Yesterday, I was finally able to go to the dentist. It’s been about six years, maybe, since I’ve last gone to the dentist. It was to remove the last set of impacted wisdom teeth that I had. This was a year after my hospitalization for meningitis. I had just survived my second bout with the fungus in my brain and my teeth started to hurt. All four of my wisdom teeth were impacted and I was able to have one set removed back in 2004 or 2005 at a posh, high-end dentist who offered to remove them for free. We had interviewed him for a show I was working on and he offered.
It was a brutal experience. I was on an anesthetic and didn’t feel a thing but I saw him rip out the wisdom teeth with a hammer and a drill and he had to cut my gums open just to get it out. It was a long procedure and while I didn’t feel any pain, I heard everything. It was traumatic and I didn’t return for the next set, which he had also offered to remove.
It wasn’t until 2011 that the final set started to hurt. I was already diagnosed with HIV then so it was difficult setting up a dental appointment. We ended up emptying out the dentistry area of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) just for the extraction and it was not as antiseptic nor as elegant as the previous dentist.
It was a long time before I thought of going to the dentist again.
When I finally got the nerve to do it again I had a hard time finding one who was comfortable enough to work on an HIV patient. I know that I have rights and I have a responsibility to correct their misinformation but I’m non-confrontational as a person. Also, I wasn’t going to tell someone how to run his/her business. I wanted to be in a place where I felt safe and where my business was accepted. Especially if they were going to be working on my teeth with a drill and other sharp objects. I just thought it was best to be prudent.
I finally found a dentist here in my street who was okay with working on my teeth. I visited him yesterday and he cleaned my teeth and gave me a consultation. He told me my teeth were enviable for someone my age. I had a complete set and they were strong. My gums were strong. Nothing had to be filled and after my cleaning, he let me go.
It was very affordable and he was very kind and polite and asked me about things regarding the HIV to help know more about it for the future. It felt nice going through that process.
I’m healthy now. My lab tests show that my kidneys are working in perfect order. I’m gaining weight and my appetite has returned. My teeth are clean, for the first time, again, in six years.
Now, my biggest problem is my eyesight. It’s getting worse and I’ve got the number of a doctor who is an expert in HIV retinopathy. I need to know if I can get this treated or if glasses would help. I need my eyes. I’m not a visual person, so to speak, but my whole life depends on being able to see. I watch movies and theater. I should be able to read and my reading has been affected by my poor vision. Hell, even my writing has been affected. I can’t stare at the computer for as long as I used to because of it. My work is getting affected.
When I first got out of PGH, my vision had already been affected by the meningitis. We were to talk to a doctor about it but when we came for my consultation, he left for an emergency eye operation and we stopped waiting after forty-five minutes. We never returned. I was with my Mom back then. I never went back to a doctor until a year or two later when I went to the American Eye Institute and the doctors told me I had retinopathy and it couldn’t be fixed.
I did try wearing glasses for a bit but it hurt my head and it didn’t really fix things. I just gave it up completely.
I just left it at that and that was the end of it. Until now, that my eyesight is actually getting worse and there was this one night I put on a friend’s pair of glasses and saw that I could see clearly with his grade. I wore it just to see how I looked in it but I was stunned to discover that I could read words from a distance that I normally couldn’t. Even colors became brighter and richer.
I felt cheated. I felt like I was given a misdiagnosis back then. Maybe glasses can help my retinopathy. Maybe I need a second opinion.
I want my vision back. I do not want to lose it.