By A.J. Llewellyn
When I was kid growing up in Australia, my youngest brother was injured in a game of touch footy - no that's not something kinky, it's a rough version of Aussie Rules football - and was kicked by accident right in the jaw.
He wound up in the emergency room and that's where his problems started. The emergency room staff told him he was being a wuss for crying. For weeks he endured pain when he ate and my dad took him to our family dentist, who told him he was being a big baby.
The pain worsened and the dentist - who has since died, which saves me the trouble of beating his sorry ass to death - took xrays and said there was nothing wrong.
We've since found out he inexplicably missed a very long fracture which worsened over the years.
The dentist, who became a controversial quack in my country, hurt a lot of people and no dentist in our hometown would touch my brother because they feared being involved in litigation.
They all allowed my brother to suffer so much and so needlessly. He was petrified to go back to the dentist - any dentist.
When he finally got the correct help he needed in New York City last year, he required painful bone grafts and horrible things to reconstruct his entire lower jaw.
He also required extensive rehabilitation. He spent some of that time here at my place and I hated seeing him in so much agony. Both of my brothers and I have had chronic dental phobias as a result of this whole, horrible ordeal.
I required dental surgery this week to remove a broken tooth and I drove everybody I know - and some I don't - with my mounting fear and panic.
My very close friend Tracy was going to drive me to his dentist yesterday so that I could take a Valium (prescribed by the dentist) an hour before the procedure.
I had a productive day in spite of my mounting terror as 4pm approached and then it was time to take my pill.
Don't ask me how, but I dropped the bloody thing right down the toilet bowl. I might be desperate, but I am not that desperate. I left it in there and dashed next door to my neighbor, the TV star. Miraculously, he was home.
"You're a celebrity. You get all the chicks, I bet you also get drugs," I said. "Can you hook me up?"
"What do you need? I have Valium."
He rifled through a plastic bag and held up a blue pill. "Oh no," he said. "That's Viagra."
"I don't have problems in that department," I huffed.
He gave me a Tylenol with codeine.
Then came the bad news. Tracy couldn't drive me after all. He'd allowed his husband to book their vacation to Hawaii and their flight was leaving six hours earlier than he thought. I think he was more upset than I was.
My best mate Tony called me and cheerily wished me good luck and then said, "If you die, can I get your record collection?"
He always teases me. He's a good man though and advised I should not take the Tylenol until after the procedure.
I would not let Tracy change his family's travel plans and I sucked it up and went to the dentist.
All by my lonesome.
I am a Buddhist and we chant through all our challenges and suddenly I thought about my brother's real dental emergency and my friend Jon in Detroit who is battling with debilitating chemo. I had to keep my fears in check.
The dentist turned out to be a very nice man who knew I was petrified. We chit chatted, he handled me with respect and a lot of patience. He put a topical Novocaine in my mouth that tasted like bananas.
I didn't feel the needle - much - but when it was time to start, he told me, "Turn on your iPod. Close your eyes. This will be over very quickly."
And he was right, it was. I feel so grateful to finally have found a great dentist and I am pleased to be rid of my debilitating phobia.
I have much better use for this crazy, fertile imagination of mine.