Friday morning.  It has been weird as I have been pretty wiped out physically by this but doing okay emotionally.  So we’ll see how the sequel to the “Undead Tooth of Terror” continues.  Hopefully it will be a happy ending and I will not have to have the work taken out and have to go through a bunch of time again before I can get it fixed.

Cold Enough to be Thankful for Global Warming

If anyone hasn’t noticed it has been pretty cold across the eastern 2/3rds of the United States as well as many other countries in the Northern Hemisphere.  In fact it has been like record setting cold all over the place, Europe, Asia, North America and even places like Peru.  Trains are getting buried in snow drifts in China, record snow and cold elsewhere and even the little lake in my neighborhood has ice forming on it.  There is no relief in sight.  Forecasters are saying that this could be the coldest winter in at least 245 years.  Back when I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s climatologists were predicting a coming ice age and encouraged folks to dress warm for a long time.  Then in the late 1980s and early 1990s there came a movement saying that everything was getting warmer at an alarming rate.  This has grown into the Global Warming movement and dare I say industry.  We had a very mild summer this year and it has been cold as hell this winter.  Now I am not a climatologist but if needed cold play one on TV.  It is my ersatz climatologist persona that says that I don’t think that some of the real climatologists are telling us the whole truth.  To me it seems that the global warming thing may not be all that it is cracked up to be.  All I can say is that if there is global warming I’m glad that we have it because we would really be freezing our asses off.  Even so I will dress warm and put on my gloves.  At least the dog doesn’t mind the cold so long as it is not raining.

Randy Johnson Winning Game 300

Finally an era in baseball has passed.  Future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson officially retired from the game today.  The 46 year old Johnson pitched 22 years beginning his career at Montreal with most of the time with the Mariners and Diamondbacks but with stints with the Astros, Yankees and his last season with the Giants.  In his career he won 5 Cy Young Awards, pitched a no-hitter and a perfect game, and was a 10 time All-Star and the 2001 World Series MVP.  Over the years he pitched in 618 games, starting 603 of them. In those games he pitched a total of 4135.1 innings won 303 games and had a career 3.29 ERA and was second only to the legendary Nolan Ryan with 4875 strikeouts.  The batting average against him was only .221.  He was one of the most feared pitchers to play the game almost any hitter who had to face him would tell you that he would rather not have to face Johnson.  Johnson was known at times for his intensity a piercing gaze and at times snarling look at batters, and an at times equally icy relationship with reporters.  What is truly amazing about Johnson is that he achieved what he did against a plethora of players who have either admitted to using or highly suspected of using steroids and other performance enhancing substances.  He pitched his last season with the Giants where he got his 300th win.  The season was certainly not his best and he finished the season on the disabled list, however we saw a man who was genuinely appreciative of the game and those with who he played.  As a person who at times can be testy and give good glares and snarls I understand someone like Johnson who pushed himself hard and came back from injuries to stay competitive well past the age that most other players are ensconced in second careers or retirement. Even more so because I have played on a number of teams within the military and I am now quite a bit older than most people my rank.  Randy Johnson has had a magnificent career and I wonder if we will see another 300 game winner anytime soon.

On a humorous note I had a comment to my “about” page from someone with the ID of “El Cid.”  Seems that Sid believes that I am deceived of course not providing me any help to see just what I am deceived about. His comment “You are so deceived” stuck a chord in me.  So I just had to respond.  Here is that response:

“Cool, don’t know what about but glad to get comments like this. Must be doing something right. The fact that you refer to yourself as El Cid shows me that you fancy yourself a General in the fight against the Moors or have delusions of being Charlton Heston.”

So anyway, as I take my pain meds and head off to bed I wish everyone a good night.

Peace,

Steve+

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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.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Killing off the Undead Tooth of Terror

stooges dentist 2Yesterday I Might have taken these Guy’s Offer

The battle was brutal.  Yesterday the Undead Tooth of Terror held me in its grip more tightly than any time in the past several days.  Judy drove us home from West Virginia and last night as soon as we got back I was met by the on-call dentist and oral surgeon.  They bought me some relief for the night but I still didn’t sleep much having been tanked up on caffeine just to make it through the trip, the whole yin and yang of uppers and downers together.  This morning I got up and went in to work, my tooth and mouth in a bit of pain but not the 10.5 to 12.9 on the scale of 10 that I had yesterday.  The Undead Tooth of Terror may have been down but he was not yet out.

