Friday, April 20, 2007

ElectroJude... Aprez-ortho & Aprez-therapy...

Disclaimer: following entry contains serious silliness, two strangely coloured pictures, depressing dental details, and still 'no comment' from Bryan. On the plus side, it's more information about your TMJs than you'll hopefully ever need, and calorie-free. Dig in!

I am shocked - shocked, I tell you! - at the accusation of 'mundane' in the comments on the last entry. Certainly it's not an adjective that's ever been applied to me prior to this - but then again, I should be thankful my dear friend Ken didn't capitalize it.... (in-joke for the Harry Potter fans out there...)

Despite the striking resemblance, the picture to the left is NOT me, but rather Harry himself, as depicted by Daniel Radcliffe in one of the movie teasers. Me being shocked - literally - is below.

Having belaboured the pun (yeah, yeah, it's another in-joke. This one you'll get later if you have the patience to read on) long enough, let me explain - and, hopefully, justify my earlier mundane recountings of a very unmundane week. ..

I believe I mentioned that I've been attending the dentist's office on a regular basis, namely, on every day off I've had so far this month? He and I have been dealing not only with my much-neglected molars (yes, the Drama of a Root Canal, in four acts so far. I'll spare you the cast listings and the critics' reviews and simply say that at least it cost less to stage it over here in Korea - about one-tenth of what it might have in North America.) but also with my equally neglected TMJs. That's 'tempo-mandibular joints', for those of you not up on your jock terminology, and 'the little ball-and-socket affairs that hold your jaw onto your skull' for those of you who've forgotten your Grade 13 anatomy classes.

Place your fingertips gently on either side of your head, just in front of your ears and a bit back from your cheekbones. Now open your mouth slowly. Feel those bumps push your fingers out? It is to be hoped that they don't, as mine do, seize up like a cranky tractor stuck in a wheel rut about halfway through and then jolt over the rut or spasm sideways... no, apparently they should move with all the grace and ease of one of Reg's miniature engines, smoothly up and down. Oh yes, please feel free to close your mouth again. And appreciate the marvelous design of your jaws as you do.

Anyhow, my rusty TMJs, after being subjected to forcible and intensive effort keeping my jaws open for my won-jang-nim (Honourable Dentist) seventy-five minutes at a time, usually throw a hissy fit and refuse to close properly again. Which means that upon attempting to rise gracefully from the dental chair and thank the considerate staff, I drool incoherently from a dropped jaw and gesture spasmodically at my non-functioning face. My Korean is bad enough without the additional handicap of not being able to touch my back teeth together...

After three separate sessions of emergency jaw massage, my dentist shakes his head. 'Ju-Dee', he says seriously, his eyes blinking through his round wire glasses just over his mask, 'I suggest orthotic therapy.' While I try to process this, wiggling my aching jaws and keeping my tongue away from the bad tooth, he continues. 'I must continue with orthodontic treatment of the first carious premolar. But we cannot facilitate the treatment today. Your tempo-mandibular disorder requires orthotic therapy."

(Note: He always talks like this. Translation: "This tooth has a huge cavity and you're going to need a root canal, but you can't keep your mouth open long enough without discomfort." I rather enjoy the formal language - how often do you get to use 'carious' in normal conversation? - but he's fortunate that I'm a student of arcane words and an amateur latinist! Mind you, I'm fortunate that he rather enjoys explaining what he's doing in minute detail, complete with sketches, X-rays of the tooth in question, and sound effects. I realize it's rather strange to be so fond of someone who causes you so much pain, both in the short and long term, but he really is a sweetheart and we never have difficulty communicating - something to be thankful for in this country. The other day I rushed in with an emergency toothache on the 'carious molar' which has been under treatment and he took twenty minutes, two x-rays, and a discussion session and then refused to charge me anything! I got the ladies at the front desk to accept samchonwon - three bucks - for the x-ray film and then went out and bought the whole office a bag of fresh fruit...)

So I take the address and phone number he gives me and trot off to my office, where Jisu, one of our darling assistants, not only calls up the 'orthotics office' and makes me an appointment, but draws a little map to show us exactly where it is, just down the street. Bryan drops me off that evening and takes Katherine to E-Mart while I'm having my 'therapy session'...

