The getting of wisdom teeth extracted
I was number three. But by 10.30, I was at the top of the list and so was wheeled out of the ward and into a special waiting bay. The waiting bay was in a corner and I had been placed facing the wall - like a recalcitrant student. So there I lay, freezing my relatively exposed ass off in a shitty hospital gown. Wondering why, after nearly a decade of spirited resistance, I had accepted my dentist’s advice to get my wisdom teeth out.
Denied a view, I began to listen to the workaday sounds around me. Behind me I could hear nurses, encouragingly asking after each other’s flu recovery. But the aural landscape was dominated by what seemed to be some kind of building works – a concrete drill perhaps, interspersed with staccato bursts of chiseling.
Prone to episodes of extreme self-absorption, this seemed a useful reminder that, although I lay in rigid anticipation of the extraction, the rest of the world had not in fact stopped, rather, it was getting about its business.
The building noises were actually so close that I imagined a capable looking tradesman would appear at any moment, cutting a King Gee swathe through the sea of peppermint nursing staff. With little else to distract me the loud vibrations and sharp banging noises filled my mind.
Until, oh sorry realisation, it occurred to me that if these were in fact building tools I could hear so close at hand, I would have to be in the hard-hat zone; and that these innocuous looking double doors to my left, were the doors to theatre. Those noises were coming from number two’s mouth.
Soon after this gruesome epiphany, I heard number two being wheeled out. And it was then I understood why I had been given a trolley without a view.
For shortly thereafter, the retching commenced. I can’t remember number two’s name – which is surprising, because I heard it again and again and again, as the nursing staff endeavoured to get her to vomit in the correct fashion.
You didn’t need an MBA to identify a problem in this business process. The only thing that could overcome my disbelief that the hospital had designed the patient’s experience in this way was general anaesthesia - which duly ensued.
From then on everything ran like clockwork. I woke to the helpful advice, “you may feel like you are dribbling and you will be”. Which was consistent with the fact that everything between the top of my neck and my nose was completely numb. Notwithstanding this, I was provided with a portion of pineapple jelly and ice cream. Is this some kind of inside joke for hospital staff, or can some people eat jelly and ice cream without using their tongue or jaws?
One short hour later I was helped out the front door and simultaneously offered a sick bag, even before I knew to ask for it. This demonstrated that the hospital was capable of the sort of attention to detail I’m talking about, or perhaps just that they were sick of having bile on their tiles.
In my right hand I clasped the plastic bag of pills that would enable me to chart my way through the isles of analgesia over the coming week. The last time I left hospital clutching something with that much intensity it was a newborn.
The next day I lay in bed in the same tracksuit, sucking baby food and trying to recall the last time I had been high before noon. I contemplated my new found flair for business process analysis and wondered whether this was what is meant by knowledge through suffering.
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