Ukulele music played softly from the loudspeakers as I leaned back in my chair.
A clear bag of anesthesia hung from a slender chain strapped to the ceiling. A tube connected it to a newly inserted needle in my arm.
Monitors taped to my chest measured the steady beating of my heart, which was punctuated with every pump by an electronic beep that erratically changed tempo as I tried to control my irrational terror.
I was sitting in small room at my oral surgeon’s office getting ready for my first surgical procedure ever: Wisdom teeth removal.
In retrospect, it’s a very common surgery and probably shouldn’t have concerned me as much as it did. But all four of my wisdom teeth were coming out that day, and all I could think about while I sat alone in the operating room was whether something horrible would go wrong.
Would I have a bad reaction to the anesthesia? Would I fall asleep and never wake up? Would I somehow be able to feel the pain of my teeth being ripped from my mouth?
I pondered these questions as “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole continued to play over the speaker. After an interminable wait, the nurse and the doctor returned.
“How we feeling today?” the doctor boomed.
“I’m OK,” I responded
“Good,” he said. “Let’s take a nap.”
He turned the dial on the needle in my arm, and I woke up in the recovery room, cubicle walls separating me from the other patients recuperating after their own operations. The last thing I could remember before going under was the doctor putting a rubber block between my jaws.
Although my mouth was numb, I could tell that it was packed with gauze. It felt like no time had passed, and still under the effects of anesthesia, it felt like time was still moving at a strange, unknowable pace.
A nurse eventually plopped me in a wheel chair, and rolled me out to my dad’s car.
My dad had traveled from Ohio to drive me home after my procedure and take care of me for a couple days (we were careful to wear masks and take other precautions against COVID). As he pulled onto North Roan Street, the lines on the road blurred and bent at unnatural angles, but I was gradually regaining lucidity.
By the time we pulled into the Kroger parking lot to grab my prescribed pain medicine from the pharmacy, I was slowly starting to feel an aching sensation grow in the back of my mouth.
The next two days were a sedentary blur of movies, including two of the three “Austin Powers” films, and soft foods, including canned soup, mashed potatoes, apple sauce, ice cream and macaroni and cheese.
The pain ended up being fairly manageable, only flaring up in mild waves that I could control through huge, 800 mg tablets of ibuprofen.
Today, roughly a month after my surgery, it’s easy to forget that I had an eighth of my teeth removed in a single one-hour period.
The only permanent reminder are the four gaping holes in the back of my mouth. And I’m only aware of those when I get food stuck in them.