Well! The place looks more like a spa waiting room than a clinic for injured athletes (apparently it caters to a lot of Myongji students and their sports-related ailments), but the head honcho, Dr. Kim, has a nice lot of reassuring skeletal models sitting about his office and can speak about as much English as I can Korean, so we work things out. He is not quite sure how to react to my gentle teasing at first, but gets his own back later (see below). After feeling the rusty clicks of my limping TMJs and asking a few bilingual questions, (yes, I'm a teacher, no, I don't chew gum, I sing on a regular basis, it's been over ten years since my last chiropractic venture, etc. etc.) he informs me that the problem is due to 'overuse'. Straightfaced, I look him in the eye and ask: "Must I diet? Stop eating?" He blinks at me for a second and one can almost see the gears processing, so I go on: "Should I stop talking?" I flutter my lashes innocently, press my lips together, make a 'cut' motion with my hand across my throat, and allow a grin to spread. He gets it. One can see him getting the joke, as his professional stern face, set with the concentration of language issues and the weariness of a long day, begins to melt into an actual smile.

He prescribes some medication, still smiling, and decides to send me for X-rays (real ones, not these wimpy little dental Polaroids) and what he describes as 'electro-therapy'....

I am not reassured when I step into the X-ray room, a dimly-lit box with huge brown files all along one wall, a looming Frankensteinian table, and a metal rack poised against one wall. A giant lens droops from the ceiling on a morbidly white-enameled arm, like a depressed droid from the Star Wars universe. However, the technician who waves me over to the rack and positions my head against it with huge, gentle fingers, is considerably easier on the eyes, being about six foot three with football shoulders and a classically-hewn Korean face (dark brows on a strong forehead, forty-five degree-angle jaw one could crack walnuts on, sculpted lips... yes, well, there wasn't much else in the room to peruse!). He is, ironically, painfully afraid that I might speak to him in English, and gestures all of his instructions to 'turn', 'open my mouth', 'close it', and 'hold still'.

(Another side note: this, too, is still typical. We have seen a pair of young policemen, working in convoy, turn and trot smartly off down the street with veritably panicked faces when a female waegukin (foreigner, foreign) tourist approached them pleadingly with a map, and ourselves have reduced muscular cadets and notable student athletes to quiver-lipped incoherence. Who knew language could be this terrifying?)

After Dr. Kim studies my rather artistic headshots, he sends me up to the fourth floor, clutching a little slip of paper to say I've paid for the undernoted treatments and would the techie please hook me up?

This room really does look like a spa, with heated couches in individual cubicles, soft music playing, low lighting, and a pleasantly non-aggressive floral scent. I'm given no time to savour any of this, however, as a very efficient and iron-fingered young woman whisks me onto one of the couches, probes my jaw, and attaches small octopodal suction cups with tiny electrode fangs inside each one. She lays a white cotton washcloth over my eyes, turns a heat lamp on the lower part of my face, and then turns on the electrotherapy machine. It feels rather like someone poking or tapping insistently on one's cheek with a small dental tool; a throbbing, slightly burning sensation focused quite precisely in one spot - or rather, several spots. The rhythm becomes predictable, like Morse: dash - dash - dash - dash - dash - a tiny pause - then dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot, like a manic miniaturized woodpecker. My fillings begin to tingle and the skin of my cheeks have defined circles that feel like the beginnings of a sunburn, around each of the octopus suckers. However, the couch is not just warm, it's luxuriously hot, and the 'dashes' are rather lulling in their repetition. I have just begun to relax when the machine beeps peremptorily and the throbbing tingle ceases.

My washcloth is whisked away and I am informed by a pleasant tenor voice, 'Laser therapy.' It must be my day for eye candy; the laser technician, while neither as tall or as broad-shouldered as the shy X-ray wrangler, is also a well-sculpted young male. My appreciation is strictly aesthetic, and I am rapidly distracted by the Vaderesque black lens he is pointing at the side of my face. He assures me that this will not hurt and is perfectly safe - at least, so I interpret his tone and body language - but directs me not to look at it. Just to make sure, he sets the cloth back over my eyes. Shucks.

