Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Well, I'm back from the doctor's office and mostly recovered, with the exception of an irritating headache. As I sat in the reception area and exam room for an hour waiting for an appointment that I had to make three weeks in advance, I pondered the state of our health care system. I'm not revisiting that argument, as it's clear to me that the opponents of a single-payer option are less than reasonable, and don't probably read my blog or much of anything else.

Once in the exam room, Dr. Holmquist administered a shot of Novocain into my forehead and then departed to care for other (im)patients while the anesthetic took effect. Before long I was a numbskull, even more than common, which brought back other head wound memories....

It was January of 1983, and Sally was GREAT with child. Sally experienced gestational diabetes while carrying Erin, which meant that anytime Sally ate, Erin gained weight... lots of weight. As a result, Sally gained quite a bit as well, to the point of being rather large by the time Erin's expected arrival date approached.

A week and a day before the blessed event eventually occurred, I played in a church league basketball game, which Sally and three-year-old Megan attended. At one point I went down the court on a fast break -- yes, I was once relatively fast, believe it or not -- for a lay-up. As the ball rolled around the rim before dropping through, I turned back up court. One of my teammates, Tony Abts, leapt skyward to follow in my shot -- totally unnecessarily, as it WAS going in -- and then returned to Earth at exactly the spot I was occupying. As both of us were keeping our eyes on the ball, neither saw the catastrophe in the making.

I felt the impact, saw stars, and found myself lying on the court. Someone told me to stay down, as I was bleeding profusely. Tony was standing off a little ways, mouth totally numb, not realizing that he had lost bone (dental enamel, actually) in shedding my blood. To cut to the jagged point, Tony was missing his front teeth.

Sally was quickly commissioned to drive me to the emergency room, where considerable confusion ensued. The staff fully expected to whisk Sally off in a wheelchair, only to be redirected to me. This confusing scene was reenacted several times as we went into the emergency room, got me signed in, and even after my prostrate form was wheeled into an examination area.

That wasn't the last of the slapstick. To quote the parson in the original "Parent Trap", it was a "situation fraught with humor". An orderly stopped in his tracks upon seeing me lying there, asked if I was already married, and countered my affirmative with a shake of his head and a single word: "Good".

After my wound was initially cleaned out, Sally remembered to tell the staff that one of Tony's front teeth had not been recovered. A subsequent flurry of additional cleaning and exploration resulted in the discovery and removal of the tooth from the mangled mound that had been my forehead.

Next, a resident came in offering me an option: We could call for a plastic surgeon and likely wait (and wait, and wait, given the late Sunday evening hour), or he could do the procedure. He said, "I'm not a plastic surgeon, but I did an internship with one." His statement was reminiscent of an infamous line in a commercial of the day, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."

I agreed, and the resident comprehensively explained and competently performed the surgery. A large, smooth oval was cut around the shredded remains of my blunt dental instrument, and the resulting edges of the flesh were pulled tightly together. Several layers of stitches were utilized in the process. The procedure had several interesting results:

  • My forehead swelled up into a FORE-head of immense proportions, frightening small children and exciting paleontologists everywhere, who thought they had discovered a Neanderthal throwback.
  • My right eyebrow was pulled upward so far that it was impossible for me to relax and close my eyes. That would be a good question for someone who evidences a facelift: "Gettin' any shut-eye?"
  • When the swelling subsided a week later, it did so by flowing down my face, discoloring and partially closing both of my eyes.
  • Finally, for months afterward I had absolutely no sensation on the right side of my face, from my eyebrow to my rapidly receding hairline.
As again today, however briefly, I had become a numbskull.

Oh, by the way, Dr. Holmquist excised my "bump", and will send the tissue to pathology. If it turns out to be a basal cell carcinoma, as I suspect, he will do an additional procedure not unlike that one I had done in Wisconsin in 1983. I wonder if Tony Abts is experiencing empathy pains.

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