Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sunshine and Sedatives, or Seeing My First Surgery

Yesterday was the perfect day for a road trip. A cool breeze (but not too cold), the sun shining (but not so it was blinding), and barely a cloud in the sky. Yes, this was still all happening in February. Who'd have thunk it? Anyway, it's a good thing yesterday was ripe for a lovely car trip, because that was what took up the entirety of my agenda yesterday: a trip to Birmingham and back via Didcot.

As the only part-time working, non-studying adult who can drive in the family at the moment, I was tasked to take my mother-in-law up to Birmingham for some dental surgery at a place called the Tatum Clinic. Now Oscar Hilt Tatum, D.D.S., is a kindly old man from Alabama who takes his sweet time about things and sort of makes me want to call him "sir" at the end of every sentence. The man wore leather loafers whilst operating for heaven's sake, I don't think he could be more Wake if he tried. (Though he did go to Emory, not Wake.)

Alas, Dr. Tatum's laid back approach to surgery meant that after a 4pm arrival, my mother-in-law didn't get seen until 7, didn't get put under until 7:30, and didn't have the first incision made until 8pm. Fair enough: her dentist - a student of Dr. Tatum's - did warn us in advance that his teacher wasn't the sort to be a slave to a time table. In fact, one of the other dentists studying with the good Doctor - a prolific drummer who once toured the Czech Republic with a bunch of guys he met randomly in Prague - called this phenomenon the Tatum Time Tunnel: TTT. Needless to say, the TTT was in full force last night.

Around 9pm I got bored. The TV was boring, I'd read all the interesting magazines, I didn't dare go to sleep in case it made it harder to stay awake later, and when I tried to read my books - all with smaller print than the magazines - I realised I really needed to wait to get my new glasses so the headaches wouldn't kick up. So what was left to me? Most avenues of entertainment seemed closed. But upon going to snag a drink, I discovered that there was one tantalizing form of entertainment I hadn't tried yet: watching the live video feed of the surgery!

One dentist saw me lurking in the corner and ushered me in with the rest who were in the viewing room rather than the OR. But another, Ben, realised that I was the daughter-in-law of the patient. This, he decided, was most emphatically NOT GOOD. It was quite likely traumatising to see a surgery anyway when one isn't a surgeon and has never studied medicine. In Ben's mind - and perhaps rightly so - it was even worse when the person on the table was someone whom you knew well. He ushered me out of the room (not before I snagged some clandestine pictures!) and tried to bribe me with crisps and cookies to stay out of the viewing room.

Not a chance.

I was not to be deterred. I let Ben know that I wasn't at all convinced that I needed to watch to make sure that Dr. Tatum wasn't torturing my mother-in-law (or to make sure that he was!). To be frank, it was pretty freaking interesting, I was bored, and I was going to watch because it didn't upset me in the least. Like a very kindly and fatherly figure (though Ben was nowhere near old enough to be my father), he explained the different parts of the procedure Dr. Tatum was doing; showing me a mould of my mother-in-law's mouth, as well as PowerPoint slides from a presentation Tatum had done on a similar surgery. Finally! I had found something to keep me awake enough to brave the journey home...which didn't get started until a little while after midnight.

I chatted with Sarb, Ali, Maria, Ben, Solli and various other dentists who came in and out of the viewing room cracking jokes, explaining dental jargon, and looking up hilarious videos on YouTube. With a gaggle of amiable dentists, live surgery, and sugary snacks in their various forms, I was all set. Sarb and I talked music and cracked jokes about the fact that the sedative they'd given my mother-in-law was basically a roofie. Seriously: the stuff they use in sedation dentistry is the date rape drug. Not to mention Sarb has great taste in comedians: we cackled maniacally for several minutes about the finer points of Eddie Murphy's stand-up routines from Raw and Delirious.

At the end of the night, I gathered up my mother-in-law - who was essentially like a slightly drunk sorority sister, but with a stocking full of frozen peas strapped round her head...why didn't I take that picture!? We said our goodbyes to the dentists, who all seemed to find us both very nice and pretty cool to hang out with. I bundled her in the car and started back from Didcot. Alas, fuel economy was not high on the list of priorities at that point. My sugar high was slowly wearing off and the insistent pressure of my bladder decried that I get home sooner - much sooner - rather than later. So I gunned it the whole way back, flying past lorry drivers and bracing myself for each pothole and speed bump along the way. We made it in the end.

So, I give the excursion to Birmingham 4 out of 5 stars. The last star has been revoked because of Tatum's instructions not to stop on the way home in case someone tried to take advantage of the impaired lady with a stocking round her head. My bladder and I were not happy with this instruction after an hour of driving with 40 minutes to go. Not happy at all. But otherwise, quite the fun trip.

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