In early March, as the news that the pandemic was spreading like wildfire, I was first afraid for my son and daughter-in-law. They live in Brooklyn and commute to work via public transportation. Daniel was supposed to be in Miami for a week-long conference, along with several members of his team. He had planned to extend his trip through the weekend and spend some time at home with us. A few days before the trip, the conference was canceled.
Things started moving pretty quickly after that. He was told to start working from home and I was relieved to hear that. But my daughter-in-law, Miriam, is a speech pathologist in a New York City public elementary school, and Mayor DiBlasio was hesitant to shut down the schools. He waited and waited. I read online that the teachers’ union was planning a sickout but before that happened, DiBlasio finally shut it down. That was a big relief, but I still worried until a few weeks had passed and neither one of them got sick. Miriam started working with her students online, and Daniel continued working from home, and they were as safe as I could hope for.
Meanwhile, a woman from NY had flown to Florida, bringing the virus with her, and Miami was under the gun. I knew it was only a matter of time for it to reach Palm Beach County, where I live. My employer, a small private university, was struggling to figure out how to handle this pandemic like all colleges were. When I woke up with a sore throat and a headache one morning in mid-March, I felt compelled to stay home. There was so much uncertainty, no one really knew much other than how easily this virus was spreading. I worked from home that Thursday and Friday and on Monday, the university started shutting down. I have not been back there since.
One of the things I kept worrying about was having a dental emergency. Were dentists even working? My boss has a friend who’s a dentist and she had to shut down her practice. She got a job as a cashier in a supermarket. So I tried not to worry about it, and just worried about everything else.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband went to Costco in the morning during senior hour. He came home and basically slept for the rest of the day. By early that evening, he was running a low-grade fever, just under a 100. Needless to say, I was freaking out. I gave him Tylenol every four hours and he offered to sleep in the guest room. I refused, thinking if he had Covid-19 then I probably did too. I was pretty sure he had it. What else could it be?
Of course, this was a Friday. I was up all night. I kept touching him, trying to judge if he was still feverish. He felt cool to me but I still couldn’t sleep. I don’t know how he did, I was hovering over him all night. I was a nervous wreck. In the morning, his fever was gone and he said he felt fine. He decided he must have had the 24-hour flu, which I thought he was making up. Turns out there is such a thing but I still wasn’t sure. The next day, he realized his lower leg was all red. On Monday morning, I called the doctor and they asked him to come in. He had ascending cellulitis, which he has had several times in the past, most recently earlier this year after a hike. He was prescribed a strong antibiotic, and I was able to sleep again.
Meanwhile, I noticed one of my teeth seemed loose. Not really a tooth, a crown. I had a loose crown. I decided to live with it and see how it went. Maybe it would reattach itself somehow. Shockingly, that did not happen. If I’m not supposed to touch my face, how am I supposed to let someone else do it??? After a couple of weeks of rinsing with salt water and Listerine, I finally called the dentist. To my surprise, they were open. In fact, they had just reopened that day. I scheduled an appointment for a few days later.
My dentist’s office is in a strip shopping center. His building is a few steps up, with a long, wide wooden deck that runs the length of the building. They had moved several chairs outside, leaving them six feet apart. There was a nurse sitting at a table right outside the door, wearing all the protective gear. She took my temperature, asked me a dozen questions like had I lost my sense of smell or taste, had I traveled anywhere, etc. Finally, she said I could go inside or wait outside. Out I stayed.
When I went in, the tech took an x-ray of my tooth and my dentist came in. They all wore gloves and gowns and masks. He showed me the x-ray and the x-ray taken the year before. I didn’t just have a loose crown. The tooth under the crown was broken, and there was significant bone loss. He said I would need oral surgery to remove the tooth, need a bone graft, and eventually, when that healed, an implant and a new crown. They scheduled me an appointment with an oral surgeon who came to their office on Fridays. That doctor took a panoramic x-ray and a bunch of pictures of my mouth. He had me watch a video on how they do bone grafts and implants and was ready to pull the tooth. He said it could be an emergency. Or not. I chose not and told him I needed to think about all this.
My BFF Judy also uses my dentist. Her son had an infection in a tooth, and our dentist sent him to an oral surgeon in a local orthodontist’s office. I knew that orthodontist, and it was a terrible practice. They had the lovely habit of sucking down all the child’s insurance money and then would start “phase 2” and then “phase 3” of braces. They did it to my daughter, and I didn’t go back there for phase 2. A friend was going to take her son there and I told her what happened. She took him anyway, and the same thing happened to her child. I was not surprised to learn that Judy’s son had a big problem with his mouth. After spending thousands of dollars. She made her way to the top oral surgeon in the area, and it took him months to fix what the other guy had wrought. So even though the oral surgeon I had seen wasn’t the same guy that messed up, I just wasn’t all that comfortable with him. I have dental insurance, but it’s not great and caps out at a $1000. I knew this process was going to cost at least twice that, and I talked it over with my husband. Off I went to the top guy who doesn’t take insurance.
That was a completely different experience. They required me to wear a mask, and to call from the car when I arrived. I never saw another patient while I was there. I was able to get my x-rays and pictures sent over to him. They did a complete medical history. What? The other guy didn’t ask me anything. The doctor told me because I take anti-inflammatories for arthritis, it could prevent the bone graft from working. I might be able to get an implant, or I might end up needing a bridge. I immediately switched my Aleve to Tylenol, and I’m hoping that will help. While I was there, he put some numbing stuff around the loose crown and pulled it. A little piece of broken tooth came with it. It actually felt better after he did that. He said the movement was irritating my gums. My appointment for the surgery was for the next week, but before that, they made me come in and have a test for Covid-19. The doctor did it right in the office. It was negative – yay!
I am going in today for the tooth to be pulled. I’m not sure exactly what else will happen, all I know is that I have a prescription for antibiotics and Tylenol with codeine. I am writing this about an hour before I go, but it won’t post until Saturday. If I feel up to it, I will update when I can.
Also, if I’m loopy on pain killers, I may not be able to update my blog on the first of June with the new contest. I will try, but it may be a day or two late. Stay tuned.
Finally, I just want to talk a bit about privilege. I started this public diary as a way to document my experience during these unprecedented times. I know I am incredibly lucky that I have been able to work from home for all these months. My husband has been furloughed, but only for brief amounts of time. One week in May. One day a week for June. I don’t know anyone personally who has gotten the Covid-19 virus, much less died from it. I have excellent medical insurance and decent dental insurance. I can wear a mask and no one is going to bother me about it. I have good wifi and access to entertainment. I have literally thousands of books on my Kindle. I have an amazing husband and daughter to share my quarantine with, so I am not alone. I have a beautiful, sweet cat that I can cuddle. I have toilet paper and paper towels. I can have my food delivered if I choose, (and I know that I have gained weight during this quarantine – I am living in carb central!) I am running out of disinfectant wipes, but I have several gallons of bleach so I can make my own if I need to. I am privileged as f*** and extremely grateful, and guilty, about it.
As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!