Friday, 6 March 2009

having a tooth out in Kigali

March 3rd

OK, so this is the day I put myself at the tender mercies of Rwandan dentists to have a tooth out. I arrive in good time, having walked the last mile from Kacyiru crossroads. It’s a beautiful morning.

At the dentist I’m seen straight away, and operated on by Mr Longin, the boss man, and the one Christi recommended as being competent and pleasant. The operation takes an hour and a half. It isn’t pleasant, even with anaesthetic. I’m having the lower left 8th tooth removed – a big molar. It’s an inaccessible tooth to begin with. The roots are impacted and fused together, and the dentist has to cut and drill and cut and drill time and again before he can get the roots removed. He is operating very close to a nerve; despite the anaesthetic I keep jumping when he drills close to the nerve and he gives me a second shot of anaesthetic.

When the roots are finally removed – he’s so pleased and relieved himself that he brandishes the bloodstained, infected lump to show me – he has to stitch up my gums to close the wound. I’m still in la-la land with the anaesthetic but even at this stage I know I’m going to feel mightily sore when I come round.

He prescribes painkillers – brufen and codeine; good job I’m not going to be driving.

I settle up with him (RwF37000; a tiny fraction of what it would have cost back home) and set off walking up towards town, finally admitting defeat in the heat and taking a moto to the VSO office.

At VSO, still ga-ga from the anaesthetic, I get a lot of business done. I reclaim my passport, visa and green card. I get clearance to have my mid-term grant paid, which will partly pay the cost of my air fare home in the summer. VSO agrees to repay all my dental charges – hooray because together they have cost me well over a third of my March allowance! There’s various other little admin things to be done at the office, and a lot of emails to catch up on, too.

By the time I leave, early in the afternoon, I can feel my jaw returning to normal. I quickly do some shopping both at Remera and in the town centre, and then realise I need to get home fast and start taking the pain killers. On the bus home I feel terrible; it’s not so much that it hurts - quite honestly it doesn’t hurt much at all. But my face is swollen and my tongue has swollen grotesquely. I can’t swallow properly, and I’m drooling a mixture of saliva and blood. I’m trying hard not to leak this drool all down my shirt; it would certainly put the wind up any Rwandan sitting next to me on the bus!

I had planned to buy bread and vegetables in Gitarama, but when I arrive in town I just want to get home, take my painkillers, and collapse on the bed.

By the time Tom comes home I’m deep asleep, with a bloody, drooly “moustache” all round my mouth. Even Tom admits that I look pretty terrible. On top of everything else we have the usual fault with our electricity meter, so we’re in darkness. And because neither of us has been able to go shopping we’ve got virtually nothing in the house to eat.

So we venture out into the night, and eat at “Nectar”. I reckon I can manage an “omelette speciale” because it’s soft. Swallowing is getting a bit easier and the main problem now is that where the dentist has stitched my face back together it feels tight and I can’t open my mouth wide enough to eat properly. Honestly, today I feel as if I’m about 90 years old. I’ve never seen myself with such a lop-sided face!

Sorry if I’ve bored you with all the grisly details, but all in all it’s been an interesting day. On the plus side there are good, kind and competent dentists in Rwanda (or certainly there’s at least one), which is nice to know. Despite the tooth issue, I have got a lot of sorting out done at the VSO office. True, I haven’t managed to get any school work done, but then there’s always tomorrow!

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