My left side has taken a little bit of a beating over the past week. It started with the tetanus shot. To be specific, this was a DTAP vaccine or diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine, allowing me to step on rusty nails as well as wandering among those with whooping cough and sick lungs without fear of lockjaw or something worse. But first I had to live through the injection. When the cheerful technician approached me with the needle, she said that it probably wouldn't hurt much. Not the first day, anyway. She did let me know that it would make my shoulder sore in a few days. She wasn't lying. No diphtheria, tetanus, or pertussis, but I couldn't lift my left arm over my head. At least she wasn't lying.
Then, after I had recovered somewhat from the injection trauma, I found myself back at Kaiser, waiting for my appointment. This one was for the flange of flesh that had been poking into the left corner of my mouth for a long time. I wanted to be able to give the very friendly doctor who came to look at my flange some sort of exact time, but I couldn't remember when it wasn't there. It hadn't always been there. I wasn't born with it. "Did you bite your lip really hard at some point?" asked the friendly doctor.
"I may have. I just don't remember when," I was trying to come up with an incident to report that would make this little flap of flesh seem significant. It wasn't. Unless you happen to be my dentist or hygienist, who have been pestering me about this oral occlusion every six months for the past eight or so years.
"You know, you've got Kaiser. You could just have them lop it off during an office visit," they encouraged. Matter of fact. Snip. Done. Then they wouldn't have to work around this five millimeter nub every time they wanted to root around in my mouth looking for other more serious problems.
For years, I put it off. This past week, when I visited my doctor, she noticed that I needed to update my DTAP, and then she asked if I had any health concerns. I thought about all the dents and dings my body had endured over the past fifty-two years, and I came up with the mouth nub. She made a quick call, booked an appointment, and then sent me downstairs to get my DTAP booster. Then I waited for my return engagement.
"What are you going to do?" I asked the friendly doctor, after he had consulted with his older colleague who was every bit as friendly.
"We're going to numb it up," he said approaching with another needle, "and then we're going to cut it off." After he set down the needle, he excused himself to go get a pair of scissors. When he returned, I was a little let down that there would be no lasers or liquid nitrogen or sutures. When it was over, I didn't feel a thing. No pain. No nub. Nothing. But I knew that my left side had been abused. All in the service of medical science.
Now I can't wait to go back to the dentist.