Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sometimes Attorneys Aren't So Bad

I've written here (and here) before about how much I hate attorneys, generally. (And yes, it does lead to a fair amount of self-loathing and depression sometimes).

But this week something happened that reminded me that not all attorneys are awful.

First, some background.

Before I started law school, I was warned that it would be a hyper-competitive environment, in which no one collaborated with others, everyone was out to stab you in the back, and it was "sink or swim" all the way.

So when I was ill during one of the first few weeks of law school, I was terrified to skip class, lest I miss something important. After all, I had no friends yet, no one I could ask for a recap or to share notes with me. But I was too sick to get out of bed, so I skipped my classes one day.

Imagine my surprise the next day, when I dragged my still-ill-but-at-least-marginally-functional-self to school, and a fellow student (I'll call him "Jay" since his first initial was "J," but that's not his real name**) approached me with some photocopied notes he had taken, and said, "Hey, I noticed you were absent yesterday from the contracts class so I copied my notes for you. I hope they're helpful."

I was amazed at this display of thoughtfulness.

And Jay wasn't even "hitting" on me, just being kind. Really. (Hard to believe, I know, but true).

Jay and I didn't become best friends in law school, but he was always polite and kind and friendly - collegial in the best sense of the word - and thoughtful.

After graduation, we did not keep in touch much. I'd run into him at random seminars or state bar events and we'd chat a few minutes. One time, he was presenting material at a seminar and saw me in the audience, and mentioned my name as an attorney who had worked on one of the important cases he was discussing. Very kind of him.

Recently one of my former clients (an excellent paralegal / legal assistant) called me for assistance with an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. She had represented herself in the trial court and had won, but the other side had appealed. It was a fairly straightforward case - she probably could have handled it herself, but she was intimidated by the appellate process, and so I agreed to help her. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the decision in her favor.

I received an email at about 10:00 a.m. one day from the Supreme Court, with a copy of the decision.

At approximately noon that same day, I received an email from Jay stating, "congratulations on your win - impressive!" (or words to that effect).

I haven't talked to Jay in at least two years. I am quite sure he is not stalking me and so I don't want any of you thinking this is creepy in any way. It's just not. Most likely, he subscribes to the Court's email service, in which they email you copies of all decisions. He read it, saw my name on a decision in my client's favor, and took the time to email me with kind words.

How very cool.

** I wish I could tell you Jay's real name and give him full credit for his thoughtfulness, but since I'm trying to remain anonymous here, I simply can't.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The World Is Full of Them

Ignorant (new) judge made a stupid and legally incorrect ruling this morning in one of my cases. Which will require my client to either lose money she is entitled to, or to spend money she does not have, to appeal the stupid and legally incorrect ruling. She likely will not be able to afford the appeal, in part because she won't get the money she is entitled to because of the stupid ruling by the ignorant judge.

Which just happened to remind me of one of my favorite song lyrics ever:

"Everybody knows, the world is full of stupid people..."

--The Refreshments

Truer words have never been spoken (nor sung).

Here is a video I found on YouTube from a concert here in Arizona, by the Arizona band "The Refreshments" (not to be confused with the Swedish band by the same name), recorded the year my daughter was born.

Little known fact: The Refreshments (the Arizona band) wrote the theme song to "King of the Hill," the long-running (recently cancelled) animated series on FOX, created by Mike Judge.

Another little known fact: King of the Hill was a spinoff from the MTV animated series, Beavis & Butthead. Mr. Hill was a character on that show.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Oral Surgeon, or, Dental Doozies, Part III

So I went to see the Oral Surgeon.

Her assistant was much nicer than the endodontist's assistant. She broke the ice by telling me I look like Sandra Bullock. Yeah, I've heard that once or twice before. (I wonder if Sandra has had a root canal?)

But then she asked the strangest question: "So, you want to have number 19 removed?"

"Want" might be phrasing that a little badly. No, what I "want" is for my tooth to be fine and not need any more dental work. What I "want" is to travel back in time, to whenever it was that I did whatever thing I did that cracked the tooth, and to not do that thing.

But since that's not possible, and since the endodontist seemed to be recommending removal, then I'm willing to do it.

So I said, "Well... want? No, not really. But if it's what's recommended...."

She asked a few other questions. I asked a few questions - like, how do they get that tooth out? It has so many curved roots. Do they have to cut the bone?

"Oh, no," she said, "usually they just pull them right out."

The Oral Surgeon came in and shook my hand and told me all about the complications you can get with tooth extractions.

Then she explained the general procedure which, she said, in a tooth that has had a root canal, usually requires cutting into the bone because they tend to just fracture and fall apart.

(What is it with these dental assistants? At least this one was pleasant - and she told me I looked like a movie star! - but her information was all wrong... )

So I asked the oral surgeon whether she thought extraction was the best option for that tooth. I guess that's like asking a hammer if we should use a nail instead of a screw. Predictably, she said yes.

