After having lived what, in hindsight, was an insanely healthy life across my first 61 years I was ill-prepared when aging finally caught up with me. Sadly, I had come to take good health for granted and, as such, was not at all ready to deal with what was headed my way. Oh sure, I dealt with the usual things like very infrequent bouts of flu, occasional food poisoning, sore/stiff muscles from overdoing efforts and similar but really I was very healthy. Nothing every knocked me down for long; in fact, the worst physical health issues I endured were my annual bouts with hay fever. I really struggled with these as a child and not until my 35th birthday did the affliction suddenly disappear; surprisingly, this coincided with the remission of what I came to understand had been chronic depression. I can only speculate I must have undergone some biochemical shift at that time, probably age related, and whatever allowed me to ‘outgrow’ the hay fever also caused the depression to slowly disappear.
But, as followers of this blog know, March of 2015 brought about a silly accident which had a huge impact on my physical and mental states of existence. Stuffing my boot laces into my boots rather than tying them caused me to manage to catch one short length of exposed lace on the left boot around an eyelet on the right and brought me crashing down upon the black top in front of the Talkeetna PO. This resulted in a severely fractured left radius and ulna ultimately requiring orthopedic surgery and the equivalent of an artificial elbow along with a plate and six bone screws. But I’ve blogged about this earlier on and is not why I’m writing this today.
Rather, I’m writing about my recent experience with having all four wisdom teeth removed. Again, I’ve had almost no previous dental issues having inherited Mom’s incredibly hard teeth. I’ve only dealt with six cavities across my life one of which required a root canal (my fault). So when I started feeling some pain well back in my mouth in late August I at first ignored said pain. It mainly appeared only briefly and then disappeared for weeks so I wasn’t worried. Yet, by mid-October, the pain was becoming more noticeable and beginning to impact my eating so I scheduled an appointment at the Sunshine Clinic is early November. There I learned my wisdom teeth needed to be extracted with the first two scheduled for December 28th which was the earliest opening. Said appointment went fine and I was fully recovered within four days. The next appointment for the last two was January 18th but ‘Mr. Murphy’ had other plans as I came down with a bad case of food poisoning the evening of January 17th and cancelled my next day appointment. The next opening was March 8th and that almost seven week period was an incredibly long time to wait. Both teeth gave me regular pain but the lower wisdom tooth was very temperature sensitive and forced me to eat and drink nothing cooler than maybe 80°F unless I wanted to deal with sharp stabbing pain. It produced almost continual low grade pain which was with me day and night.
Come March 8th I was so ready for the procedure; once again, both teeth were removed with no issues and now – two days later – I am feeling no pain nor suffering any related issues to the removals. But I have noticed something which still amazes me no end; I can hardly measure the joy I feel now that the wisdom teeth are history! I awoke the morning of March 9th feeling better than I could ever remember feeling; at first I wondered why but very soon understood it was because I hadn’t slept – and awakened – with that same low grade dental pain I’d endured across the previous seven weeks! This has carried over into today as I still feel so very good. And, these realizations started me thinking regarding the human body and pain.
It still boggles my mind just how amazingly well the human body can manage pain!! Granted, my dental based pain was hardly extreme – on the well-known pain scale of 0 to 10 I’d say it averaged maybe a 3 with infrequent jumps to maybe a 6 – but it was almost continuous. In hindsight I believe I stopped being ‘aware’ of its continual nature a few weeks into that stage although when I accidentally bit down wrong the resultant pain would make me see stars. Yet I continued to function about ‘normal’ for me with the exception of eating/drinking only ‘warm’ substances. But now, with those nasty teeth gone for two days, I can start to appreciate just how wearing that continual pain must have been upon me. I feel twenty years younger now and have a whole new, incredibly positive outlook on life! That’s saying quite a lot given I’m still dealing with fallout from the aforementioned left elbow ‘incident’.
But it also made me ponder all those poor souls out there for whom daily pain that would make my dental issues seem like a walk in the park is their ‘norm’. How do such brave beings find the strength, and more importantly, the perspective to get on with life? Do their bodies manage to conceal or otherwise mitigate a large portion of their pain? We’ve all known people who suffer from chronic pain; after enduring the tiny bit I did I cannot imagine how such noble souls can face each new day! My brief experience highlighted just how wearing and grinding daily pain can be; it saps one’s energy, destroys one’s optimism and is always there with its slow, steady drumbeat of torment. And I dealt with my meager pain for less than two months; what must it be like to endure such constant torture for years let alone a lifetime? Even if their bodies are capable of greatly mitigating such misery how do they find the energy and the perspective to endure; let alone do so with dignity and grace?
These are questions I cannot answer and I recognize this is good because it means I’ve never experienced such circumstances. But I also now understand such individuals are indeed heroes…heroes who walk among us daily. Noble beings whom endure and, indeed, even aspire to greater heights despite being drained and crushed by daily torment. In a time seemingly bereft of role models I believe such beings more than qualify for that title; they shine forth as amazing examples of the human will! So the next time you cut your finger or wrench your back or struggle with a hacking cough and feel like you cannot handle it any longer remember those who live with intense misery day in and day out. You know you will eventually heal but those amazing souls who live with daily pain have no such luxury yet they persevere and even rise above… Truer heroes I cannot imagine!