Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What the dentists said

I have a dentist in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico who takes care of my teeth during the six months we're in Tucson each year. And I have a dentist in Lynnwood, Washington who I see the other six months. I see the Mexican dentist in November and March each year (very good and much cheaper, but 95 minutes away by car.) I see the American dentist in June or July. Three cleanings a year, carefully scheduled.

In March I was at the Mexican dentist and I was told that one of my top right midway-to-the back teeth, previously fitted with a crown, needed to be extracted and replaced with an implant and another crown. I decided to wait until next season because there was a three-month lag between the extraction and the implant, and I was leaving before three months. The tooth was a little loose sometimes but I figured if I paid attention I could keep in my mouth for six more months.

In May when I returned to Washington, I learned that I need to have my hip replaced. I am scheduled for August 18. One of the pre-surgical requirements is a release from my dentist that I don't have any infections in my mouth. I decided to use my summer appointment for cleaning and a signoff by the dentist.

Yesterday I went for my checkup. The dentist looked at my mouth and said there was no infection, but my iffy tooth was a little wiggly and he was concerned that  when I was intubated during my hip replacement the tooth could break and I could aspirate it. He recommended removing the crown and filling what remained of the tooth so it would be stable for the hip surgery. Then I could have the implant done next fall in Mexico, and get the crown in Mexico in the winter. One advantage would be I could have the work done in two different calendar years, which would make better use of my dental insurance. 

We decided I would come back today for my cleaning and that tomorrow he would do the filling.

I arrived at noon today for my cleaning and there had been a cancellation right after my appointment, so the dentist asked if I would like to have him do the filling today so I wouldn't have to come back tomorrow. I said yes. 

He removed the crown and saw immediately that there wasn't enough tooth left to fill. The tooth would need to be pulled as soon as possible. My hip replacement is in about six weeks, so I only had a couple of weeks to get the extraction to have enough recovery time before the surgery. 

He said he'd give me a referral to an oral surgeon, or he could do the extraction today. It looked like a pretty simple job to him.

I said do it today. 

He asked if I wanted to have a bone graft. I asked why and he said it would increase the odds for the implant to work, since there would be a difference of several months between the extraction and the implant, and the remaining teeth start to shift after an extraction. He said it would cost $400 and that insurance wouldn't cover it. I asked where the graft would come from. He said a cadaver or a cow.

I said do the bone graft. If the implant didn't work I'd have to have a bridge and  I don't want that.

I got moved from the cleaning room to the extraction room. I got several numbing shots. The dentist and his assistant worked on my tooth for 45 minutes. The remaining half inch of root - which had had a previous root canal - gave up after a lengthy struggle. The dentist said, "I'm not going to charge you for the bone graft. This took much longer than I led you to believe."

I got stitched up and, with gauze pressed into my mouth, I left to have the antibiotic prescription filled. I looked weird with gauze sticking out of my mouth but I had a mask on so no one noticed. I go back in ten days to have the stitches removed. The dentist will make sure I don't have an infection and then he'll sign off on the dental exam part for my hip replacement.

That's the plan, anyway.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Summer gratitudes

 A list again! 

1. Art's laminectomy was successful. The back surgery was done on L1-L2 and L3-L4. We checked in at noon and checked out seven hours later. He could already move his legs by then.

2. Art had been in a wheelchair since our return from Tucson to Brier six weeks earlier. Three days ago he put the chair in the corner of the room and is now using a walker. He be starting PT in a couple of weeks to strengthen his legs and walk on his own. He is off all his pain medications and his only complaint now is that his incision itches. I can live with that one!

3. We had help for the first three days post surgery, as I had planned. Everyone showed up and they were all magnificent. Thanks to Art's sister Mary, my sister Alyx, Art's daughter Melissa and his sons Jason and Peter.

4. I only had one meltdown, but I ran away from home for two hours and then I was over it. I had continued my caregiving role post surgery, and since Art could now get around without pain, he didn't need it to the same extent I was offering it, and he let me know. I've backed off somewhat now and no longer cater to his every wish. He's mostly reading the paper, working the puzzles, and watching TV as he waits for PT to start.

5. It's my turn! I have an ortho consult for my bad hip in just two more days.

6. Our two-family residence is exceeding even my best hopes. We see Jason and Kalei and Kaleb - the "upstairs people" - nearly every day. They are being really kind, picking up the mail and sharing their meals every few days. And when they have multiple loads of laundry on "their" days, I move loads from the washer to the dryer or I fold; it's only six feet from our door. The best part is when one of them comes downstairs just to chat. Jason told us yesterday that when he tells people his dad and stepmom live downstairs, sometimes they go "uh-oh", but Jason tells them it's really working out well. So it isn't just me thinking that.

7. Jason is doing yardwork now that it's summer and nearly every plant in the yard is going berserk. Yesterday he brought in a bowl of radishes and strawberries from the garden for us. I'm looking forward to later in the summer when Art and I can both spend time outside. Maybe we'll even be able to help out.

8. When we lived upstairs, we had two sets of Corinthian wind chimes and a  fountain on the porch. They're not being used now, so I've asked them to be brought downstairs and set up for us. I love the sound of the chimes. It's not windy here very often, so the chimes give us that notice of a weather change. And the porch fountain will provide a drink for the birds and bunnies and other critters who share our property with us. 

