Extractions Only


Tiny - Posted on 10 April 2012

Author: 
Karl Start

Aie! that pain! Lower left rear tooth is the focal point. It’s an open faucet that fills my head with pain! My head so full of pain that any capacities I’d had, for empathy or abstract cognition are drowned in pain. Pain so bad, I thought I was gonna puke. Further, the absence of an action plan addressing the issue gives rise to rampant anxiety.

On the off chance that I remember that I need help, while actually in the vicinity of some person or organization that is there to help, I do ask for help. I don’t gethelp. I get a Xeroxed referral sheet full of referrals that fall instantly into two groups: the remotely possible, and those that either categorically excluded(able-bodied, middle-aged, unaccompanied, male)me, along with those that I know are out of date. Like the listing for McMillan Center at 39 Fell.  Put another way, the maybe & the no

There aren’t many in the “maybe” group. Only Tom Waddell Clinic and Potrero Hill Health Center. Tom Waddell Clinic only offers dental services on Monday and Thursday mornings and only for six people per morning. Oh, BTW, that isn’t six morepeople or six new patients, it’s six total. So folks start lining up for a chance to be seen by a dentist at four in the morning. They wait in line, outside, in the cold until almost eight when a person opens a door and passes out the six numbers. If you’ve got an appointment but you don’t get one of those numbers, then your appointment is simply canceled, not rescheduled, even if you’ve been waiting there since four thirty in the morning. The first 19 Polk of the morning won’t get me there until six, which is simply too late.

The listing for Potrero Hill Health Center claims that P.H.H.C. offers dental health services, opens at eight in the morning and is located at 1050 Wisconsin, around the block from my pal Chris’s place where I sometimes crash. That’s an easy choice. No wait, let me get this straight. It’s a very easy decision but it’s an extremely limited choice!

I get there a little after eight. It’s in the right place and it’s open. Most of the people in the waiting room are sitting. There aren’t many empty seats. The men’s room is out of service. A few different folk stand before the registration counter. One sits in a stroller. I’m standing on pins and needles. I’m next.

The woman behind the counter (and Plexiglass bandit barrier) says something like “How can we help you today?” I say “I need to see a dentist.”  First she tells me “Oh, we don’t do that here.” I recall standing there for a sec with my mouth hangin’ open and my world starts to spin at the edges. I think I said something else. Then the story changes to ‘emergency dental only’ which means “extractions only” and she’s asking me which tooth it is, as though they are eager for me to be rid of my teeth. The whole world’s beginning to spin, now. Maybe it’s me. My modest hopes of X-rays and a cleaning, of keeping my teeth, seem remote, now. I feel like I’m Oliver Twist and I’ve just asked for more gruel. I tell her “I’m on Healthy SF”, playing my last card. She informs me “Oh, we don’t take HealthySF” and I’m in a SF City & County PUBLIC HEALTH CLINIC!?!

I make an inarticulate noise. A City & County health employee jus’ told me a City & County health clinic won’t accept the City & County health plan. WTF? My world spins hard now, ‘cause this is to fuckin’ much! She politely asks if I’d like to wait to be seen and I honestly don’t know and can’t decide due to how wigged out I am. How long might I be waiting? How am I gonna pay? What’re they gonna do? Will they stop if I tell them to? Um, I don’t want to be here anymore. I say “I gotta think” and my feet can’t feel the ground as I’m walking out the door.

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