A molar broke in half about three weeks ago. A root canal had been done on it at least 20 years ago, and it snapped the first time probably 6 years ago. The dentist I went to then glued it back together again, but this break was obviously irreparable. The tooth would have to come out.
The nearest permanent dentist, when the roads are good, is either 3 hours’ drive away in Bella Coola, or 3 and half hours’ drive away in Williams Lake. I am not a happy dental patient and did not like the idea of the trauma of the process combined with 6 or more hours on the road, especially in winter conditions, nor did I want to go through the hassle of leaving the house overnight. When my new neighbours move in next month, winter trips away will be a lot easier.
So when I heard that a travelling dentist would be coming to the Anahim Lake clinic, only one hour away, from Monday to Thursday of this week, I thought I would try and get an appointment.
When the tooth broke and I first phoned, it was to find that the person booking appointments was away on indefinite medical leave. Several days later, I got a message to say that I would be able to go this Thursday morning.
On Monday, however, the tooth, had been irritating all this while, suddenly abscessed – something that has not happened to me before. The pain was quite intense – I could not eat or sleep and pain killers, which I never normally take, did not touch it – so on Tuesday morning I phoned the clinic again to see if my appointment could be brought forward. After some procrastination, I was told that someone else would switch appointments with me – thank you that kind person. I was to be at the clinic by 3.00:pm.
Unfortunately, there was a problem.
My road had not been ploughed for a long time. The usual people who would have done the job were not available this year. Each time it snowed I kept driving back and forth and was able to get in and out. As long as I stayed in the ruts I was fine. But the loose snow would sometimes catch a tire and I would slew into the banks. The snow there, was like ball bearings under the crust. But so far I had got away with it. Frosty mornings the traction was quite good; warm afternoons it was very slick.Coming back from yoga on the Monday around midday, I slid into the bank. Under the snowbank at this point, is a ditch. No way was I going to be able to dig myself out of that. Nor was there room to drive around in my truck.Ironically, the road was supposed to have been ploughed several days before. However, the man who had agreed to do it had problems of his own. He owns a logging truck and his driver was sick so he had to drive it for three days. He is also a rancher and he had a sick cow that took up a couple of days. I phoned him and begged him to come because of the tooth and he said he would – but it was 2.40:pm before he arrived. I felt like he was a Sir Gallahad coming to help a damsel in distress.He pulled me out of the ditch – and I promptly got stuck in another ditch on the other side so he had to pull me out again. Finally I was on my way!Highway 20 is now bare so I made very good time once I reached it. However, I was still 3/4 hours later than I had hoped.I need not have been too concerned about time! The clinic at Anahim is on the large reserve there. It was not a doctor day (twice a week) but the nurse was working and all sorts of people were coming in and out for that as well as the dentist, and all schedules were out the window. Everyone knew each other and were visiting cheerfully – it was like a big party! Although the clinic is open to everyone, it probably wouldn’t be there if it was not for the reserve. As I was new to this dentist, I had to fill in a consent form. One box was labelled: “Status.” I felt like writing: “Toothache.” I finally got into the dentist chair at about 5.00:pm. I have dentist phobia. But this man and his cheerful assistant were so calm and efficient, I felt in very good hands. The tooth was extracted and another tooth was filled and I was out of there within the hour.
I found that these amazing people worked from 10.00:am until 9.00:pm four days straight! The sched flight (3 x a week in winter) was due to take them away midday Friday, but I was told that if I had any problems I was to get back there Friday morning, which in fact I did. The problem was minor, but knowing he was leaving, I thought it best to catch him and avoid a possible 3 – 4 hour drive if the problem escalated.
I was wondering if there would be time to fit me in this Friday before the sched flight left. But the dentist told me the plane would wait for him. Pacific Coastal Airlines are certainly not cheap, but they are very cognizant of rural difficulties. (They also fly rescue dogs for free, which is how Harry arrived on my doorstep.)
This morning (Friday) I found that Dr Cameron Robson does not operate from a home base. For 14 years he has been travelling to remote first nations communities. He comes to Anahim 4 times a year. He is a person I shall definitely go to again. There is nothing fancy about the room or equipment but who cares as long as the job is done properly. We are so lucky that he comes within reach – and it was very lucky for me that he was here when I really needed him.