Slice of Chaotic Life

The daily life of a celibate middle-aged man.

A terrifying day.

Posted by Itlandm on April 19, 2012

My apprehension fell far short of the horror of today. If I had known beforehand what would happen, I would have politely declined the dental surgery altogether. But I did not know. There was so little information in advance that I did not even know for sure whether today was the day of the actual surgery, or whether they were going to check things out and give me a new appointment. But things get worse from here.

I survived (so far), but I was in some doubt almost from the start. They asked whether I used any medication and whether I was allergic to anything, both of which I answered no. I did not think to mention the heart rhythm thing, which is still not clear what is, or whether it is dangerous. The doctors all seem to think not, unless it lasts for many hours or is accompanied by pain and / or breathing difficulties.

There was no chest pain of breathing difficulties today either. But a while after the local painkiller shots, just after the cutting away of my gums, my heart rhythm changed. It did not get faster, but very strong. Specifically, a bit down from the actual heart, further down from the bones of the chest, a little to the left, a spot started to beat. Putting my hand on it, I could feel the skin and whatever was under the skin actually move out and in with each heartbeat, very strongly. I am not sure whether there usually is a spot there that moves with each heartbeat; it may be there always was and I never noticed. That would be like me. My body is not very real to me until I am in danger of losing it. -_- It is still beating now, that spot, but not with the extreme strength it did then. This strength gradually faded and we resumed the surgery without further complications.

The dental surgeon stitched the opening – they had cut a fairly large hole – and gave me a prescription for painkiller and one for antibiotic. So far, so good. After waiting a little, I went to the drug store and got the drugs. I don’t expect to use the painkiller, as pain does not bother me unless it is extreme or in unexpected places. I was about to take the antibiotic when I read the sheet that lay in the package, and something seemed strange. It said that Clindamycin was used for severe infections where penicillin was ineffective, and there should be bacteriological tests and resistance analysis before using it. There were repeated warning to seek help if severe diarrhea occurred, even as far as 6 months after treatment. Now my hackles were up, and I went on the web. It turns out that this drug is the typical reason for a very dangerous intestinal infection (Chlostridium Difficile), to the point where the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has recommended that Clindamycin be avoided in clinical practice.

So – take the antibiotic and risk a life-threatening bowel infection? Or not take it and risk wound infection and potentially blood poisoning (sepsis)? It is like sailing between Scylla and Charybdis: If you stay clear of one deadly danger, you necessarily come close to the other. Now I feel, to stay on sea a moment longer, that I should not have rocked the boat in the first place.

The pain is not a problem currently. When the local anesthetic began to wear off, a quote from the old computer game Alpha Centauri came to mind: “Pain, even agony, is no more than information before the senses, data fed to the computer of the mind. The lesson is simple: you have received the information, now act on it.” (Sheng-Ji Yang.) Now, agony may be too distracting for a lesser soul such as I; but ordinary pain is welcome when there is reason for it, so as to discourage foolhardy behavior.

If only the pain preceded the foolhardy behavior at every turn! But then we would all be wise, eh?

My heartbeat is faster than usual, but not in the “racing heart” (tachycardia) category. It is like when I have an infection or has overtrained and damaged the muscles a bit. This is to be expected, since my body has sustained an actual damage and the wound is surely releasing plenty of stress chemicals. There may also be an ongoing infection below my radar. Stress hormones are probably a good thing when there is an actual physical stressor. I doubt they came into existence by an explosion. Intelligent design beats stupid design at every turn, so I doubt a mechanism common to pretty much every animal would be counter-productive. The problem with stress and humans is that we create stress where there is no reason for it, by perceiving threats to the mind as if they were threats to the body and could be fought by the same reactions.

This time however there is a legitimate threat to my body. I am not used to that. Still, the Azumio stress check clocks me in at a stress level of 21, which is probably closer to restful waters than to the valley of the shadow of death. Although the valley certainly looks closer from here than it did yesterday.

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