Zack had one of his wisdom teeth out today. Somehow, this is an ordeal that both he and I have avoided heretofore. Given his druthers, I think Zack would have preferred to continue avoiding it. Alas, because we are Responsible Grownups who prioritize our longterm health, this morning I drove him to the oral surgeon in Oregon City who decreased the wisdom in Zack’s mouth by 25%.
One of the hundreds of truly unfortunate things about American healthcare, I decided, is that it often requires you to pay lots of money to dramatically increase your short-term suffering. This really sets up a perverse incentive structure, in which the hypothetical future consequences of not proactively addressing your health are weighed against the combination of the very real increase in suffering in your immediate future AND the immediate cost. Logically, I know that the long-term costs of avoiding unpleasant treatments may be much higher, both in money and in suffering, than the costs of addressing it right away. Emotionally, that argument doesn’t hold water. Present Me looks at the budget and the magnitude of the immediate suffering involved and thinks, “WHATEVER, SCREW FUTURE ME, WHO EVEN LIKES HER ANYWAY?”
However, I do own at least one pair of Big Girl Pants, and Zack is remarkably biddable, so I shelled out $190 to ruin his day (and the week preceding it. He was not looking forward to this, not one bit).
While I sat in the waiting room, watching a remarkably violent DisneyNature special on chimpanzee wars, I wondered how people without friends or family handle this kind of procedure. The surgeon required that the escort remain in the office for the entire duration of the procedure if the patient was going to be anesthetized. This makes the “call a taxi” plan untenable. And even the “call a taxi” plan doesn’t account for the close monitoring you’re supposed to have in the six hours after the procedure. So who takes care of the people who are new in an area? Who looks after the people who are isolated? It seems that the cracks in the system are so massive they could swallow great swaths of society whole.
After a short twenty minutes (far shorter than the 40 minute estimate I was given), they released an incredibly groggy Zack into my care, admonishing me to keep him awake for a few hours and have him change the gauze every 30 minutes.
For someone as heavily sedated as he was, he did a truly remarkable job of communicating his extreme grouchiness with the whole affair. That’s talent, folks. Once we were clear to remove the gauze, he glowered at the bowl of applesauce I proffered, declaring soft foods to be offensive to him. “They’re not really foods,” he insisted. So much for the diet of milkshakes, broth, and applesauce that the surgeon recommended.
Fortunately, I spent my Sunday night wracking my brain for a menu that was suitable for a healing mouth. This is what we’ll be eating this week:
- chicken and dumplings (mirepoix cooked until quite soft)
- shepherd’s pie (crustless variety), with roasted cauliflower pureed into the potatoes
- green chile pork tamales and refried beans
- butternut squash soup
- braised short ribs with garlicky spinach and cheese grits
- pumpkin macaroni and cheese
- chicken ramen
I admit that I am tremendously tickled to have come up with a meal plan that has no sharp edges but still passes Zack’s “real foods” test. Hopefully, the only “real food” he’ll miss is potato chips, which really can’t be made oral-surgery safe.