Tuesday, August 9, 2011

the dentist and her daughter

zadar, croatia: the gum area behind my last molar on the bottom right side starts feeling strange. as the night progresses, strange turns to painful and swelling ensues. by 6am, i google 'gum abscess' and decide that sounds about right. all recommendations: see a dentist immediately. the plan is to leave at 9am for osijek, croatia to play a show that night. internally, i try to stay calm and focus on my breath (and refocus and refocus and refocus on my breath...), but my mind spins with fear - i'm terrified of dentists as it is, let alone in a foreign country! i don't have insurance or money. how are we going to find a dentist? there's no time to find a dentist - we won't get in until 4pm at the earliest, sound check is at 6...

in the morning, i tell my travel companions of my situation. chris has a friend in osijek and immediately emails her for assistance. turns out, his friend's friend's mom is a dentist.


the friend's friend, sandra, and her mom, andela, meet us at a mcdonalds as we pull into town around 5pm. gino speaks to them for me. i'm told to go with them and i get ushered into the back of a small red car. i peer helplessly out of the window as everyone else climbs back in the van, hotel bound. i smell particularly bad - my stress sweat at its worst - which, i feel absolutely terrible about subjecting these women to. i keep my armpits attached to my sides in an attempt to trap the smell of anxiety. at first, it seems neither of them speak english. this adds to my terror. we whiz through small streets, stopping and taking off abruptly. i clutch the necklace beth made for me and run my finger nail over the beads. on the verge of tears, it occurs to me that being afraid is a choice - i could choose not to be and the situation would be just the same. this sounds better. so, i choose not to be afraid and instead, inhale to a count of 4, exhale to a count of 6. it works. i feel instantly proud of myself for putting those thoughts and choices into action in such a moment vs. only in theory.

we arrive and i'm led down a dark hallway. andela (sandra's mom - who has got to be in her late 60's) unlocks a series of doors and soon, we're in the exam room. there's a waiting area, but no reception. we are the only people there. she takes a few moments to prepare and then motions for me to sit in the chair. there are familiar and unfamiliar tools - small dishes full of what look like steel nails varying in size line the tray in front of me. her method for assessing whether or not i have pain is to hammer on my molars with the back end of a tool. clink clink...clink clink... she shakes her head yes and no as she does this - her way of asking, "does this hurt? and how about this?" i follow suit.

her diagnosis (from what i could gather): i'm teething.
my wisdom tooth is coming in and having trouble breaking through the surface, which caused an infection. she gives me two topical treatments (miming how to use them, adorably), and an antibiotic. i am to take 2 pills at the top of the day - she stands on her toes and holds her hand above her head - and at the bottom of the day - she crouches down, holding her hand below her waist - for 4 days. she refuses to accept any money.

after, she takes me into another room and feeds me sugary tonic water and crackers. she encourages me to take the remaining crackers as she rummages around for more things to give me: a small tube of toothpaste and a huge box of chocolate, which she places in a decorative gift bag. when we get back to the car, she insists i sit up front - with my bags in the back - and we drop her off not too much after. i get out and thank her profusely. she smiles sweetly and kisses both of my cheeks.

people. fucking amazing.

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