Previously, on Why You Shouldn't Trust An X-Ray:
[Woman in Dentist Chair, looking puzzled. Dentist, looking smug and condescending in his white coat.]
Woman: Are you sure the x-ray doesn't show anything? All my teeth on that side are really sensitive–I haven't been able to chew on that side for ten years. Can't drink anything that's not body temperature.
Dentist: Nope. Everything looks good–unfortunately, some people just have really sensitive teeth.
Two weeks ago
[Woman in walk-in-clinic. She has been in the waiting room for two hours and is finally called back to a room.]
Doctor: What seems to be the problem?
Woman: I haven't been able to sleep for days. It almost feels like a sinus infection–without the stuffiness. I haven't had a cold, no runny nose, nothing. But this entire side of my head feels like…okay, take an octopus, give it wire bristles in place of tentacles. Now wedge the octopus somewhere below and behind my right eye–have one tentacle come out above my eye, one out my ear, one out my right nostril, one along my upper jaw and one on the lower, and one down my throat. Now set all the wire-bristled tentacles spinning at a high velocity. That's what it feels like.
Doctor: Sinus infection. They can be pretty painful.
Woman: But I've had a sinus infection before, and this doesn't feel like that.
Doctor puts her on antibiotics and sends her on her way.
Four days later:
Woman, in desperation one night, takes one of her 8 year old's Tylenol with Codeine tablets because Advil seems to have no effect, whatsoever–and
ends up in ER with massive adverse reaction to Codeine on Mother's day at five a.m.
Friday after work:
[Woman returns to clinic. Different Doctor]
Woman: I've been on antibiotics for almost two weeks. I can't sleep. I can't stand anyone's voice or the sound of the telephone. I think that the octopus likes antibiotics.
Doctor orders x-rays.
Doctor: Huh. The good news is, your sinuses are totally clear. The bad news is, I think you have trigeminal nueralgia. Here, go to webmd.com, and look it up. Take three Advil and two maximum strength Tylenol every four hours until you can get in touch with your regular doctor.
Woman goes home.
Octopus ADORES Advil and Tylenol.
Woman calls dentist friend: Have you ever heard of trigeminal nueralgia?
Friend: Yeah, but it's pretty rare
Woman: I looked it up, and that doesn't seem to really match what I've got. I'm going insane. Here's what's going on–does it sound like a tooth to you?
Friend: No–the antibiotics should have taken care of any abscess.
But Friend, being a true friend, offers to open up his clinic on a Saturday and do x-rays, just to be sure.
Woman makes it through one more night without sleeping. (Or smashing anything.)
X-rays come out normal. But Friend is curious. He does some hot/cold tests and determines that one tooth is dead. The tooth–the one the woman has begged dentists to pull for fifteen years. Does more x-rays. It still looks perfectly normal. He injects the tooth with anesthetic.
Friend gives her another prescription for antibiotics, plus Vicodin.
When the anesthetic wears off, an hour or so later, the Woman takes a Vicodin. Makes woman itchy and her vision kinda funky. Doesn't do anything to the Octopus. Nothing does.
Woman reads the label. Takes two Vicodin. Because the other option is setting off a nuclear bomb to wipe out everyone she has ever spoken with about this tooth, and she doesn't have any bombs–just an ineffective bottle of Advil, and the Vicodin.
Woman gets violently ill. Crouches over the toilet, desperately rubbing the back of her throat with her finger, hoping that the Vicodin might come back up. Unfortunately, this woman doesn't vomit easily. Never has. She crawls back toward the bedroom, icy-cold sweat pouring down her cheeks and backbone, pooling behind her knees. If she could get enough strength together she would heave a paperweight across the room at her husband's head so he'd wake up and do something. Anything. Maybe borrow the neighbor's shotgun. Two more nights to go.
Friend performs a root canal.
Die octopus, die!
Woman sleeps all night, with just three Advil. Wakes up, tentatively hopeful that the remaining ache is going to ebb away, permanently.