Friday, June 12, 2009

June Giveaway and Weird True Story

Paper engineering with a suitably toothy quality

I'm in a post-completion slump having finished a number of major projects all in the space of two weeks, including the two book-making courses I was teaching. I remember this state from after opening my solo exhibition. I'm someone who is happiest when charging off down the road to a new destination, but once I've arrived I am disappointed to feel so aimless, even though I am too tired to throw myself wholeheartedly down the next path just yet. It's not pretty, and this time my lethargy and lack of focus are exacerbated by new developments in my never-ending saga of dental-trauma.

I do try to avoid sullying Bibliophilia with too much personal information, especially involving dentists, but really, this latest incident is so very weird that I'm gonna tell all. If like me, you have no tolerance for other people's dentist stories, feel free to skip ahead to the June Giveaway details at the end of the post, with the Happy Bus photo.

Weird dental story begins here

Despite the fact that just before leaving for Australia in April last year, my dentist thoroughly checked my mouth and declared it free from any impending problems, within six months I was in root canal agony in the rainforest. Six months later, I am in the middle of another root canal and seven, yes 7, cavities. How did I go from clean bill of dental health to a mouthful of decay and disaster in only one year? That's the first unsolved mystery. I'm reluctantly wondering if drinking pristine mountain spring water instead of fluoridated town supply might be implicated, since nothing else was different in terms of my vigilant dental hygiene and sugary snacking habits.

So, onto the second and far more intriguing mystery. Two days ago I placed my mouth in (or rather around) the hands of my fifth(!) dentist in 14 months. This dentist, despite his scary handlebar moustache, has won me over by being altruistic in his pricing policies and proactive with painkillers. At our first meeting, while I explained my increasing penchant for panic attacks while under the drill, he grabbed my arm, pushed up my sleeve and started prodding the inside of my elbow. I don't recall any other dentist ever offering me a general anaesthetic, because surely I would have taken it as eagerly as I did this one.

I remember the needle going in and then the next thing I know, I'm sobbing as I hear him say, "take the needle out now". Apparently, after about 40 minutes and 4 1/2 fillings I started having a panic attack while unconscious. All attempts to calm me down failed, and I carried on like that for about half an hour until I came conscious and stopped crying and started babbling and eventually laughing.

Apparently anaesthesia awareness occurs in 0.01- 0.02% of cases and when it does "about 94% experience panic/anxiety." But why me? Why a panic attack? As well as the general, I'd been thoroughly numbed with local anaesthetics so it seems unlikely that I felt any pain (I certainly don't remember feeling any). All I can think is that recently reading about anaesthesia awareness must have lodged the idea in my subconscious mind, along with my oft-repeated self-description as someone prone to uncontrolled panic attacks in the dental chair. (I don't tend to have panic attacks anywhere else).

It's all very strange and discomforting. Not to mention frustrating that I still have considerable work left to be done, including the root canal which has started throbbing again. And, the lingering effects of the not-so-effective anaesthesia have left me, 48 hours later, still weak, shaky and foggy-headed. I'm hoping that unloading this strange story onto my innocent reading public (I know you didn't come here to read about teeth) will help me to move on, and reclaim some of the focus and energy I miss.

(Dental story over, you can start reading again)

Luckily I have lots of copies of Happy Bus, my zine, to cheer me up. Happy Bus is a potpourri of writing, drawing and paper engineering, mostly by me, along with a few friends. In it you will find: how the Dalai Lama got Western scientists to study happiness; a guided meditation and a journalling project, a playlist of happy songs (including many suggested by Bibliophilia readers), a poem about small town living (written in upstate New York and illustrated in Far North Queensland), an article about laughter yoga, a list of happiness inducing email newsletters and an origami envelope of stickers including some homemade gold elephants.

You can go in the draw to win a copy of Happy Bus by commenting on this post before 9am 22 June (NZ time). If you don't want to wait that long, go straight to my Etsy shop and buy one for only $5! Please buy one anyway, I need the money to help pay the dental bills...


Sandy said...

Oh God, the first time I ever heard of anas. awareness it freaked me out. Terrified me, in fact. I thought the electric shock I got from the needle administering the local was bad enough. And the depression resulting from gen. anasth other times was hard to deal with. My root canal went on forever and thoroughly wore me down earlier this year.

I know, none of this is what you want or need to hear right now. But now I'm on the other side, pain free, able to chew, and ovarian growth free (make that ovarian free!). I keep thinking what life was like before novocaine and C20th medicine. I would be toothless with raging mouth infections. Although I would have died in childbirth first, so it doesn't really matter.

Right, right, I'm off to think of something to cheer you up other than "you'll be fine in the long run," which isn't that comforting when you're in the midst of it.

rambling ... will stop now.

BookGirl said...

Your story is harrowing. I have my own set of problems with dentists and dental issues, which I won't bore you with. Let's hope the worst is behind you.


Casey said...

Freaking scary. I'm going to go floss now.

Carol said...

Really scary story. I have stories too but don't think anyone need hear the details. I did complain to my doctor that I was aware of a couple of procedures when I was meant to be asleep but that's more than enough information. And why on earth would your teeth get into that condition so quickly? Surely the lack of fluoride wouldn't do it. Maybe just bad luck? Hope you get it all over and done with soon.

Mandy said...

I didn't even know you could have that happen while you are under, that is so scary, your dental story served a purpose to make me more aware of risk in dental work. My husband was recently put under for dental work and we were not told that was possible.

Miranda said...

Skipped the story, but LOVE the zine.

rachlovestheweb said...

Blimey! That must have been quite a trauma for your dentist as well! do you actually recall the panic or not? Could the dentist just have kept going and you might have woken up later and not even known it had happened?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one on this planet that loves having root canals? After fighting to stay awake a few times, I meekly asked my Endodontist if it was ok if I went to sleep and he said his patients do it all the time.
Reading (and hearing) your woes make me so thankful I get only Dental Dreaminess - I can't imagine the anxiety pre chair you must get ;-(

harvey molloy said...

Wow, a disturbing story. I'm just glad that you're OK. My long dead grandma back in Oldham, UK used to tell me how her sister had died on the dental chair. Apparently this used to happen more in the 1930s so at least we've made progress.

Jay Dee said...

Gosh - that is such a horrible dental tale! My family grew up on rainwater from the central QLD coast so can vouch our teeth are just fine! Perhaps it might be time to try hypnotherapy if everything else for the panic attacks doesn't work?

Johanna said...

Oh no! How horrible. I hope you can get through the next lot of dental work okay, one way or another. Do they give sedatives as well as the anaesthetic? If so, do they help, or not much?