I met the dentist from last night as well as the Oral Surgeon who is the department head.  The people at the desk had no clue that I was coming in and were trying to figure things out by calling to the back when the dentist from last night came out, told them exactly what the plan was and had them check me in.  I was sent to wait and waiting 5 minutes a nurse came out the get me and ushered me into the oral surgery pavilion. Now you might wonder what difference there is in this and a normal dentist chair and treatment room.  So let me tell you.  I work at a large teaching hospital and this includes the Dental Department.  In fact the dentist who worked on me last night was a first year resident by you would not have known by how well he did and how considerate he was of any possible pain or discomfort that I might experience.  Anyway, back to the pavilion.  It is large with a number of oral surgery suites.  In the suite sits a dental chair. Not just any chair but one that looks like a first class airline seat and much more comfortable than a standard dental chair. The arms were a bit different as they had straps to hold down your arms as well as an IV line for the times they put someone to sleep when doing the surgery.  It looked like it could have been like a set up for prison lethal injection room.  I guess if we move to a Soylent Green end of life deal these would be in your neighborhood.  Since I had no need of lethal injection or for that matter being put to sleep for the procedure these meant nothing to me.  However when I have my implant they will do this.  The rest of the room has a good amount of equipment not seen in a normal dentist treatment room.

I got in the chair and they went through the checklist to make sure that I was me and want procedure was being done.  I was read the consent form which asked of potential complications of the surgery.  These were interesting, thankfully I did not expect complications although because the tooth was so weak there was a strong possibility that it could shatter and would have to be cut out.  Preliminaries completed I was given a topical anesthetic followed by about four or five shots into the right side of my mouth, which because of the local I did not feel.  Then they went to work.  I couldn’t see anything but could hear and feel, albeit without pain what they were doing.  Things didn’t take too long, maybe 20 minutes to remove the tooth if that.  It had come out in several pieces as they suspected, but thankfully the roots were straight and they didn’t have to do any real gymnastics to get it out.  I looked at the damned thing which was in several pieces on the small instrument table in front of me.  It was like looking at Dracula after you had staked him and before he turned to dust.  I amazement I asked if I could take it home with me and was told that I could not because it was now “hazardous waste.”  Hell I thought it was hazardous before it was waste.  I told the dentist and nurse that I was hoping to take it home so I could put it under the pillow for the tooth fairy.  The dentist said that he didn’t think that she would give very much for it but I said I thought that it was worth a try.  When all was said and done I was given an SIQ chit for two days.  SIQ means “sick in quarters” and is basically the Navy’s way of saying “Go home dummy.  Follow the doctor’s directions and take care of yourself.” I really only expected one day, but as I started hurting again some tonight I realized that I could not do my 24 hour on call shift tomorrow without making things much worse for me.   Following the surgery the site of the now really dead Undead Tooth of Terror was packed with gauze to soak up the blood.  I ended up changing the gauze three times before the site stopped bleeding.

When I got home I realized that I had forgotten to drop off a prescription for more Vicodin so I had to drive back and drop it off at our pharmacy. Thankfully traffic was light and I got there and back pretty quick and will get the prescription tomorrow as the line was huge and I was in no condition to wait an hour to get it as I had a couple left.  Once I was home I fell asleep for about 3 hours. I got up, had a light dinner and took it easy.  The pain started back up about 9 PM and so I took my meds and am getting ready to go to bed.  I expect that I should sleep well for the first time tonight.  The Undead Tooth of Terror is no more but I still bear the scars of my encounter with the beast from the pit of hell.  Patently the Deity Herself was with me through this and will take care of me tonight even if I don’t get a visit from the tooth fairy.

Thank you for your prayers encouragement and support.  Thanks especially to Judy who threw herself on the proverbial grenade yesterday to drive me home even though she was extremely tired and not feeling that well herself. I have a follow up next week for this procedure and my initial visit for the implant in six weeks.

Peace, Steve+

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

cantaloupes

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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