So now I am wondering if I should get a second opinion before having the tooth removed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dowsing and Dental Procedures, or, Dental Doozies Part II

So at my second visit to the endodontist, the assistant came in to examine my teeth before the endodontist put in his appearance.

She was quick, somewhat unfriendly, not very good at explaining things, and seemed in a hurry.

She looked in my mouth, said "hmmmm" a lot.... Then she got out a little thing that looked like the top third of a toothpick. It was red and pointy and looked like it was made of wood. I didn't get a good look at it, though, as she simply poked it into the swollen area of my gum, which was between my back two molars, while stating "I'm going to stick this in here in the swollen part. It will help identify the source of the infection."

What? How? I thought...

But I didn't get a chance to ask about it, because at that moment she held the x-ray thingy up and commanded me to open so she could take the x-rays. So I opened my mouth and she crammed the x-ray film into my mouth (this gal was anything but gentle).

This particular endodontist uses newfangled digital x-ray equipment. Instead of the old-fashioned cardboard x-ray film holders (horrible and uncomfortable things), they use plastic digital x-ray plates attached to wires that go to the computer and immediately show up on the computer screen when the x-ray is done (also horrible and uncomfortable things, but at least you can immediately see if you need another x-ray).

After installing the horrible and uncomfortable digital x-ray plate in my mouth, she remembered the lead apron she was supposed to have put on me, and spent another minute or so installing that -- having to manever it around and under the wires extending from the digital x-ray plate to the x-ray computer display.

All of this caused much jostling of the little red toothpick that was still sticking out of my gum, with the other end poking the inside of my cheek. I was quite uncomfortable. On the verge of tears, actually.

"Sit up!" she commanded, and I leaned forward a bit so she could position the x-ray machine next to my jaw.

Zap. The x-ray itself was mercifully quick. Then she pulled out the digital x-ray plate, and pulled out the red toothpick thingy.

She pointed to the x-ray displayed on the computer and said, "See, it's pointing to the back tooth. That is where the infection is coming from. That tooth will have to be removed."

I looked at the x-ray, and indeed, the little toothpick thingy appeared to have bent inside my gum and the very tip of it pointed toward the back tooth - one I previously thought was fine.

But I'm thinking, "Wait a minute, here - that thing was jostled all over the place and anyway, what the hell does a little piece of wood know about where infection is coming from?!?"

So I asked her, "How does that work?"

She said, "It follows the infection."

Not a very thorough explanation, so I tried again.

"OK, but exactly what does it do?"

"It tells where the infection is."

At this point, her explanation was sounding rather circular. Perhaps, I thought, my questions were just poor. So I tried again.

"OK, it tells where the infection is, but how does it do that?"

"It follows the infection."

Great. You said that already. Now I'm getting annoyed. [Did I think that, or did I say that? I think I just thought it... but I'm not really sure].

"But, *how* does it do that?! How does it "follow the infection' -what does that mean??" I asked, in probably not the nicest voice, but managing not to yell.

"Look," she said, visibly angry with me, "I've been doing this for 15 years. I know what I'm doing. It's the back tooth that is infected!"

"OK," I said, "I understand that. I just want to know how that little toothpick thingy works!"

"It follows the infection," she repeated.


I gave up.

The endodontist came in. By this time I was pretty frustrated, but I didn't get much of a chance to ask him any questions about the little toothpick thingy. He explained all about the root canal issues. I explained that I was fairly upset at the prospect that the back tooth was also infected and asked his thoughts. He said it was hard to tell, what with the problems with number 19, and that we had two options: try to re-do the root canal, or have the oral surgeon extract the tooth. At this point, I really did not want to deal with the endodontist's office any more than necessary. And besides, I was starting to think tooth #19 wasn't really worth all this effort. Extraction was starting to sound pretty good.


So he wrote me a prescription for antibiotics, and off I went to see the Oral Surgeon.

I'll save that tale for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, have any of you ever heard of this toothpick procedure? I've tried looking it up on the interwebs, but without knowing anything about it - the name of the procedure, the name of the device (I'm sure it wasn't actually a toothpick.... was it?), or how it's supposed to work, I haven't had any luck finding information about it.

Does anyone out there know what this toothpick thingy is called? How it works? Whether it's scientifically based, or simply voodoo?

Frankly, it reminded me of dowsing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Root Canal, or, Dental Doozies, Part I

I had a root canal - a dental procedure - over the summer. Have you ever had a root canal?

I was ... embarrassed ... to need a root canal. Why? Because for my entire life I've had perfect teeth. I never needed braces - my teeth are just straight. I had one cavity as a kid, which was filled, and had my wisdom teeth removed when I was 16 or so, and then every visit to the dentist since then has resulted in my dentist exclaiming "Wow, your teeth look great! Very little plaque! No cavities!" I get the occasional admonishment to floss more often, but really, who doesn't? In short, for nearly 30 years I've needed nothing more drastic than a dental cleaning.

