I liked her. She got me right away.
I had taken a note - a note explaining that I’m a college graduate and can understand when spoken to in a normal tone of voice, a note explaining that I usually go to the dental surgery center at Loma Linda University because of it now being too difficult for a dentist to work on me when I’m not sedated (because of my sudden involuntary movements) but that Medi-Cal isn’t covering dentistry (except extractions), a note explaining that I had come to this dentist office, recommended by another hospital I’m working with, to make sure my teeth are okay and don’t need work. When the hygienist had read it, she said that she went to school at Loma Linda. I immediately felt she understood my situation and that I was in good hands.
I was already feeling quite comfortable. The office, although it was in a strip mall, was spacious and unusually attractive, and the waiting room felt like a living room (the cookies and lemonade were a nice, homey, if completely illogical, touch). The staff was nice and accommodating, without being overly cheerful or patronizing, and I was allowed to stayed in my wheelchair instead of having to be transferred to a chair. The x-ray technician and hygienist were thorough in their examining but were also patient and understanding of my limitations.
But I felt like I didn’t belong. No, this wasn’t about not wanting to see the dentist. I felt like I was there not by mistake but almost by luck. I felt like I was getting away with something I perhaps shouldn’t be. I felt something like a stowaway.
I was paying cash for this visit - cash provided by my parents, after finding out that going to Loma Linda would cost me $1,200. This was weird enough. What was weirder - and flat-out alarming - was wondering what would happen if my teeth need work. Can my parents keep paying? And will the dentist be able to work on me without putting me to sleep?
Will Medi-Cal ever kick back in? Can I ever go back to Loma Linda? And what about all the other people like me who don’t have parents who can help out, at least a bit?
I was in a quiet panic when the dentist, a kind-looking, white-haired man from India, came in. After looking over the x-rays and in my mouth, he said everything was okay and bid me good day.
A good day, indeed. I had gotten away with it. This time.