For the past two weeks Karen and I have been in Bountiful Utah. No, this isn’t one of Utah’s beautiful ski resorts. We weren’t there to watch Gonzaga sweep all their games in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Salt Lake City. We didn’t stay there as a pit stop on the way to visit our kids who live in Arizona or Florida. We went to Bountiful on a dental vacation (and I use the term vacation very loosely).
As many of you know, Karen has struggled with dental issues for many years. In the early 1990’s she became ill. She had no energy, was tired all the time, ached all over and was depressed. Her doctors had no clue what was happening. Also during this time, she endured ten root canals. Before going through an eleventh, her dentist suggested she go to see a specialist in Colorado. They discovered she had high levels of mercury in her system from this poisonous metal leaching into her system from leaking amalgam fillings in her teeth.
She had all but one of her molars pulled and underwent a detox program to flush the mercury out of her system. Her health improved but for the next twenty-years she went from dentist to dentist trying to find one who could make partials which would give her a good bite and not cause pain in her mouth and neck.
The problem is that she is allergic to all metals, and partials are made with metal to give it strength and to help keep its shape. Dentists had to make partials out of a plastic which wore down easily and often broke. Over the years, this lack of a consistent bite contributed to chronic pain in her jaw and neck.
After many years of experimenting, her local dentist said there was nothing else he could do but recommended a specialist in Utah who might be able to help. We traveled to this dentist over a year ago and he pulled the rest of Karen’s teeth which were all full of infection and in the process of rotting in her mouth.
Now instead of partials, Karen was given a full set of dentures. For a year, the dentures caused continual sores to form in her mouth; sometimes five or six large canker like sores at a time would line up in a row on her gums causing her great pain. The dentures also didn’t relieve the pain she was experiencing in her jaw and neck; it only got worse.
Our dentists, Dr. Wall and Dr. Baker, in Utah came up with another plan to help her. He could embed ceramic posts in her upper and lower jaw for her dentures to clip onto. This would keep the dentures from rocking in her mouth thus eliminating the cause of sores to form on her gums. At the same time, they would find out the best position for the dentures to rest to help stabilize her jaw muscles. Hopefully this will help relieve some of her neck and jaw pain.
So we arrived in Bountiful on March 15th full of hope, that at last we could see the light at the end of that long tunnel of pain Karen has endured for the past twenty-two years. After days of bone scans and consultations, she had oral surgery. The dentist placed four ceramic implants in her lower jaw. It was discovered from the bone scans, that she didn’t have enough bone on her upper jaw for the implants. They removed bone from her lower jaw and mixed it with a compound. The dentist peeled back her upper gums and inserted this compound into her upper jaw, similar to applying putty to repair holes in a wall.
Now the fun began. She couldn’t wear her dentures for a week to help her mouth to begin healing. For the next two months, she can’t eat any solid food. Pretty much smoothies, soup, mashed potatoes and yogurt. Both Karen and I will be losing some weight.
On Monday, March 27th we planned to fly out of Utah, but the dentist thought it best to wait until Thursday to take the stitches out. There was also a concern about flying so soon after this surgery. No problem; I called to change our flight but found out they would charge an extra $900 because it was spring break. Yikes!
We rented a car to get around in Bountiful. I called to check the cost of using the rental to drive back to Seattle. Only $1000 more. Yikes and double yikes! For only a hundred dollars more I made the executive decision to drive back. It would be more comfortable for Karen than to experience the sinus pain from the high altitude of flying.
So on Thursday we left Utah. We made reservations in Boise to spend the night there. The weather had been terrific the whole time while we were in Bountiful, breaking records for that time of year. It was overcast but warm when we drove out of the city heading north. We turned on the radio and heard the hosts talking about snow angels and building snow men.
About an hour into our drive the car thermometer began to take a nose dive. From 60 degrees, to 50, to 40, to 35. At least we hadn’t hit any moisture. Suddenly, down the road, a giant white curtain was pulled down from the sky. Tail lights flashed as I drove into a blizzard.
For the final three hours, I could barely see three or four car lengths in front of me. Then the wind began to howl. My windshield wipers were almost useless as they battled the snow and wind.
What should have been an easy five-hour drive, took us almost eight. We arrived at our hotel at 7pm tired and ready to relax before the next days longer drive home. Because of the warm and welcoming staff and extra touches they provided, we chose the same hotel chain we used in Bountiful. They provided a never ending supply of chocolate chip cookies, ice cold lemon water, and 24 hours of smiling faces from its work force.
We walked into the Country Inn and Suites and realized right away we weren’t in Bountiful anymore. The gal behind the desk was talking to a co-worker for five minutes before she even acknowledged us. After finally checking us in, I looked around for some cookies. No cookies and no ice-cold lemon water. Oh well, we couldn’t wait to get into our room and take a dip in their pool.
When we entered our room, the air felt heavy. I was recovering from a sinus infection and was having a hard time breathing anyway so I just chalked it up to that. After ten minutes, Karen said that her sinuses were bothering her and she was getting a sore throat. She knelt down on the carpet to open up her suitcase. When she stood, both her knees were wet.
Someone had just recently (very recently) shampooed the carpet and it was still wet and smelled like chemicals. Now my sinuses were plugging up even more and I started to cough. Karen went down to the front desk. They were sorry but they were full and couldn’t move us to another room. To say I wasn’t very happy was an understatement.
Karen called around to other hotels close by while I repacked everything and brought it back out to our rental car. We checked into another hotel after 9pm. We were both cranky and exhausted. At least the carpet was dry and the bed was amazing.
The next day we awoke to sunshine. We drove to SeaTac airport, picked up our car and listened to a CD I had bought of Hank Williams all the way home.
So what’s the moral of this story? Heck if I know. Sometimes you just have to play the hand that’s dealt you, whether it’s a mouthful of bad teeth or a stressful day driving through a snowstorm only to find out you have been booked into a room with a wet carpet.
These are the times it’s comforting to know you are in the hands of a loving God who looks out for us even when life seems out of control.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12