Tuesday, October 18, 2011

FLASHBACK: Afghanistan can be like pulling teeth

So, a few years ago I was deployed to Afghanistan.  During that time I blogged on a website you might have heard of called MYSPACE.  It was mainly for fun and a way to keep my family informed and hopefully, laughing rather than worrying about my well-being.

So, in a little bit of a blogging experiment, I'm going to occasionally post some FLASHBACK posts of what I think are some decent stories.  I hope you enjoy . . .




FEBRUARY 2007, 
SHINKAY, AFGHANISTAN


The last couple of weeks have presented very little in the way of entertainment.  A lot of that has to do with weather which has slowed us down quite a bit.  It really is just a boring time to be over here.  I say boring and the rest of the family jumps for joy; it's the soldier's paradox.  We hate to be bored and unemployed but being employed generally involves bullets going both in and out.  So I suppose I will be content to be bored...

Recently though, I was provided with the ultimate in Civil Affairs tools. A Dentist and a Vet.  For me this is a huge boon; I can now advertise a whole new product to the people beyond my deep pockets.  As an added bonus, I get to learn a whole bunch of new things from the visiting experts.  I kind of enjoy getting my hands dirty and as luck would have it, both the Vet and the Doc were happily willing to let me participate.

I asked the Dentist if it was possible for me to pull a tooth; I mean, how many times are you going to get to do that?  Of course it's drudgery to him so of course the answer was "yeah sure".  Luckily the camera was there to capture the experience.  

Fortune has also provided me with the ability to act like I know what I am doing in a variety of circumstances.  I figure I have all the credentials I really need.  Medical school is overrated.

Overall, the emphasis on oral hygiene in Afghanistan is well, not high.  By not high I mean, uh, they really don't even know what you are talking about when you discuss it.  The impression I got is that they treat their teeth like sharks do; they are more or less disposable.  

A toothbrush might as well be a flux capacitor when you hand it to them.  Mostly they just let their teeth rot right down to the root and then have it yanked when the painkillers don't work anymore.  I actually heard Doc say that this one guy had Advanced Perio "something something" (some made up doctor word I am sure) and that basically his gumline would recede until all of his teeth just loosened up and fell out like chicklets.  Yummy.  And he was such a handsome man.  But I digress.

We had a small dental clinic set up last week and Doc (we'll keep his name out of it) and I decided this was my chance.  I was a bit naïve and kind of stepped up to the first one I saw.  After I looked into the guys mouth and said "THAT'S a tooth?  You're shitting me." we decided I should wait for something that resembled an ENTIRE tooth.  And Christ, after watching him chisel this chunk of bone out of this dude's mouth with what look like a flattened ice pick, he was definitely right. 

Alas, my time had come.

 

This is Doc explaining to me how jealous he is of my skill-set and how I have learned in five minutes what it took him years to master.  Doc also has this rare disease that makes him look like some kind of Men's Fitness cover model; it's really disgusting.

 

This is me using the ice pick thingy to loosen some of the whatchamacallit from around this guy's lower mandibular toofy tooferson.  See, I told you medical school was bullshit.

 

Once Doc recognized the SKILLZ he was able to stand back and watch the master work.  Almost to phase 2.

 

I felt like I was pretty much cooking with gas at this point.  To describe this in a tactile way, the process of pulling was much more like working a nail from a board that the foot-on-the-wall yank that I expected.  It required a kind of grip and wrist roll technique.  And of course copious amounts of injected painkillers.

 

This picture was taken immediately after I uttered the works "Fuck dude, is it supposed to break in half like that?"  Doc said "Uh, yeah, that'll happen"  He said this in a tone that was of course respectful of my obviously vast medical knowledge.

 

With the patient's face brimming with confidence in my abilities, I remained undaunted. 

 

Success of course was never in doubt.  And after scoring a touchdown you need to look like you have been there before.  I expressed this sense of self-assurance with an I-hope-I-didn't-just-crap-my-pants look on my face.  The patient was similarly impressed with my cat like reflex's and surgical precision.

Not wanting the Dentist to feel like his year's of hard study went to waste, I let him handle the next two teeth.  I use the term teeth loosely as they were white, but had the hardness of circus peanuts.  I'm not really sure what that means but I am sure that I could find out in five minutes and a Google search.  Medical School Schmedical School.

___________

Seriously though, Doc is pretty much the man.  Pulling teeth and providing care in one of the harshest places that I have ever been is a real skill.  This guy is a true pro.  To be able to pull teeth on the tailgate of a truck with the wind blowing so hard you can barely stand up is something to be applauded.  

By Marcus with 2 comments

2 comments:

My preferred professional method of tooth extraction is the trusty string and doorknob trick. Seriously though. That's pretty cool, man. You're a dentist!

Wow! Incredible! Thanks for stopping by my blog BTW and for the vote! I am starting a new series on my blog called Soldier Story Saturday, would love for you to guest blog. Email me if you are interested! bamoats@gmail.com

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