He's right, it doesn't hurt. Nonetheless, after another twenty minutes of this 'light' treatment, I'm a bit light-headed. Between the X-rays, the electrodes, and the laser, I wonder if my head will glow in the dark as I emerge onto the street? Dr Kim comes down to the pharmacy on the first floor (yes, the whole building is a clinic!) to make sure I've picked up my prescription, and feels comfortable enough to tease me about its cost (a whole three dollars, but for a second I believe his claim that it's thirty...). We part smiling, with an agreement that I will come in tomorrow for a second treatment.

I don't glow. At least, not exteriorly. But I'm rested, and relaxed, and my jaws now open another extra inch before that rusty gear decides to seize up with its characteristic click to which I've grown so accustomed. And my tooth has finally stopped hurting, for the first time pretty much all month. Perhaps it's just healing up from the last root extraction, or perhaps the therapy helped in some way as well, but I'm definitely feeling better.

Now, perhaps I can face those two hundred exam papers that need to be collated, marked and recorded this weekend, with equal bravery!

A visit to the dentist - pretty mundane? I guess mundanity is what one makes of it. More on that topic later, as it's one-thirty in the morning here and I must 'to bed' ... love, all!

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Anonymous Mom A. said...

Hi Judy:
I'm glad you post things here on the BLog. It's interesting to read about how things are going in everyday life. The pictures are great. Hope you'll have a good day tomorrow.
Love, Mom A. (P.S. I have to post a few lines so now and again to make sure I remember how!)

April 21, 2007 at 10:09 p.m.  
Blogger Ken DV said...

"Mundane" is the term you yourself used, about yourself:
"It was see old friends catching up with our mundane doings."
Now this old friend (you missed my party, but it's only a number) checks-in, finds he is accused of saying what was actually quoted--and then gets -------- by a descriptive technical visit to the dentist. I am sorry for your pain Judy, and I hope it helped you, but mundane seems pretty exciting now.
What I was hinting at--hint, hint...not a hint if I have to say "hint" again--was the absence of email communication coming from our favourite friends in Korea.

April 22, 2007 at 3:38 p.m.  
Blogger Liese said...


Well, we finally set up Skype but Mike decided we need a new microphone because the one that comes with the web cam is apparently "not good enough." (These technical people, I ask you!) So, a new microphone has duly been purchased. Now, I just need to figure out how to USE it and we will be all set!
(avoids looking at the pointy little thing lurking on the edge of her desk like a sci-fi monster from a low budget film)

Though I enjoy your epistles immensely, we are beginning to wonder what has happened to Bryan. It is a lucky thing your incorporated his picture a few letters ago, or we might have suspected him of having been abducted by aliens! Bryan, it would be nice to hear from you occasionally, too.

Tomorrow (Monday) is our darling baby's birthday--Nicholas is turning one year old!! (Drum roll, fireworks, etc.) We had a party for him today, complete with blueberry cheesecake (which he enjoyed immensely and ate of heartily) and hope that he plans to celebrate by sleeping in, instead of awakening his mother at 5:30 a.m. as he did on this date a year ago (with killer contractions, I might add).

Well, gotta go, see you later,


April 22, 2007 at 7:30 p.m.  
Anonymous Susan said...

I had my own dental adventures today with an emergency repair of a broken tooth, however, my experience was definitely on the mundane side compared to all your adventures. Of course I haven't quite your gifts for humour and story-telling! Mind you, my boys certainly found it humourous that I was half paralyzed in the face for half a day! Hope things continue to go well, and I'm looking forward to hearing all your exam bloopers!

April 24, 2007 at 5:47 p.m.  
Blogger Alembyc said...

@Ken: Poor darling! Life is rough even when you DON'T have dental issues, eh? I wrote you a PERSONAL reply but it didn't go through coz I have the wrong email for you. Hint hint. Tell the girls if THEY send me a personal email and include their snail-mailing address I'll make sure that a little package comes through with some treats from Korea... Hug the baby for me!

@ Liese: HAPPY B-DAY, PICKLE! (smooches) Um... hug the baby for me, too!

@ Mom and Susan: Love you and miss you too - I'm glad we can 'keep in touch' with technology. Ask Liese to help you with Skype!

April 25, 2007 at 7:47 a.m.  

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