I had become sick on a Friday, it felt like mouth sores. The next day my condition deteriorated and I became sicker. My friend Carol came over and looked in my mouth with a flashlight.
“You’ve got an abscessed tooth, I bet, that’s what it looks like.” I felt systemically sick, not just my mouth. Also there was swelling under my chin.
My PCP called in pain killers and antibiotics and would see me the next week. My condition seemed to be worsening, it was difficult to swallow. I could barely propel my tongue backward. Taking the meds I went to bed with a warm compress.
After fitful sleep I woke up about 1 a.m. I’ve never been so scared. My tongue was now touching the roof of my mouth. I managed to wake up Lyne and tried to whisper, “Call 911 fast!” My pride was as great as my dilemma. Following Lyne into the kitchen, I attempted to put on my bra.
“I might be dying,” I thought, “but I’m not going to the ER flip flopping around.”
As I was trying to fasten my bra I passed out on the kitchen floor. On the way down the left side of my face struck the solid oak table with force. Lyne had just called an ambulance when he saw me fall and dropped the phone. I heard him say,
“Oh, no! If you die, I’ll be a person of interest!” I couldn’t speak but heard him mumbling and trying to help me in a nervous, clumsy way.
When the paramedics arrived I was still on the floor and they began questioning Lyne.
“What kinds of medications has she taken? Has she been drinking?” They weren’t even looking at me. I got hold of one paramedic’s pant leg and began to weakly tug back and forth. He finally looked down and turned to the person on the floor.
“Oxygen, give me oxygen, please,” I whispered. In a flash they had me on a stretcher with O2 and non rebreather. I kept thinking, “I’m wide awake and they’re going to entubate me.” They didn’t but my O2 dropped into the 70’s.
In able to condense this story I’ll just say the ER trip helped a little. My tongue swelling subsided enough for me to breathe. I told the doctor on call, “I think it’s my salivary gland.” He nodded in agreement.
“You’re probably right,” he said. “Just get some lemon drops to suck on. That will open up the gland.”
As a side note, my face was x-rayed and no fracture, just swelling. By the next Friday I was still very sick and unable to do much more than lie on the couch. My diet consisted of Instant Breakfast and I was barely able to swallow it.
Wilma helped save my life. She called Dr. Spann, an oral surgeon, and got me in that day. She told his nurse, “If he tells her to suck on a lemon drop, then we’re not coming!” The nurse assured her.
“We’ll do something for her if it’s only pain killers.” Dr. Spann saw me as his last patient; he was so kind and compassionate. He asked me, “Do you want gas before I probe into that gland?”
“No,” I whispered, I have to drive home from Wilma’s to my house.” He smiled and said,
“Well, do you mind if I have it? It’s been a really long day!” I liked him from that moment on.
He used a kind of sterile probe that resembled a cake tester. The pain was intense, but he was able to milk out all the infection from my sub-mandibular gland. Relief came almost immediately. He put me on strong antibiotics, pain killers, and antibiotic mouth rinse. I only had to take a pain pill the first night.
That period in my life was a week from hell but at least no fracture. My face took its turn in being stoved up. Also my face looked a little bit out of line. One cheek bone was definitely higher than the other and the bruising remained about 2 weeks, turning rainbow colored before it was over. Talk about a mug shot, it would have frightened people away from the post office.
Kaye Ella Steadman lives in Chickamauga. She is a storyteller, published writer and author of the book “The Girl in the Mirror.” She can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.