Tag Archives: pain

Dental Woes

In the midst of my financial and health crises, I am faced with another – Dental problems!!! I haven’t been to a dentist for a regular check-up in maybe 3 years because my last one was bad.  While drinking sweet tea one night and biting on ice, one of my 2 crowns came off!  It was horrendous!!!!!  First of all, it was a nightmare come true…just like you dream about…chewing and your tooth falls out and you catch it in your hand!  Second of all, it is noticeable when I smile and if you know me well then you know how particular I am about my teeth and my smile!  Probably the 2nd most important thing to me besides my heart (before my heart, my teeth/smile were probably my 1st most important).  My immediate concern was “I need a good dentist” and I began texting everyone I know for recommendations.  I was going out of town for the weekend, so it was imperative that I get the crown put back on the next day.

Luckily, the first dentist I called was able to get me in right away the next morning.  His office staff was extremely nice, and he and his daughter (also a dentist) were friendly and accommodating.  I’m glad that I asked my cardiologist about dental visits during a previous appointment.  He had told me that I should make a dentist aware that I’m on blood thinners (and my other meds).  I brought my binder with me to the dentist and made sure they took note of all of the meds I was taking including both blood thinners (Clopidogrel and baby aspirin).  I also let them know I have a stent.  They put all of the information in my chart and I was asked about my blood thinners by several staff throughout the appointment.  I could tell they were thorough and double checking everything.  They were also concerned with knowing all of my drug allergies.

Ultimately, my tooth could not be saved, and an extraction was in order.  But after crying in the dental chair by the overwhelming news and trying to figure out what to do about the hole in my mouth, the dentist had sympathy and vowed to do everything he could to try and temporarily get the crown back on for my weekend trip.  How awesome!  He even told me to buy some lottery tickets because I was lucky it had stayed on as long as it had!  Why is everyone telling me I’m so lucky all the time?  I’ve always felt like the unluckiest person, but I guess I saved up all my luck to use when it was life or death (or toothfull or toothless).

I couldn’t eat, chew, brush, floss, or touch the crown (or that side of my mouth) during the whole weekend.  The dentist had even told me not to breathe on it if that gives you any indication of how he used whatever he could to come up with a way to get the crown back on.  LOL.  The crown stayed on during my entire trip, and my dental appointment was 8am the next morning.

When I went in for the tooth extraction (I was sooo nervous), the crown came off very easily and once again, the dentist (his daughter, this time) said how lucky I was that it stayed for the weekend.  The extraction was done (which was AWFUL!!!) and they had to be very careful about controlling the blood during the process.  I’m not sure how much I bled; I actually didn’t ask.  But they gave me a list of stuff “not” to do for the next 24 hours – 1 of which was no aspirin.  Too bad, I have to take it and didn’t modify any of my cardiac meds regime for the extraction.   They also gave me a prescription for pain medicine and antibiotics.

When I got home, I decided to take the pain medicine (percocet generic brand) that I had been prescribed from the Gall Bladder surgery.  I was in a lot of pain (enough to miss my next day of cardiac rehab), so I was taking the medicine every 4-6 hours.  I noticed I was itching all over my body, and on the second night, I looked in the mirror and noticed I was starting to break out into a rash on my torso.  Scratch marks were red and raised, and I realized that while I did not have a fever, I needed a fan to make me feel cool the past 2 days…just like I had when I first got out of the hospital.  It must be the pain medicine that I’m allergic to!!  I called my cardiac nurse and let her know and called a 24 hour pharmacist to confirm who said to take Benadryl.  Thank goodness, I had 2 Benadryl tablets left (25 mg each) and took them both.  I had been on so much pain med, I wasn’t driving anywhere.  The next day I got the dentist’s prescription filled for Norco (generic is Hydrocodone-Acetominophen).  I began taking that, which the pharmacist had said is in the opiate family (like the percocet) but not as strong.  I knew I would likely be allergic to this one, too, but I still needed pain med.  The reaction on this one wasn’t as severe.  No rash, minor itching, and I felt like my lips and left cheek were numb/tingling.  I thought the numbness thing was a side effect of the pain med (I’ve also been taking pencillin during this time).  At my cardiologist appointment, I brought this up, and he said it was likely something caused from the dental procedure and not a medicine side effect.  So now I’m thinking that is odd that my left cheek and lips are STILL slightly numb/tingling and it’s almost been a week.

