I’ve barely time to open my book among the waiting queues at clinic six. I’ve Nightwoods, Charles Frazier’s dark novel of North Carolina with me. In this the violent mixes with the lost among the endless trees of the time-stuck Appalachians. Frazier came to fame a few years back with Cold Mountain. In the film of this Sacred Harp singers can be seen beating out the rhythm of the shape-note rouser I’m Going Home, their hands celebrating glory, slicing the air. God is with them in their singings. He is all around. Down here in the clinic he also hovers, although maybe with not quite the same all-pervasive fire. Files arrive, delivered in what looks like an ex-Tesco trolley. Mine is on top. I’m in.
I’m also back out. Five minutes is all it takes. The prednisolone levels are continuing to fall. I’m down to 5 mg now, a dose at which most side effects cease to be visible. Healing, however, will still be slow and susceptibility to infection from just about anywhere a worry. The tests all show you as normal, the consultant tells me. She smiles. Normality, the aim of us all.
A day later and I’m up the road in the Department of Oral and Maxilio-facial Surgery being told that the prednisolone will certainly interfere with the healing following my tooth extraction and that the alendronic acid may compromise bone recovery. Polymyalgia, your tentacles get into everything. Prednisolone go away. I took 5 mg this morning. I’ll have a go at 4.5 mg tomorrow.
The extraction is carried out by a dentist from County Clare wearing a white smock two sizes too big for her. Amid the small talk about the loveliness of Ireland and the wetness of Wales it sways about like a duvet cover. I get two mouth-deadening injections of lidocaine with another six added as the procedure rolls. My mouth doesn’t like giving up.
She’s great at the talk, put the patient at ease. We’ll just loosen it up a bit first. You may feel some pressure. Snap. There, that’s the crown off. Now let’s see if we can get it out in one piece. Snap. No. This is a difficult one. I’ll have to just move around a bit. You’ll feel more pressure. I do. She’s told me to raise my left hand if I experience pain so I lift it up. It’s like the northern lights in my head. More lidocaine. Then more again, just to be sure.
A second dentist who insists on calling me sir arrives. He is bearing a drill. We’ll just see if we can cut into this. No. We’ll have to slice the socket. No. Yes. Crack. No. Have to cut a bit of bone out here, just so I can get a grip. I Raise my left hand and get another shot of lidocaine. My mouth is starting to feel as big as the Severn Bridge.
But eventually it’s done. My mouth is sewn up and stuffed with gauze. Fragments of my left lower rear molar lie like pieces of moon rock on a dental tray. I get a free packet of surgical cloth for use in supressing bleeding and a badly printed instruction sheet. “For the rest of the day take things quietly” this says. “Take only cool non-alcoholic drinks. Eat a soft diet. You may sit up but do not lie down.”
Will Marks and Spencer sell things I’ll be able to cope with? Rice pudding, coddled eggs, luke warm soup. I’m sure they will.
Back home sitting up but certainly not lying down and with a glass of 15 seconds in the microwave water beside me I stick on the Cold Mountain soundtrack. I’m looking for spirit and uplift. But instead I get the Reeltime Travellers doing “Like A Songbird That Has Fallen”. Pretty much it I suppose.