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35 minutes exactly

At 3:08pm, I got a reminder phone call.  At 3:34, I had X-rays taken.  At 4:09, I was out the door and on my way to the pharmacy.

What was this quick and easy appointment?  Wisdom teeth!  I had been terribly stressed about it because the overwhelming picture of this procedure in the American cultural imagination is of a chipmunk-cheeked, miserable young adult laid up for a day or two eating mush.  So far, the only real problem I’ve had is making myself understood, and frankly, that happens even without marble-mouth and a cotton pad clenched between my molars.

On the downside, they would only take two teeth and there isn’t time to schedule another appointment.  I guess I’ll get to experience this all over again, but the American way.

PS: It’s 5pm, so I get to take out the cotton pad!  The only thing I need to remember is to swallow my spit for the rest of the day.  No spitting it out; it’s all got to go down the pipes.  I didn’t understand why, but that’s par for the course.  Probably something to do with bleeding…

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Trauma

Perhaps I expect gentler treatment in the US because I’ve never had an oozing inflamed spider bite at home, but they don’t coddle you over here. Over the course of my treatment, I went to the doctor six times, and each time after the doctor looked at my hand (and sometimes my arm because of the inflammation) over his sterile mask and typed my new prescription up, the nurse (who I think doubles as reception) sat me down in sight of everyone in the waiting room and swabbed the hell out of me.

The first time, I almost cried because she was so merciless, and I walked home weak-kneed and with a catch in my throat.  Two days later, I was scheduled to go back, but I didn’t want to.  I found, however, that the next two times were easier even though my hand was getting redder and more swollen.  Then came the visit I had been dreading without admitting it to myself: the visit with a needle and two doctors.  My doctor spoke English precisely but limitedly, and when I told him that the swelling wasn’t going down and asked if we were going to do something else, he seemed very reluctant to tell me the next step.  He allowed that we might have to use a needle, which I assumed would entail poking straight down into the bump and sucking out pus with a syringe, which I thought might actually be kind of cool.

Once I sat down outside the exam room in the bandaging corner of the waiting room, the nurse and my doctor were joined by a second doctor who took a needle (no syringe!) and poked around in the hole to clear some kind of blockage or break down some wall while the nurse held a bright light on my hand.  The nurse squeezed a bit, and then the doctor prodded some to see if my hand felt hard again as it should.  He was not satisfied and took up his needle again, and this time used an immense cotton swab to roll along my hand and press out the most awe-inspiring amount of pus I have ever seen.  When he finished and the nurse was cleaning and bandaging me up, I realized my body was entirely rigid and my shirt was patchy with sweat.  How do people in books and movies do it, I wondered as I shook.  As I walked next door to the pharmacy to get my pills and creams, I comforted myself with the fact that most of them were products of fiction or artistic license, and I felt slightly less weak and pitiful.

Then I went home and wrapped my hand in plastic breakfast shop bags to take a shower and just felt silly.

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