I had another appointment the next day with the dentist anyway, for a root canal on the tooth next to the extraction site.  They also didn’t think the numbness was a side effect of the meds and asked if I had sinus problems.  I said no.  They seemed a little baffled but thought maybe it was due to infection because that could cause referral pain or numbness feeling, I guess.  So, after the root canal heals up in a few days, I will see if my face gets back to normal.  They said that due to the blood thinners, they use numbing medicine on me WITHOUT epinephrine because it won’t stay in my bloodstream as long as the medicine WITH epinephrine.  It’s what they do for their heart patients due to the meds, etc.   The numbness was still there the next day, so I called the dentist. They prescribed a stronger antibiotic (Clindamycin HCL) saying that if there is still swelling with infection, it may not be allowing the numbing medicine to get out of my system as quickly (or something like that). I will need to take the new antibiotic for a full 7 days and stop taking the penicillin.  The Clindamycin does not have very pleasant side effects, but let’s just say it’s helped bring my weight down the past couple of days.  The numbness finally went away and still no pain (gum is a little sore at the extraction site still).

My Story.

On Monday, June 16, I had what I thought was a gall bladder attack.  Two weeks earlier, I was diagnosed as having gall stones, so I scheduled an appointment to have my gall bladder removed.  (This would be my very first surgery ever, and I was so nervous.)  The pain was unbearable.  It started out as severe burning in my chest, like heartburn, and engulfed the entire top half of my body.  I couldn’t find a position that would make the pain go away.  Then I broke out into a sweat and started shaking.  I knew something was not right, and fearing for the worst, I contacted a colleague (I was staying in a local hotel for work) who dialed 911.  Once the paramedics arrived, most of the pain had gone away.  They took my vitals and checked my heart, and they dismissed it as a gall bladder attack.  They gave me the choice to go with them in the ambulance or come to the hospital later if I started feeling bad again.  I chose not to be transported by ambulance, and the paramedics left.  A friend of mine bought some heartburn medicine for me, which I took immediately.  However, the pain came back.  I concentrated really hard to make the pain go away again, and it did…mostly.  I contacted my GI doctor to get seen immediately.  I could hardly walk and couldn’t drive, so another colleague drove me to the doctor’s office.  There, I was prescribed heartburn medicine, pain medicine, and sent for blood work.  I also rescheduled my gall bladder surgery to Friday, June 20 (originally scheduled Wednesday, June 25, due to my work schedule).

The pain medicine seemed to help, and by the next morning, I felt I was okay to go into work and just take it easy most of the day.  That idea was quickly squashed, as another attack came on mid-morning!  This time, the pain was centered to my sternum and had moved to the left.  I also had shortness of breath, and it hurt to breathe deeply.  I immediately contacted my GI doctor who told me that my blood work had come back with elevated levels of WBCs, therefore, I had an infection.  We contacted the GI surgeon to see if he could work me in that day, which he did.  My surgery was scheduled for 4:00pm.  Before leaving for the outpatient facility, the surgeon contacted me and said he didn’t feel right about sending me to the outpatient facility in case something went wrong – since we already knew there was an infection – so he wanted me to be admitted to the hospital instead.  He would do my surgery at 4:00pm and I would spend the night so they could check and make sure all was okay before releasing me the next morning.  This would be my first surgery AND my first hospital stay ever!  I’m really nervous.

