I had to get a root canal today. It wasn’t fun, but to be honest, it wasn’t that bad. I kind of enjoyed the opportunity to lay down and rest while recovering from my cold.
In the midst of having the nerves removed from my molar, I had the following contraptions on my body:
1. protective vest for x-rays; are these things made of lead?
2. shaded glasses to reduce glare from dentist’s lamp
3. plastic contraption forcing my jaw open and prohibiting me from speaking coherently, and causing a large amount of drooling
4. a bib
I had a strange realization in the middle of the process that threw me for a loop. For anyone who has endured this procedure, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. For those of you lucky ducks who have evaded the throws of a root canal; use your imagination.
Not only was I laden in dental armor, but there were all these different people in the room, milling around, dictating to me what was happening (since obviously my senses were impaired). I felt very out of control of my faculties, and had pangs of vulnerability mixed with fear, and frustration at the inability to communicate. Suddenly it dawned on me, that this must be what it’s like to be a very elderly person in the care of others.
I’ve volunteered in nursing homes and for a hospice, and have plenty of experience with older individuals. Until now I never had a realistic perspective on what it’s like to be in their (orthopedic) shoes. It was scary and unpleasant.
I don’t speculate that I will have that many experiences with the elderly in the near future, but when I do, I will definitely interact with them differently.