Thursday, March 15: The last thing anyone wants to have done in a foreign country is any kind of surgery. For people (like me) who especially dread dental work, the worst of all conceivable worlds is having oral surgery in a foreign land.
Rewind to last summer, July to be exact. Pain in the back of my mouth led to the discovery of a crack in the bottom left molar. The tooth already had a root canal in it, so once it cracked there was nothing to do but pull it. So in July, I had the tooth extracted by an oral surgeon in Virginia. There was a lot of swelling and discomfort after, but I suppose it went as well as such a thing can go. I healed and a couple of months later, I was on the plane to Oman.
Just last week, I started having pain at the spot of that earlier extraction. It felt like something sharp was poking at my bottom left gum, from inside out. The gum area was inflamed and was quite painful. I am always the kind of person who avoids going to the dentist as long as conceivably possible, but I could feel that sharp protrusion in my gum and I knew I better get it checked. So, on the recommendation of one of my colleagues, I went on Wednesday evening to the Badr Al Samaa Polyclinic in Firq, near Nizwa, which is like a medical professional building you would find in the USA. This clinic has every kind of doctor imaginable inside. The dentist here inspected my mouth like he would a horse and told me that the bone under the area of that extraction had splintered and was in fact poking at my gum from the inside. He said I would need to go to the clinic’s Muscat office and see Dr. Vidya Shetty, who would cut a flap in my gum and then FILE DOWN THE BONE so it would no longer protrude through my gum!! YIKES!
Now, this was NOT news I wanted to hear. As you can imagine! Being in Oman means I don’t have my regular cast of characters to choose from; everyone is a stranger here! I have no idea of the credentials of some of these people. Most of the medical professionals I’ve seen in Oman have been of Indian descent; I’m also met a couple of Egyptian doctors. The dentist at the Firq clinic was Indian and so was his recommended Dr. Vidya. I know we do have Indian medical professionals in the US, so I guess they must have good credentials, right?? RIGHT??
I tried numerous times to call the clinic in Muscat on Wednesday evening to make an appointment for Thursday, but after about 10 attempts with a busy signal every time, I finally gave up and determined I would just go to Muscat after my morning walk on Thursday. On Thursday morning I was finally able to connect by phone and they told me Dr. Vidya would be in until noon and then she’d be back again from 5:00-8:00. These are normal working hours for almost everyone in Oman except, it seems, teachers. I was told she didn’t take appointments; she sees patients on a first come, first served basis. That seemed weird to me for a surgical procedure! Though I was cutting it close with the time, I got in the car and headed as quickly as I could to the Badr Al Samaa Clinic in Al Khuwair in Muscat, about a 1 1/2 hour drive.
I arrived at the clinic at about 11:35, which I knew was cutting it close for the dental surgeon’s departure at noon. There was a long queue of people checking in at reception on the lower level, but I didn’t want to waste my time in line if the doctor was actually leaving at noon. So I bypassed the line and went in search of the doctor, who I found on the middle level. Her assistant told me the doctor actually was to leave at 1:00, so I rushed back downstairs to check in with reception and get a waiting ticket. I got #10 for room 17.
Up in the waiting area outside the doctor’s room, I waited and waited as I saw whole Indian families disappear through Dr. Vidya’s door. I was thinking there was no way I was going to have this procedure done by the time the doctor left! I hoped that once you had a ticket in hand the doctor HAD to see you, but I didn’t know for sure. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity but was actually only an hour, my #10 flashed on the door and I was inside.
I showed the dentist the problem and she affirmed she would have to cut a flap into the gum and file the bone. But, she said, you will have to make an appointment!! I said, “They told me they didn’t make appointments! I just drove all the way from Nizwa and I’ve been waiting an hour! I don’t live in Muscat!” She could tell I was agitated; she asked me please to calm down, that she’d go ahead and do the procedure. But first, she had to inform me there was some chance that my nerves on one side of my tongue might be cut accidentally, and I might feel a numbness in my tongue. “It’s temporary for sure,” she assured me, “maybe 4-6 weeks at the most.” She told me I would need to sign a consent form because of this risk. Though she never gave me the form to sign, she proceeded with the surgery.
She shot me up with Novocaine and then got out the tools of her trade. I cannot even bear to look at these tools, so I closed my eyes and braced myself for whatever would come. She dove in to my mouth with her scalpel and I could feel the pressure of the cut, but no pain. My body was clenched so tightly that I thought I might turn to stone. Dr. Vidya and her nurse were soon digging into my mouth with force and pressure. After what felt like a huge struggle inside my mouth, I could feel and hear something that resembled two loggers each holding the end of a saw and pulling the saw back and forth across a tree. The sound is like something you’d hear in the horror film Saw. I still felt a lot of pressure but no pain, thank goodness! The doctor kept pressing on my lower jaw saying, “Open, open!” All of this went on for what seems like another eternity but in fact was probably about a half hour. Then, sweet blessed relief, it was over.
At that point the doctor had me sign the consent form she spoke of earlier. Now that the procedure was done, couldn’t I refuse to sign the consent form? It seemed pretty backwards. But I’m not one of those lawsuit-happy people and I went ahead and signed on the dotted line. This after she told me I shouldn’t have any problem with my tongue as she was very careful to protect it.
Dr. Vidya then sent me downstairs to get two injections. I did just that, and then the nurses downstairs hooked me up to the slowest saline IV drip I’ve ever been hooked to. I kept watching the bag but it seemed the saline level never moved. Like a watched pot never boils, a watched saline bag never empties. I laid there at least an hour with a needle in my hand and that interminable saline d-r-i-p, d-r-i-p, d-r-i-p, d-r-i-p.
Next door at the pharmacy, the pharmacist gave me some Augmentin and some pain-killer for 20 freakin’ Omani rials. Between that and the procedure and injections, the whole ordeal cost me 85 rials, or about $221. This was definitely not in my budget for this month and left the balance in my account frightfully low.
The best laid plans of mice and men… 😦