On Friday evening last week in Bristol, I was feeling fine and in no more discomfort with the tooth than I’d been in for a couple of weeks. During the week before the trip, I’d been steadily advancing my body clock forwards a few hours each day, as initially I was in a phase completely 12 hours out of sync. My body clock issues are a result of OCD and lack of sunlight. Anyway, I’d been awake since 3am on the day of the trip, but all the stimulation and novelty was keeping me awake, and we went to a restaurant where I was still fine.
When I laid down in bed at the AirBnb place my tooth quickly started aching, permeating into my skull around my temple. After an hour lying there fully alert I went to the bathroom, and somehow figured out that putting toothpaste on the tooth seemed to immediately help. But as soon as I lay down again the pain crept back in.
By 2:30am I realised I was going to get no sleep and it was a serious situation, so I decided to get dressed and get a taxi to the hospital A&E. My friend despite having woken up in the middle of the night to help me was very calm and clear-headed, just accepting what was necessary. He told me to message him to keep him updated. The unspoken agreement was that he’d be alert to me getting in touch, and would be able to let me in with the spare key that he was given. He’d been the one looking after it up until that point, and it didn’t occur to us to give me the key.
The hospital couldn’t help me, not even to give me painkillers, even though I’d followed the advice on the NHS website for emergency out of hours dental pain 😏. Just that same old story “we’re not a dentist”. As in, you’d be left to develop sepsis potentially if you had a raging infection, or any arbitrarily severe issue, just so long as its origin was in dental pain. It just makes no sense. They did eventually take pity and ‘wrangled’ me a single codeine pill.
The A&E had been totally empty so I was already back from the hospital within 45 minutes, by 3:30am. I stood outside and texted my friend, who didn’t respond. Then I tried calling, and calling…five times. Then I tried calling my other friend back at his parents’ house 3 miles away. I was picturing him, his wife and his 14 month old restless baby waking up…😬, but he didn’t answer.
I stood there a while just wondering what I could possibly do. I couldn’t bring myself to try to wake up the house with the doorbell, or even knock loudly. Wasn’t sure it would even work since it was a two-storey house above a shop, with two flights of stairs before the top floor. Then I remembered that four years ago I’d had the same Bristol friend’s dad’s phone number, and still had it. So I called him sheepishly, wondering if they’d even wake. After all of the help they’d given me four years ago, housing me for five days when homeless, I felt terrible to be in such a crazy position again. I knew he’d be utterly bemused as to why I was calling. He did answer and I just stated the facts as simply as possible.
Of course he was incredulous that my friend wasn’t answering his phone. Suggested I try calling another five times, so I did. Then he suggested ringing the doorbell, and I had to agree that would be less disruptive.
I rang the doorbell and it responded to me with: “We are unable to answer the door right now, please leave a message after the tone”. Obviously a smart doorbell silenced for nighttime. I left a message. Then I tried knocking, but still nothing.
I racked my brains again and remembered that the same friend had got a coach to meet us in Bristol, and that even though there were rail strikes on Saturday the coaches would run. I checked the times online and decided to get a taxi to the coach station and get the 5am coach back to Reading. I’d be back by 9am and could phone the Reading emergency dental line from the coach, and get an appointment that day. It was completely perfect, to hell with the trip. It was drastic but I was completely decisive about it, it was too enticing, health was the priority. I could never have planned for being stranded outside at 4am on a freezing night! My phone battery was rapidly fading and I simply had to act quickly. I messaged my friend’s dad with the plan and told him to go back to sleep.
I got in the taxi and noticed my friend’s dad had tried calling me twice (in the 2 mins since I put my phone away to get in the taxi). I called him back and told him my plan. But he told me to go to theirs so I changed the taxi endpoint, in a painstaking process through the app (telling the driver wasn’t enough 😆). Thank god the phone battery held out.
When I got to my friend’s parents, I was explaining the situation to my friend on the landing, and his mum overheard from their bedroom. She came out and gave me a pack of 6 co-codamol tablets, which she had leftover from her late father. I read the dosage which stated you could take up to 2 every 4 hours. So I figured the hospital’s dosage combined with one pill would probably be ok. My friend and his dad had set up the sofa-bed in the spare room, and since I was still awake and in pain by 6am I phoned the Bristol 111 number, to be ready with a phone number for an emergency appointment by 9. However, by 7 o clock the pain had finally gone and I couldn’t resist sleep finally, after 28 hours of wakefulness…