Throughout my life, I have had numerous near-death experiences. I’ve come close to dying so many times, I’ve lost track. My last close call was during the Spring of 2019. At least, it felt like a close call.

At the age of 52, with the exception of one crown, I still have all of my teeth. So, when the pain came out of nowhere, I figured it could only be one of a couple of things. I went to the dental emergency clinic because I knew something was terribly wrong. My suspicions were validated, I had my first abscess, and it was a doozy.

The dentist gave me some antibiotics and sent me home with instructions to return the next morning for a root canal. If I had known how bad it was going to get before the next day, I might have taken more precautions.

At approximately 4:00 AM, something troublesome woke me from my slumber. My airway nearly closed while I was asleep. I jumped from the bed and ran to the mirror. The entire left side of my face and my throat was incredibly swollen. I had difficulty breathing.

Fortunately, I’m not one to panic. I have a US Army Combat Medical background, and I felt confident that I could punch a hole in my throat if necessary. Yes, an emergency tracheotomy right there in my bathroom. I would not hesitate to save my life by stabbing myself if it came down to it.

Instead, I got dressed and left the house, heading straight for the dentist. I planned to show up when the office opened, and if things got worse, I could always go to the emergency room with a hole beneath my adam’s apple. Yes, of course, I brought a tube and a knife with me.

Well, I didn’t die, but I did suffer for a few days. Not from the root canal. I fell asleep during that procedure.

Maybe someday I’ll tell you about the time [during my childhood] I had a cavity filled without any local anesthesia. It was not a near death experience.

Joseph Shanklin

July 10, 2020

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