I had two of my friends drive me to the hospital to get checked in.  My breathing was very shallow and labored.  I was weak, didn’t feel well, was in pain, and my eye sight started getting blurry.  Once I was in the surgery prep room, I let all of the doctors and nurses know about my painful and shallow breathing.  All assured me that wasn’t a problem, and I would be feeling better in no time.  I don’t even remember being put to sleep with anesthesia.  The only thing I remember next was waking up after the surgery.

I was in recovery, and I woke up, very groggy, so someone saying my name, “Kim!”  I was then left alone and began to feel excruciating pain in the upper half of both arms.  I also felt nauseous.  I started to moan and groan and shake my arms and call for someone to please help me that I was nauseous and my arms were hurting really bad.  I think I was dozing in and out.  Someone asked me how long I’d had a heart problem.  I went into fighter mode and became very defensive.  I said, “I don’t have a heart problem!”  Someone else asked me if I knew I had a heart problem.  I said, “I don’t have a problem with my heart!  What is going on?”  The next thing I knew, people were all around me.  I heard whispers of “heart condition” but no one ever told me what was wrong.  Then someone started doing an echo of my heart and asking me about my “heart condition”.  Again, I exclaimed that nothing was wrong with my heart.  I remember a Dr. going around and thanking each person individually for staying late to help me.  Then I remember looking up and seeing a priest!  “Why is there a priest?!” I yelled out.  “Is the priest here for me????!!!”  Someone answered that there were normally lots of people around for surgeries.  But that made me mad that there was a priest!  Was I dying?  Did they think I was going to die??  And no one was telling me what was going on?

I remember being taken into another surgery.  I was afraid they might be cracking my chest for open heart surgery.  I asked, “am I going in for another surgery?”  “Yes,” was the reply from someone.  “Am I having 1 or 2 more surgeries?” I asked.  “Hopefully just 1,” someone replied.  “Will I need anesthesia?” I asked.  “No, you only need a local anesthetic for this procedure,” I heard.  And then I was moved to a hard and narrow operating table.  I was able to turn my head enough to see the X-ray monitor that showed everything that was going on!  I remember seeing my artery…with a large plaque that was broken up…and the balloon and stent being pushed through my artery to that area with the plaque.  Unbelievable!  I heard someone say there was a blockage.  I asked what percentage and was told 80%.  And then I started coughing.  I coughed so hard, and I was coughing up fluid…so much fluid!!  I was almost choking and gagging there was so much fluid that was gushing up through my throat from the coughing!!  It tasted so gross.  And the next thing I remember is being in ICU with a Cpap on my face and being yelled at to let it breathe for me.  But I felt suffocated.  Finally, I was able to relax and found my rhythm with this Cpap.  All of my family was there.  Why?  This was a simple gall bladder surgery that went horribly wrong, right?

I learned later that I wasn’t expected to survive throughout the first night.  The damage to my heart was about 50%.  My prognosis was grim.  When I was coughing in the OR, it was pulmonary edema, and my lungs were filling with fluid from heart failure!!  Heart failure?  I had had a heart attack!  My medical record is official – Myocardial Infarction!  What?  I had suffered a massive heart attack in the widow-maker – LAD – a large plaque had burst and collapsed my artery.  The doctors were called in and were at my side working on me within 5-7 minutes.  The cath lab was 2 doors down.  Every minute was critical to saving my life.  I was supposed to be at an outpatient facility!  I wasn’t even supposed to be in the hospital!  The cardiologists did not even practice in the hospital – they were there for a seminar!!  The heart attack was completely independent of the gall bladder surgery, so it would have happened no matter where I was at that time on that day.  Thankfully, all of the stars were aligned, and I was given a second chance at life…

The doctors had lots of questions for me the next day – what were my symptoms, where did it hurt, etc. They say I’m the luckiest person they’ve ever met.  This heart attack normally kills people instantly.  They said that most of my gall bladder symptoms were most likely heart attack symptoms.  Thank goodness I had a bad gall bladder problem to get me to the hospital!

With my new lease on life, I must now live a different way, eat a certain way, and exercise a certain way.  It has been a life-changing event, and I welcome you to follow me on my journey.  xoxo