Raw Nerve, Part II

Up early again
a drive ahead of rush hour
needing to be first in line
only a two-hour wait
the doctor’s worried look
a free-falling slide
down the muddy hole
of the medical system
In only 2 days I was back
the antibiotics prescribed
not working, if anything
my cheek getting bigger
infection spreading further, faster
the doc took a look
couldn’t help me
“You need to go to the ER;
which one do you prefer?”

A free-flowing bag of IV antibiotics
necessary, life saving
all my attempts
to control the cost
had come to naught
I could see dollar signs
stacking up like a log jam
swirling, eddying
bursting free
flowing like the IV antibiotics
sweeping away everything in its path
including me
and what little financial ability
I had left

Same day, another drive
to the ER close to home
what was to be 90 minutes
turned into three hours
and then four
a Cat Scan, blood work
worried faces
the doctor conferring
with an oral surgeon
sharing the digital cat scan
preparing transfer papers
the abscess must be dealt with
now

Another drive
three blocks from where
I started that day
just down the street
from the free clinic
they tried to send me
by ambulance
I convinced them
to let me drive
they were concerned
that my airway would close
or that I would get in an accident
must of have been an acceptable risk
they released me to drive on my own
the ambulance would have been
another $500

I should have run when I checked in
the receptionist took the transfer papers
did his magic
and handed me a bracelet
with the wrong name
I didn’t notice
he didn’t ask my name or birth date
when the triage nurse came out
she called a name unfamiliar to me
eventually she came over to me
asked if I was this person
I said no
she asked again, “Am I sure?”
yes, I am pretty certain I know my name
she gave me that look like perhaps I didn’t

What world had I stumbled into?

The envelope with the transfer papers
had someone else’s information
on the outside
my information was inside
with the transfer
evidently the clerk
didn’t open the envelope
a few minutes more
a new bracelet
and triage awaited
minutes later I was walking down the hall
escorted to my room by three aides
and left to strip
not understanding why
I needed to be naked
for the oral surgeon
and nobody was talking

Eventually a nurse,
one of two sane people
I met in the hospital ER
came in and talked with me
soon he vanished
as he realized I was not
a medical patient
but there to see
one of the oral surgeons
an ER doc came in
made the same mistake
and quickly disappeared
the oral surgeon, a resident,
and his student assistant
came in with little conversation
ordered a panorama
of my entire mouth
and left
the film saved another tooth
the oral surgeon seemed anxious to remove
thank goodness I had the mental clarity
to stop him
to ask him to look
he was so certain
it needed to come out
wanting me to sign a release
allowing him to remove the tooth
didn’t he realize the tooth had
already been pulled?

When he came back into the room
I tried to connect
to ask him his name
to learn a little about him
for a moment
he let down his guard
he smiled and was human

And then that changed
he explained again that
I would be signing a release
allowing him to drain the abscess
At least it didn’t allow him to
extract another tooth
he didn’t talk about the procedure
that it would be exceedingly painful
he didn’t describe it
or give me options
I didn’t actually realize
the surgery was happening right then
until he shot my lower jaw
with Novocain
and brought out a little jack
to open my jaw
I hadn’t been able to open
my jaw for days
he jacked my jaws apart
with a device similar
to what you use with
a car with a flat tire
the Novocain was to relax my jaw
to allow them to pry my jaw open
it wasn’t for the pain

He kept jacking
I squirmed, I cried, I jerked
I couldn’t talk
with the jack in my mouth
it was unbearable
and I can bear a lot
I heard him say he could
do the procedure
with my mouth open that far
when he quit jacking
the jaw continued to stretch
moving from out-of-this-world pain
to something only slightly less
evidently not satisfied
he jacked his little tool
two more times
as if for luck

I dove into the pain
there was nothing else I could do
meeting every minutiae
every nuance
every belief that it shouldn’t be so
trying to survive
to keep from passing out
to understand what was happening
to me

He opened the abscess
and it began squirting out
the student suctioned
while he worked
he knew what he was doing
milking out as much abscess
as he possibly could
he was technically sound
and humanly devoid

The pain had not abated
if anything
it had gotten worse
without warning
he grabbed my cheek
that swollen, painful
throbbing flesh
and wrung it out
over and over
ruthlessly
without mercy
grabbing my chin
and then my cheek
and then my chin again
wringing, wrenching,
squeezing
as I kicked, jerked
as my ears filled with tears
as my heart filled with anguish

