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« Iraq Dental: Part 2 | Main | Post Jobcore or Domestic Punk or... »
Thursday
Jul032008

Iraq Dental

Note from the Editor:
    When I first set up this Blog, I had the Music and Entertainment industries in mind. After a short while, I received what I considered a sort of "beta" feedback; not super-popular, but with more of a "community response" feel to it. I want it to be more popular, of course, but I am realistic, and I know these things take time. I don't expect a huge change, but just wanted anyone who reads this to understand that as time goes on, things seem to be growing "organically".
    Not only do I have what I consider a decent, musically inclined knowledge base, but have acquired military experience as well. After being in the Army for some years, I have made -and lost- many friends. Those surviving are still serving. I have the privelage of being in contact with old Army friends currently serving over-seas. With their permission, over the next few months or so, (or until they get tired of e-mailing me), I will be posting a series of e-mails I have been receiving from said friends. I hope these entries will help to enlighten American civilians of some of the things that take place in a war setting that we may have no idea even exist. The personal experiences our soldiers encounter are often overshadowed by the negative aspects of battle. (Not to mention American media.) These e-mails highlight the somewhat positive and more light-hearted routines our soldiers endure on a day-to-day basis, while also showing some of the injustices and mistreatment given to them by the very Government they are representing. No matter what your opinion is about the happenings and politics in the Middle-East, these stories should shed some light on things we wouldn't normally get insight to. The following post is one such e-mail. I hope you enjoy. And please... never forget, that even though war is hell, we have angels in the form of soldiers fighting to keep us safe.

(The following e-mail was sent to me by my good friend, SFC [Sergeant First Class] Lima. My edits appear in "[ ]" throughout, to explain some of the terminology used. Otherwise, content has NOT been altered.)
Editor's page

 [Received  12 June 2008]
    So let me tell you about the worst experience I have had in Iraq so far. And for me to say that is pretty bad, considering I have slept on the desert ground on the Iran border, been shot at, blown up from IEDs [Improvised Exploding Devices], have had mortar rounds land all around me, and have had a severe ankle sprain from playing basketball (had to throw that one in) during my 3 deployments to Iraq.
    So I will take you back about a week. Currently we are transitioning from Camp Liberty (a suburb of the Baghdad International Airport- BIAP) to a smaller more operational camp called JSS [Joint Security Station] ADL. JSS ADL at some point was a 4-story mall (ADL MALL) with many store fronts in the heart of Baghdad. We are moving out to get a better feel for our area of operations and be more involved with the Iraqi Security Force (ISF). All this means to the average soldier is that we are leaving a nice and comfortable base with hot showers to live in a hot but safe building without the commodities of a nice long shower, good DFAC [Dining Facilities], and PX (shop). Oh well, we have to do what we are told. So I have been focusing all my attention on how to move my soldiers and their work out there without shutting down operations. It is easier than it sounds.
    While I was in the middle of completing my two day mission, my jaw starts to ache. To be more exact, my upper right (#4) tooth starts killing me. It's one of those pains where it doesn’t hurt while you are doing something like moving furniture or running, but kills the second you decide to lay down or attempt to relax. So here I am suffering through the pain because well, there is a mission that has to get accomplished, and it is my job to see it finished. We finally get back to Camp Liberty and I head straight to the dental clinic.
    This is where the story gets interesting. First off, going to the dentist sucks but then and on “going to the dentist in Iraq”. That just doesn’t have a nice ring. So let me describe the dentist office: a large room inside a wooden building with 1 patient chair in the center, there is no overhead spot light or fancy dental drills. There are weapons stacked in the corner next to their body armor and helmets. The dental assistant is a 22 y/o, SGT, who has probably been doing her job for 3 years and was trained by the Army (doesn’t say much), and the dentist comes in looking like Hercules. I think he had to turn sideways to get through the doorway. He is probably a 26 y/o, CPT, and has been practicing dental work in the Army for 4 years. Call me old fashioned but I want the 60 y/o veteran working on my mouth because he has seen it all. So they come in, throw me in the chair, poke around my mouth attempting to find the tooth that hurts. They take an x-ray right there in the room (which takes literally 5 seconds to process, so why does it take so long every where else?), and then gives me the verdict.
    Dr. Hercules says, “SFC Lima, the bad news is that a filling shifted and is pinching/ killing a nerve in your tooth, the good news is that we can save the tooth.”
    I say, “Great”.
    Dr. Hercules says, “So we will book an appointment for your root canal tomorrow.”
    “Isn’t that the bad news!”
    The next day I go in for my appointment. They don’t mess around. I walk in, they throw me in the chair again, recline it all the way back so I feel as though I am going to slide off into his lap. They put these sunglasses on me that make me feel like I am the 3rd cop on the TV show CHIPS. Dr. Hercules shoots 4 shots of Novocain up around the tooth. And here I thought he would just punch me in the face to put me out. He shoves this wedge in my mouth that I can only describe as a door stop so I don’t bite down. They do the normal tooth clamp and latex wrap. At this point they are both joking about the 2 wisdom teeth they pulled out of the previous guy and how easy it was for Hercules to accomplish. So I am numb, hanging almost upside down while the dentist is drilling. The instruments sound like the normal drills, except for the sucking tool that is supposed to get all the spit and water and tooth shavings. No this thing doesn’t work one bit because all of that is running down my face from my mouth to my ear and then the top of my head. (Remember I am almost upside-down sliding into Hercules lap). I manage to block all this out because I can’t feel anything, yet!
    Now we are done drilling and he is using the little acupuncture type needles to poke around in my tooth to do what ever it is they do then. I start feeling it, no sweat. It starts to hurt a little more every time, so I raise my left hand just like he told me to do. He says OK lets get him another shot. They give me another one then continue on. It still hurts but I figure the shot should kick in shortly. No it doesn’t, so I raise my hand again. He says OK and gives me another. At this point it isn’t helping anything. I decide I can deal with it because it isn’t too bad. Yeah I spoke to soon. He shoves that needle in further and my body starts to jump on its own, tears start to form and I am doing everything I can to control myself.
    The dental assistant says to Dr. Hercules, “He can feel that, he isn’t numb anymore”. That’s when I couldn’t hold the tears back any more and they just start running down the face. I now know what it feels like to be in such pain but can’t do anything about it. I am like a beaten dog just laying there on this chair of pain trying not to slide down and biting the hell out of the door stop shoved in my mouth. Then I hear from both of them almost in unison “no way”. Those aren’t words you want to hear. Next thing I know, they are raising the chair, pulling the door stop out, and undoing the latex wrap. They shove the x-ray pad back up to my face and snap off another pic. I am all dazed and sweaty wondering what the hell is happening. They both stare at the x-ray. They turn around.
    Dr. Hercules says, “We both thought you had a second canal in that tooth and that would have been a paper I could write." I wanted to kill him... no really - get up, grab my pistol, load a magazine, chamber a round, and shoot him. Granted I would probably have to shoot him about 10 times for him to fall, but whatever.
    At this point they finish up, give me a filling, and push me out of the office just as quick as they throw me in the chair. I still don’t understand everything that happened. All in all, that experience sucked so bad that I will not be going to the dentist in Iraq again. I will have a buddy hit me in the face repeatedly to get the tooth out before visiting that dentist again.
    So there you have it, my day at the dentist office in Iraq.

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