9. I have been doing the cooking for nearly three months now, and I have to confess I usually like it. If I'm too tired there's always scrambled eggs and toast or soup. What I don't like is meal planning and shopping, but we use boxes from Sun Basket, Hello Fresh and Home Chef. Once a week we go online, decide which company has the most interesting meals, tell the other two "no thanks this week" and order what we want. So the deciding is already done when the box arrives. It is a little pricey, but it's worth it for the aggravation I don't have, and the shopping. We've been doing this for three years now.

10. We're just about at the end of the rain and heading into Washington's dry season at the same time as the days are longest. That is wonderful.

For today, life is good.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

While we're waiting

My husband Art is having back surgery - a laminectomy - this coming Friday. He's got at least half a dozen pinched nerves in his lumbar spine that are affecting his legs. The surgery should relieve much of the pain and restore his ability to walk. Later this summer I will have my hip replaced, and possibly my knee. 

We're at home in our apartment in Brier, Washington, waiting. Here's what we've done this week:

  • Got our eyes checked. For me it's been two years. For Art it's been five. Here's how the morning went:
    • Backed my car out of the garage, then pulled it back in with enough width on the passenger side so Art could get his wheelchair from the apartment to the garage, then transfer from the chair to the car. Backed the car out again, then pulled it back in with enough room on the driver's side so I could get out of the car, open the trunk, fold up the wheelchair and put it in the trunk. We have not yet downsized and decluttered enough to reclaim sufficient width in the garage to have this happen in just one step.
    • Once at the eye clinic, find a handicapped spot, leave Art in the car with the morning paper, and get my eyes checked. No changes, no new glasses required. Yay! 
    • It's two hours until Art's eye appointment, so we drive to a Greek-American deli for breakfast. Open the trunk, get out the wheelchair and set it up for Art to transfer into it. Walk down the sidewalk to locate the ramp from the street we can use. Walk back to the car and push Art in the wheelchair - in the street - to said ramp, continuing on to the tables set up outside the deli. Two men offer us their table. I say, "Thank you! I will pay your kindness forward sometime today." One of the men says, "No need to do that. We're Republicans."(!?). I say, smiling, "There are good Republicans." The man says, "There are LOTS of good Republicans." We have a delicious breakfast. We do the getting-Art-back-into-the-car thing. We drive back to the eye clinic.
    • Once at the eye clinic, find a handicapped spot again, get the wheelchair out of the trunk, and get Art transferred into it. Push the chair in and out of the elevator. Note that the tire on the left side of the chair has come off the wheel. Once in the waiting room, transfer Art to a chair, turn the wheelchair over and, assisted by two friendly strangers, put the tire back on. (It was probably at this point that the "Help" button, attached to a lanyard and tied to the wheelchair, fell off. We called the clinic the next day but no one had found it, so a replacement has been ordered).
    • Art gets his eyes checked. No changes, no new glasses required. Yay again!
    • Arrive home and reverse the process to get Art and me out of the car and back in the apartment.
    • Take naps.  
  • Review the items in the storeroom. 
    • Notice six Kirkland (Costco) jars full of coins, from all the years Art emptied his pockets at the end of the day and put the change in a jar. Ask Art if he'd be interested in sorting them and putting them into coin rolls. Getting a yes, haul them out to the dining room table.
    • Two days later, put five Kirkland jars full of coin rolls into a rolling suitcase to take to the bank. Put the suitcase in the car. Do the get-Art-into-the-car routine and drive three miles to a Bank of America, which you have read accepts coin rolls. We don't have any accounts there, but we do have two Alaska Airlines Visa cards through that bank.
    • Put the rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into plastic racks provided by the teller. When finished, slide the racks under the plastic divider for the teller to process. Receive $490 in bills. 
    • Drive to the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Do the getting-the-wheelchair-into-the-restaurant thing. Enjoy an excellent lunch indoors. Do the getting-Art-back-into-the-car thing. Drive home. Do the getting-us-back-into-the-apartment thing.
    • Take naps.  
  • Take Art to and from his presurgical physical appointment. He passed. Yay!
  • Get my first online physical therapy to prepare me for my upcoming hip replacement, so I'll be strong and the process will be easier.
  • Did the things Art has done for the last 25 years but can't now until he can walk after his surgery, plus the things I usually do.
    • Make shopping list
    • Shop for groceries
    • Prepare breakfast
    • Fix lunch
    • Cook dinner
    • Order what we need from Amazon
    • Send emails and texts asking for help during Art's first few days home after his surgery.
    • Listen to a family member having a personal crisis.
    • Talk to a friend having a family health issue.
    • Attend a Board meeting on Zoom for The Inn Project, a cause in Tucson I'm devoted to.
    • Attend two Olli classes on Zoom.
    • Drop out of two Spanish classes on Zoom for lack of time to do the homework.
I am grateful that I'm strong and healthy, even though I hurt. I'm grateful to have the financial resources we need. I'm grateful for a supportive personal and family network.

This, too, shall pass!