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Here's my wisdom teeth story.

MONDAY I'm in a student film, so I scoot over to Eltham with my script and costumes and prepare for a day of filming. Hilarity ensues. While we're out to lunch, however, I get a phone call from a lady at the Day Procedure Centre, talking to me about my phobia of things that jab into or stick out of bodies. Not just my own, though that makes it worse. I chat with her a little, but she gives me no useful information. When I get off the phone, I'm shaking slightly. I eat my burger, then we get back to filming.

That night I have a problem. I've been told that IVs are left in the body for at least an hour after a surgery. I panic. I go over to my girlfriend's room, pour everything out. She listens. She decides to stay at my place instead. I've had this problem for ten years, since 2001 when several factors led to my severe phobia. Nothing can help it, to my knowledge; deep breathing, calm-blue-ocean techniques are useless once the very idea has infected my mind. I (somewhat uneasily) get to sleep some time later.

TUESDAY Back to filming for the day, yet we leave Eltham at 3 to go back to Ararat. Earlier I had received another call telling me that my admission time was 9:30a.1 Back to Ararat, and the last home-cooked meal I was allowed was a delicious roast turkey, followed by a crumpet at ~10:30p to keep myself happy and fed until it was time to fast: no food or drink after midnight. I caught up with my family (somewhat), set my alarm for 7, and went into a (strangely calmer) sleep. In fact, throughout the whole day (aside from when I received the call), I had been extremely calm. This is very weird for me.

WEDNESDAY Up at 7. Car at 8. Ballarat at 9. That was mostly a rush, though there wasn't much of significance. I arrived at the Centre at 9:05a, told them my name, and was asked to wait. That made it somewhat better. I watched a cooking program on the TV there with my girlfriend; they were cooking tabouli and we had a laugh at our tabouli in-joke. This made me feel better. Then came my admission, and my mother and girlfriend left me to explore Ballarat.

Up until that moment, there had never been any huge sense of finality for me; as I changed into a gown and cap, I realised that "this shit is actually happening. I'm about to have my wisdom teeth taken out and hell, it's going to be an interesting ride". Interesting it was, as I was propped up in a bed, given a magazine, and told that I'd be attended to shortly by the surgeon, anæsthetist and nurses. I relax, read the stories about outback Australia and am still very calm.

The surgeon came and went with no problems. He was exceptionally kind and understanding when I told him of my phobia, and said that he'd speak with the anæsthetist about giving me gas instead of an IV anæsthetic. The big problem came when the anæsthetist came in; he was not very pleasant, he seemed like the kind of person who was completely desensitised to everything and just did his job rather than try to make the patient happy. I asked him about the possibility of removing the IV before I woke up, and his response, in a cold and uncaring tone, was "That won't happen."

"That won't happen." Yes, three words sent me into a mental and physical panic. From that point onwards, I was flicking the magazine without looking at it. I tried everything I could to distract myself: recited the names of the players on my fantasy cricket team, went through video game strategies in my head, remembered the lyrics to songs, remembered the order of songs on compilations that I own. All to no avail. I was still panicking, and when it was time to wander, I couldn't feel my hands. That's how bad my phobia is.

I was put out, thankfully by gas; the last thing I remember saying to the staff was a quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy: "This feels like being drunk. What's so bad about being drunk? Ask a glass of water." I probably sounded delirious as the gas was starting to take effect. I was determined to remember everything because for a while before the operation I wanted to know if one dreams while under anæsthesia. As is, I can't remember anything except blacking out.

It was at this point that I was (unconsciously) about to face my fear. Seeing, knowing, feeling something sticking out of me would surely give me absolute hell for an hour - and probably some time afterwards. Everything else about the surgery was quite OK; I could deal with the pain, discomfort, bodily weakness afterwards. But I could not deal with a simple IV needle.

I woke up at roughly 11:55a and felt somewhat chipper given that I'd just been out for an hour and a half. My left elbow was bandaged up, and I was given my clothes and such, and told that I was almost ready to leave. I walked out of Recovery into this lounge full of cushy reclining chairs; I picked one, and was given a lemonade and an icypole. I welcomed both, though enjoyment of the icypole was somewhat hampered by the local anæsthetic still in my jaw and tongue. At least it kept me hydrated. My mother and girlfriend turned up shortly after with some pills, and then it was time to remove the dreaded IV needle that I didn't realise I had.

As it happened, I felt it being removed, but since I didn't see what it looked like, it was impossible to properly visualise. Looking at my left elbow now, I can somewhat picture it and it sends me into a bit of a panic (but nothing serious; it just feels the same as looking at a slasher flick2 and seeing something sticking out of a person). But I digress. I distracted myself with an iPod game, and my girlfriend and mother talking to me. Both worked quite well, though I'd rather not go through the same again.

I was taken back to Ararat and set up on the couch. I didn't sleep. I didn't feel much pain. I relaxed, and watched Groundhog Day and Dr. Strangelove while I relaxed. Pain came, eventually, but it was manageable. I drank milkshakes and soup and mashed potato and gravy, and started to take care of myself. Amazingly, I had (and still have) recovered remarkably well. Since the operation, the pain in my jaw has been (on a scale of 1 to excruciating) manageable; mentally, I have felt 100%, if a bit fatigued; and I am able to drink without a straw. However, my body feels as though it's been through a marathon. Relaxation time.

THURSDAY The swelling has started. It's more obvious on my lower left-hand cheek than any other part. I was given a jar yesterday with my teeth in them (insert Tooth Fairy jokes here) and three out of the four were intact; the fourth was in two pieces. The (unconfirmed) theory is that the surgeon had had problems with one of the teeth - presumably the lower left-hand one - and none with the other three. Doesn't matter too much; they're out, they're gone, and I'm done with the whole ordeal. However, my phobia still remains, and I hope never to have anything jabbing into me or sticking out of me ever again.

I'm back in Melbourne with copious amounts of care from my folks - potatoes, soup, nutrition powder, etc. etc. I look forward to a few days of recovering before I'm back on holidays again. Conclusion: the operation has left me and my sarcasm levels pretty well intact; but beware, if you have your wisdoms out, you won't necessarily have the same good fortune. Prepare.

1The very fact that my admission time had only been given to me 24 hours in advance seems to me to be a big weakness in the health system. It doesn't allow for much prior planning. Thankfully I'd known about this operation for the last five months so I'd cancelled everything for nearly a week after July 6th.
2Life's Little Ironies: the student film I'm in is a slasher. Of sorts.

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