by J. R. Practix
Abscess: n. a swollen area within body tissue, containing an accumulation of pus.
I was trying to figure out an acceptable–dare I say pleasant?–way to present the concept of pus. Absent any constructive idea, I was reminded of a time when I was infected with the nasty goo.
I was twenty-two years old, traveling around the country without very much money and no health insurance. One day my face started to swell up. It is a frightening thing when you are fairly homely, to realize that it is possible to become even more unattractive. At first I didn’t worry about it, which was stupid, but then on top of the swelling came great pain, light-headedness, a sensation that I had been beaten up and humiliated by a gang of aggressive nuns, and a little nausea.
I was sick.
I went to a doctor who was gracious enough to offer free service. It was good that it was free, because he thought I had a “cold in my jaw” and suggested antihistamines. I am sure that the medication did kill all my histamines, but they did not seem to be the source of the great swelling.
Finally, near the point of passing out from my affliction, my friends drove me to a dentist in Jacksonville, Florida, who looked inside my mouth, and with a bit of horror etched across his face, announced, “You have a severely abscessed tooth.”
No part of that sounded good. He suggested a treatment of antibiotics for two weeks to reduce the swelling, and then he would pull the troublesome tooth. I laughed through my pain and explained that I would not be in town in two weeks, and that I needed something done today.
He paused. I don’t know what was crossing his mind, but I imagine it had something to do with disposing the body in the Atlantic Ocean if the big, fat boy sitting in his chair died from the treatment given in his office. Actually, I will never know why he did it, but on the spot he chose to give me oral surgery, which included five shots of Novocaine, which did not deaden the anguish. Then he cut inside my mouth and squeezed out all the poison and pus from the swelling.
It was gross, sickening, painful, ugly and all the time he was doing it, he was saying little oaths and curses under his breath because he realized that he was in the midst of a great malpractice suit.
He squeezed and he squeezed, and I cringed and I cringed. After about fifteen minutes, he was satisfied that he had drained the well. He sewed me up, handed me some antibiotics and after about a week, I was well again.
Oh, did I mention that in the same sitting, he reached in and yanked out the tooth? I think he was convinced that if I left his office, I would never try to get help again.
That was my experience with an abscess. Sometimes you just have to cut into it and squeeze out the guck.
It is never pleasant, but if you don’t, all the poison ends up winning.