Here’s the joke – in Portuguese, the letter r is pronounced like an “h” in most cases. My name is Hawk-elle here. That’s how I sign most of my correspondence, actually.
So last night I went to the dentist, in what has become a never-ending series of appointments, and was expecting her to replace my filling. Wait – lemme back up. I went to my California dentist, who is AMAZING, right before I left to come back to Brazil, and he said, very casually, as if it weren’t a terrifying thing, “oh yeah looks like you need a crown or root canal on that back tooth.” To be fair, the tooth was grey. But I immediately started crying in the chair like he was already operating on me.
“B-b-but I’m leaving for Brazil in a few days! Can I wait until July when I come back?”
He looked at me, amused. “My sweet summer child….don’t be stupid. Also, don’t get this done in Brazil. I know you have to, bc you live there, so that is useless advice. Anyway, Godspeed, and you’ll probably die getting this done in Brazil. Byyeeee.”
I’m paraphrasing, and that’s not exactly what he said, but that was what I read in his tone.
Well, I went to a dentist here in Brazil. I found her with a google search. She had a website and it had an English version, and that was what sold me. My roomies came with me the first night for moral support. I rewarded them by paying for the cab ride there, and we had a fabulous night, actually. The dentist decided I just needed a filling, so she did that with three heavy shots of anesthesia, which made it really fun to try and order beer in Portugues later. Having gone in expecting a crown, we celebrated me crying only a little bit and what seemed like a much better diagnosis of just a silly filling. I can handle a filling! Filling schmilling.
But two weeks went by, and I still couldn’t chew on my tooth. So I went back, and this time she didn’t use any numbing stuff to shave down the filling. That appointment made my leg kick involuntarily in the chair. Another two weeks and it actually got worse. So last night she called me in, we did an x-ray, and as I settled into the chair, expecting a new filling, she decided no, we’re going to do a hoot canal right freaking now.
It was perhaps better this way – I had no time to panic. She let me put in my ipod, a pretty racist Brazilian soap opera was playing on mute from the TV in the corner, the skies grew darker out the window and I counted backwards from ten over and over and nearly succeeded in distracting myself from what seemed like deep-sea drilling into my mouth. I felt the pressure and heard the whining sounds of the drill spinning so far inside my head I felt certain I would see blood spurting out at any second. I smelled smoke and flecks of tooth shot up and onto my glasses.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1! 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1! 10 9 8 7 you are going to live through this, rachie 6 5 4 3 2 1!
“Sit up in the chair, please. Breathe, please. Relax and open your mouth so I can look in there, please.”
My dentist had the patience of a saint.
For 1.5 hours I bargained with God, negotiated my dental hygiene, promised any number of community service projects, until she finally pulled back and said I was done. For now.
Looking back, I’m struck by the fact that she had no admin assistant, no assistant while I was in the chair, and I didn’t fill out a single piece of paper work. She doesn’t even know my last name, or an emergency contact, or if I might be allergic to any medication. I didn’t even pay yet. I used Whatsapp to make my appointments. We kiss on both cheeks to say hello and goodbye.
I live in a weird world sometimes.
So yeah! I had my first root canal in a foreign country! My mouth feels weird and tastes like chemicals, and the on sale Ben and Jerry’s vanilla ice cream I bought to reward myself for not crying turned out to be a punishment, as I am quite cold-sensitive at the moment. But I did it. I lived. yay.
And I was reminded of the first time I ever got stitches – also in a foreign country! Guatemala, 2008, on her independence day, because a broken glass bottle defeated my trusty Tevas, and I ended up in the emergency room getting put back together by the Latino mcDreamy. Read about it here. It’s pretty fantastic. Another case of me never filling out paper work, I never signed anything, I never even paid!
This hoot canal will cost me about 400$ USD, since I don’t have insurance. Which actually sounds okay until you realize thats more than half my monthly paycheck. And I’m not completely confident it’s going to work…once someone throws around words like “abscess” you get a little paranoid. But, you know, anything goes wrong and I can just WhatsApp my dentist! :)
If you haven’t heard it and need to today, I’d hold your hand through a medical emergency in a foreign country any day.