I saw a vision of Auschwitz
a doctor
inhumane, macabre
torturing his victim
faceless, invisible victim
one of society’s throw-aways

He had given me a look
when I told him the tooth
had been pulled at the free clinic
he made a statement about
the quality of care
that he used to send students there
and perhaps they didn’t anymore
he made me believe that
the care I received
was sub-standard
and the cause of my current situation
I wondered if I had insurance
would I have received this treatment

When he was done
he stuck a big wad of gauze in my mouth
and left
I didn’t know
I was being kept overnight
until the nurse told me
and quickly, silently offered
painkillers and compassion

The tears wouldn’t stop falling
the body couldn’t hold
the rolling waves of trauma
from spilling forth at will
I had been brutalized, traumatized
a victim of rape without the sex
I now knew the sense of violation
the betrayal, the numbness
I was a strong, vital woman
and I couldn’t stop crying
I couldn’t stop writhing
the shaking would not subside
as soon as I spoke one word of it
the shaking and tears
began again
and again

I wanted an answer
I still do
how in the 21st Century
could something
like this happen
the dental world has the ability
to knock people out
for a simple teeth cleaning
how could they do
something like this
without caring for the pain

The next morning
he returned and
roughly checked my mouth
sharp, painful probing
without warning
without compassion
he started to leave
thought better of it
and returned
reached into my mouth
and with what felt like ripping
removed the rubber drain
and slapped in a bit of gauze

The last time I saw him
was when I asked him
to close the door as he left
he made a smart quip
leaving me with a
‘how dare I ask him’
and complying, he left

A friend told the nurse
I felt brutalized and raped
it wasn’t long before
a business suit appeared
to talk me out of my expression
to insist I must be overreacting
there were no offers
of a formal investigation
I did however,
tell her I was a writer
and had the momentary reward
of her expression

Several more bags of IV antibiotics
and by evening
I was homeward bound
with strict instructions
to see the replacement doctor
I had been supplied
on Monday
I met the new doctor in the hospital
he replaced the less-human one
was compassionate and caring
so  gentle
and told me when something
was likely to hurt
it was refreshing
I called as requested
he was not available
could I please come in on Friday instead
the conversation was going fine
until my response to the receptionist’s last question
“Is there insurance that we will bill?”
Was that the reason
I was put off until Friday
I don’t know
they didn’t offer

I still want an answer
for myself and for others
having asked the question
of patient services
of the new oral surgeon
I have not received any
satisfactory response
I sense there is none
no one should be put through
such a barbaric medical procedure
in today’s world

Is this the best we can do
or is this the best we can do for someone
who might not pay

I am processing
aware of the violation
feeling into it
exploring every nook and cranny

In this world of Oneness
he and I are One
differentiated sameness
there is only God
but to the individual form
that answer gives little ease
to the awakened awareness
it provides a full answer
complete solution
clear direction

Even while he was wrenching
my cheek and my jaw
my gums and my chin
old layers of grief
were being pulled away
I told myself to flow with it
there was no stopping this tsunami
let it take all the infection
all the held and imagined pain
and suffering

Now I must let this go too
let it flow without sticking
without gumming up the works
to do this and …
to stand for the little ones
the individual forms
that still believe and feel
their individuality
my form-self included
so I wait
to see what becomes clear
for my next perfect steps
writing this
begins the healing

We all have been brutalized
for we are connected, inseparable
what happens to one of us
happens to each of us,
to us all,
may we all
feel embraced by this healing
experience its fullness
and know we not alone
may we feel the exquisite beauty
of someone standing with us
someone standing for us
when we are unable to stand
for ourselves
may we recognize
the many shoulders
to cry on
to lean against
to prop us up
and attain the absolute knowing
that there is nothing
wrong with us
that we are
not throw-aways
that nothing we did personally
caused the harm

This gift I ask you
to give each other
for this we must do
if we are to reclaim
our humanity
for atrocities
can only happen
if we remain quiet,
dulled and dimmed

The soul of us
aches for remembrance
we are made of light
each particle
is dipped in God
this brilliant light
creative life-force
births itself again
now in and through
each one of us
through events like these
that give pure voice
to our magnificent humanity

While the mind wants to know why I had to go through this, the heart understands there are no answers for such questions. It was mine to experience. Now it is mine to explore and express to the world.  If you hear a next step, have information or assistance to offer, thank you, for your deep listening is a crucial part of this unfolding mystery.

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