Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Blood, Sweat, and Wisdom Teeth? - Emelia Chamberlain

Blood, Sweat, and Wisdom Teeth?

Something they don’t tell you before you apply travel to Antarctica, is that you have to be really really really healthy. Now it makes sense, medical treatment is very far away at the end of the earth. However that still did not prepare me for the rigorous medical and dental vetting process I endured this summer.

First, you simply fill out some travel forms - not too bad, but a lot of paperwork. Then you download the medical forms. The normal process is to get the physical from your normal doctor, get some x-rays from your normal dentist, then send it all in – easy peasy. However, this process becomes infinitely more difficult when you are a college student living on your own in a brand new city, with no known doctors or dentists and with a student health services that doesn’t accept your insurance. It then becomes even more difficult when you find out you need nine cavities filled and oral surgery within 2 months.

Needless to say, it was a learn-by-doing experience, and thankfully, I now feel more capable and adult than I did a mere few months ago. I called multiple dentists, deciding which was the best one based on my insurance, and distance from where I lived in South Campus. It may seem simple, but it was a first for me--I hate talking on the phone…so I feel accomplished. I did however misjudge the length of the C branch of the Green Line. So, after my rickety journey to Cleveland Circle, I popped up to my first self-scheduled dentist appointment. I thought it would be a quick appointment--the dentist needed only to pop in my mouth, take some x-rays and check off that my teeth were healthy… only turned out they weren’t! Floss my friends, floss. Four appointments later, I had had nine cavities filled by a dentist I had only just met! I never thought I would have a favorite dental receptionist so soon into my Boston career. During my many trips, it was also determined that my wisdom teeth were “budding”. Apparently, emergency wisdom teeth extractions are hard to come by in Antarctica, sooo everyone thought it best I get them removed soon. Who doesn’t enjoy a good oral surgery during the one week they’re home for the summer?

Meanwhile, I still had to find doctors for a physical. After the dentist ordeal, I thought it best to just go to the nearest walk-in clinic and see what they could do. Unfortunately the nearest walk-in clinic had closed without updating their website, so I journeyed all the way to Mass General Hospital. I felt silly walking into the looming, white hospital for a mere checkup. Nonetheless, the people there were very nice, and the doctors really took care of me, despite the long lines of people and the hours spent waiting in the waiting room. I still had no idea what I was getting myself into though. I knew that the testing process would be rigorous, but 5 hours later I felt like I had run a marathon. Now, most of the tests weren’t actually that bad and they were punctuated by long periods of sitting in the waiting room. But still by the end of the day I had had 8 vials of blood drawn, my heartbeat graphed, my arm pricked for TB, a surprise GYN exam, and a urinalysis - which I suppose in the long run is probably good practice for the peeing in a cup I will have to accomplish on the ice. Then I ran to the dentist to get some of those cavities filled.

It was an interesting couple of weeks, which concluded with the removal of my wisdom teeth. In retrospect, I suppose it wasn’t actually that bad, and I did get to eat a lot of pudding – guilt free! Although, during the procedure it was not so fun – when I came out from under anesthesia I was CONVINCED that the doctor had taken the wrong tooth. According to my mother, it was a funny sight, especially since my cheeks remained chipmunk like for the next week.

But now my journey is finally over (almost) and I can start the next phase Antarctic preparation. The actual science bit! I have several papers to read yet, but hopefully by the end of the month, I will have a good handle on my actual research project – fossilized algae. Seeing as I have no idea what to do for it yet, it seems like this whole process will be sort of learn-by-doing. But I suppose that’s good. In the long run, experience is always the best teacher, and I have a funny feeling that by the end of this journey, I will learn many things, (ex. How to call a dentist like an adult) that I never planned for.

--Emelia Chamberlain

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