Henry the Unicorn

Henry was just released from the hospital and I am thankful he’s going to be okay. He spent a few days there. That first night when I brought him in, I almost lost him, and had to make that life and death decision, which only caused me to burst into tears. Continue reading

Am I Better Off?

Lately, I’ve been hearing this question a lot:

Of course, no one’s actually asked me this as yet, but I figure it’s just a matter of time before they do. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be you doing the asking. So, I figure, might as well answer it now, on account that I’m chomping at the bit to tell you exactly how I’ve been doing these past four years. Though, you may very well regret you asked. (Oh, you didn’t ask? Well, that’s alright. I’m happy to tell you, anyway.)

Am I better off?

Truth be known, I could be better.

First, there’s the matter of my knee. It started acting up about a year ago when I was taking a class in leadership and someone got the bright idea to split us into teams for a scavenger hunt of sorts, as part of a team-building assignment. Next thing you know, we were plopped smack in the middle of the zoo, where we were given our marching orders. And marching we did! Along with running, trotting, jogging, climbing and descending, not to mention, dripping sweat, and gasping for air.

Because, if you know anything about the zoo in San Diego, you know it was built on a hill. Maybe even seven hills, like Rome. Only these hills are steep, whether you’re going down or up. And scavenger hunts, by their very nature, are designed to have you running around in all directions, willy-nilly.

Right away, the clock was ticking. We had an hour to find all the zoo animals on our list, and figure out the answer to a riddle about each. My friends, what you have here is a recipe for disaster, particularly for a woman of a certain age, who is well past 21.

In no time, my knee began to rebel from the brutal pummeling it was getting in my vain attempt to keep up with my team of thirty-something’s. By the next day, I was sore. Two days later I was aching. On the third day I was limping. All the ice and heating pads in the world did little to avail my pain.

Within a week I was incapacitated and a few weeks after that, my doctor referred me to physical therapy. My therapist took one look at me and I could tell at once he was skeptical I’d ever walk again. After one session, I was pretty sure he was ready to send me to the glue factory.

Completely defeated, I went home with a notebook of knee exercises he’d given me. Little by little, we began to see improvement, but, if you ask me, my knee has never been the same.

Then there’s the matter of the neck. Four years ago I still had a neck. Now, where my neck once was, there’s a mass of chicken flesh, all saggy and wrinkly with mottled skin where smooth skin had once been. The kind of neck that screams, “Look at me! I’m as  old as the hills!”

Now, I know what Nora Ephron meant when she said she felt bad about her neck. And, why Diane Keaton wears scarves all the time and other protective gear to hide her skin. Which is why, I’m thinking of wearing a scuba helmet when I go out. After all, I’d go to any lengths to disguise this neck.

While we’re on the subject, have you seen my eyes lately? Let’s just say, from now on, it’s dark sunglasses 24/7. Jack Nicholson, you’ve got the right idea!

And, we won’t even discuss those extra pounds of late, from all that rich, European chocolate that tastes–OMG, let me see if I have any left! Nope.

Sigh.

So, am I better off? Heck, no!

Not better off, not by a long-shot. So, thanks for nothing, President Obama! Take that, Governor Romney!

Yep, the verdict’s in: I’m not better off!

I beg your pardon? What’s that you say? That’s not what this question is all about? Hmm…

Well then, never mind. I’m fine. Thank you very much.

Oral Surgery #14

Last week I had oral surgery. The 14th in a series. In fact, I have been having oral surgery as often as some women have pedicures. In fact, I have it so often you’d think it was my secret obsession, my clandestine vice. It’s been close to five years now. Maybe more. I’ve lost count.  Perhaps I should have been keeping a scrapbook, marking all the procedures I’ve had done and carefully labeling all my x-rays. Indeed, when you consider all the money I’ve invested in this mouth of mine, thanks to these procedures, I probably should have had it long ago insured by Lloyds of London.

Dustin Hoffman gets some work done by his own Dr. S. in The Marathon Man.

So my gums are a mess, which is crazy when you consider how often I brush my teeth (about eight times a day). And I also floss nightly. Yet my gums are too flimsy to withstand the test of time inflicted by my chompers and the trillions of bites of morsels that have passed through these lips.

I know this because of something to do with an examination that dental technicians perform on gums. You know, the one where they stick a pointy instrument into your gum to measure its depth. Apparently, 3’s are good, but 4’s or higher are really, really bad. The max you can score is a 6, but I think I had nothing but 10’s. Off the charts, if you ask me. Let me put it this way:  If we were measuring it in terms of terrorist threat level to our national security, my gums were  in the red or “Severe Risk of Terrorist Attacks” level.

I measure the health of my gums by the national security threat level barometer.

I really don’t know what exactly is wrong with my gums, let alone what is being done to remedy them.  All I know is that my long-time dentist, the handsome and debonair Dr. T, once told me that I needed to have this surgery done. His gleaming white teeth and movie star good looks gave me no choice but to believe him. So he referred me to a stodgy, old periodontist, Dr. S., who confirmed that I needed the surgery and needed it desperately.

Dr. S., reminds me of Laurence Olivier when he played Dr. Szell, the nefarious dentist who worked on Dustin Hoffman’s teeth in Marathon Man. He actually grimaced the first time he looked inside my mouth, staring at my gums as others might stare at a 52-car pileup on the freeway. I saw the revile in his eyes–the look that told me he would condemn me forever if I didn’t have my gums repaired. So I scheduled my first appoint and kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t suffer too much pain at the hands of this menacing periodontist.

In order to prepare me for surgery, Dr. S. started me off with a cocktail of three acetaminophen and two ibuprofen. Full disclosure:  I hate swallowing pills. The thought is enough to make me gag.

After I take the medication, Dr. S. gives me five different shots of numbing solution. I need five because, now that I’ve had surgery so often, I’ve built a tolerance for the stuff and it takes much longer for the numbing to take effect. When it finally does, Dr. S. spends the next 90 minutes cutting, digging, shoveling, grinding, scraping, pulling, shoving, grafting, and stitching the gums in my contorted mouth until finally, he finishes with the pièce de résistance: a gray mass of goop that is plied around the wounded, tormented area of my mouth. The goop tastes delightfully like a mixture of water, glue, cornstarch and shredded newspaper. In other words, papier-mâché, and I’m supposed to keep it on for two weeks.

At the end of the surgery Dr. S. reviews the “At Home” directions—all 12 pages, which I pretty much know by heart: I must sleep in an upright position for a week, gargle with antiseptic, followed by a medicated solution, followed by salt water. I must apply an ice pack for six hours to prevent swelling, and Lipton teabags to avoid bleeding. No straws, no spicy or hard foods, and no smoking. Furthermore, no probing the affected area, no stuffing popcorn kernels in my mouth, and, definitely, no sticking poppy seeds between my teeth.  When Dr. S. is assured that I know the rules, he sends me home with a cocktail prescription of Vicodin, Tylenol Codeine, and a 10-day supply of antibiotics. Great. Just what I need. More pills to swallow.

I did receive some good news at the end of last week’s visit. Only one more procedure and then all the work on my gums will be complete.  It is the light at the end of the tunnel.  Or, in this case, the green light at the end of the threat level tunnel.