So when my molar (#19, I've subsequently learned) began bothering me occasionally when I would eat or drink something too hot or too cold or too sweet, I chalked it up to my imagination, or age, or ... anything, really, other than a problem with my tooth.

Until the end of May, when I took a bite of pizza and experienced severe pain. Not as bad as childbirth, perhaps, but excruciating nonetheless. My eyes watered. I ran to the bathroom and swished water around in my mouth, hoping to wash away whatever awful thing was causing the pain... but the COLD WATER MADE IT WORSE!! Now I was nearly dizzy with pain. I had to sit, breathe deeply, focus on a spot on the wall -- you know, the whole Lamaze thing that, when I was having my kids, got me through labor until the anesthesiologist showed up with his magic epidural needle! But there was no anesthesiologist on the way, and that worried me greatly.

Especially since we had a vacation to California planned for the next week. A two and a half week vacation, complete with a trip to Knott's Berry Farm, a week at the beach, and a week of camping on Catalina Island. I considered skipping the trip and going to the dentist instead.

But the pain subsided within a minute or so, and it didn't come back for the next few days, so I decided it was all in my head, my tooth was fine, there was no problem, really... humans have a really amazing capacity for denial, don't you think?

And off to California we went. Had a great time. Perhaps I'll write about some of it later.

And the tooth was fine, mostly, so long as I didn't eat anything too hot or too cold or chew too hard on that side of my mouth or ... whatever... I found myself skipping the ice cream dessert because I just didn't want to take a chance, chewing on one side of my mouth, slowly and carefully... eating less (not a bad thing, really - I needed to lose a couple of pounds anyway, I told myself)... whatever it took to make sure I did not trigger that severe shooting, stabbing pain again.

Then, while camping, another awful shooting pain in my jaw.... ay yi yi, I thought the pain would never pass....! A few minutes later, it did. But after that, my tooth hurt pretty much constantly, a very low-level but constant pain, with occasional shooting pains if I tried to use the tooth. It was clear. There was something terribly wrong with my tooth. Ugh.

So when I got home, I made an appointment at the dentist, who saw me the next week, took a bunch of x-rays, said my tooth was infected and probably cracked, and sent me to the endodontist, who saw me a few days later. The antibiotics the dentist prescribed to control the infection also got rid of most of the pain, except for the occasional shooting, stabbing pain if I ate something too hot or too cold or chewed on something just the wrong way or... whatever. That didn't happen much, though, since I had pretty much learned to avoid eating if at all possible and to chew on the other side of my mouth if I had to eat.

The endodontist explained that my tooth was cracked, which allowed bacteria to get inside the tooth and eat away at the soft tissue within, destroying it. This is apparently what caused the pain. That, and the slight movement of the piece of tooth that was cracked. He recommended two alternatives: a root canal, or extract the tooth.

If the tooth is extracted, you then have two other options: a dental implant, or a bridge. For a dental implant, they insert a metal post into your jaw bone and attach a fake tooth to it. Ooh - sounds painful... For a bridge, they attach a fake tooth to the teeth immediately before and after it. Sounds less painful, but has the potential to essentially ruin two perfectly good teeth.

In a root canal, the endodontist drills through your tooth, scrapes out all the infected goo, and fills the tooth with some sort of soft substance, perhaps with antibacterial properties. Then you return to your dentist to have a crown placed over the tooth to hold it all together. (Apparently once the inside (infected) tissue is drilled out and the tooth dies, it becomes more brittle and needs protection, which is what the crown provides.)

Keeping the tooth and having it be normal again was, sadly, *not* one of the choices, and I didn't like any of the choices I had. But the root canal sounded the least objectionable, as I would not have to have metal installed in my jaw bone, nor ruin two perfectly good teeth to install a denture-like fake tooth between them.

The endodontist warned me, though, that my tooth was pretty severely and deeply cracked, and that the root canal procedure might not be successful. He said, however, that it would immediately cure the pain - well, right after the swelling from the procedure subsided, anyway. So I said "OK, let's do it," and had a root canal done right there and then.

Two and a half hours later, the root canal was done.

Two months later, it still had not fully healed. My dentist explained he could not install the crown until all the infection cleared up and the swelling subsided, so that the tooth would not be "floating" on top of fluid and/or swollen tissue, causing a misalignment of my bite. It has never fully cleared up.

In fact, it recently flared up again. The root is apparently dead on that tooth, so the pain wasn't nearly as bad as before. So, in my infinite capacity for denial, I ignored it as long as possible, claiming I was "too busy" to go to the dentist again. But it was uncomfortable. And then last week, my gum swelled up, and it began to actually hurt. So, back to the dentist I went. And the endodontist. And then the Oral Surgeon.

More antibiotics. More pain pills. And I may have to have the tooth extracted. And I'm thinking I should have just had it removed in the first place. Ugh. What a nightmare! Wish me luck...

Tomorrow I will tell you about my second visit to the endodontist. It was a real doozy.