Bil Browning

On Abscesses, Pain Pills, & Missed Opportunities

Filed By Bil Browning | August 24, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: missed opportunity, Netroots Nation, NLGJA conference, pain pills

If things are a little slow here on Bilerico Project for the next few days, it's not because I don't love you anymore. I've just been really sick for a while and I'm hitting the end of my rope. While I had Adam around to pick up some of the slack during the summer, right now it's just Jill and me and, well, she already has a full-time job.

Here's what's going on. I broke a tooth in mid-June the day before I was supposed to fly out to the Netroots Nation conference. The dentist said I shouldn't fly and I had to miss one of my favorite events of the year. man-thermometer.jpgEvery year I see tons of contributors and friends and, quite frankly, I was really depressed to hear about the great time Jerame was having without me while still knowing that just because I was sick didn't mean he should have to be miserable too.

Since I'm on Medicare, I have no dental insurance. (They won't cover any tooth-related issues unless you need a tooth removed for chemotherapy.) All of my costs have been out-of-pocket and getting a broken tooth fixed is expensive. After a week of antibiotics, I found out it would cost north of $3k to get a crown; there's no way we could pay that much. Instead, I made an appointment with the dental school to get it fixed cheaper; since the school is popular with the non-insured set, I had to wait a month to be able to get in and see a dentist. While I was waiting to get in, the tooth became infected.

This caused an abscess on my gum. So not only did I have a painful broken tooth, but my gum had swollen huge like a nasty pimple with a whitehead full of pus. In a panic, I went back to the original dentist who drained it, prescribed antibiotics and pain pills and sent me home. To make a long story short, the broken tooth was eventually fixed, but the infection has lingered and I've had one to six abscesses constantly on my gums for the past two months. The pain is unbearable; I want to claw my face off a good portion of the day.

The story continues, but - fair warning - there's a photo of the original abscess after the jump to show y'all what I've been dealing with.

Since the original tooth broke, I've been to the dentist 7 or 8 times, a periodontist, and my regular doctor. Each has prescribed a new antibiotic and more Vicodin; I've now had over 50 shots in my mouth and face. They've all drained abscesses and offered sympathy, but no one seems to know why in the hell they keep coming back. They have been able to determine that there's bone loss surrounding the infection, but that's about it. So far the only solution has been to rotate through a variety of pills and mouthwashes.

Since I feel like death warmed over half of the time, I've been trying to keep my posts short and sweet. I've pawned off as much work as possible onto Adam or Jill and I've been in a pain pill haze for weeks. In another stroke of piss-poor luck, being on pain pills for a long time can exasperate depression; I've talked on the site before about being bipolar and this definitely hasn't helped that issue either.

Combine the pain pill lethargy, the bipolar depression, the constant pain and general discomfort from a two month infection, and, quite frankly, I just don't give a shit about much these days other than making it all stop. I had to eat a soft sandwich with a knife and fork for dinner on Monday night; I skipped lunch entirely because it was just too painful to chew anything.

This week I'm supposed to be attending the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association conference. I'm winning the Online Journalist of the Year award and I was scheduled to appear as part of two different panel discussions - including one of the plenaries. Unfortunately, I've had to cancel my trip to yet another event I really wanted to attend. There's simply no way I can talk that much with huge abscesses in my mouth; just putting my fingertip to my cheek makes me want to scream and cry.

So I'm sorry if things are a little slow around here today. The guest bloggers I'd lined up for this week to cover while I was attending the conference have all agreed to contribute their posts to help me get some time off to recuperate. I've tried to continue living a normal life (some days the pain subsides and I can eat and leave the apartment), but most days are simply dreadful. Today is one of the bad days.

Kyle Bella will be posting tomorrow and Viktor Kerney is returning as Friday's guest host. I'll still be here, but will probably stick to editing and backend duties more than writing.

It's probably not a good idea for me to be writing stories while hopped up on pain pills anyhow, but, damn, are they necessary. Here's a photo of the very first abscess. If you think this is gross and horrible, realize that I currently have five of them all on that same side of my face in that area. They refill and burst about every 10-15 minutes non-stop.


Sorry to let you down, folks, but I just don't have much left in me today.

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I'm sorry you're having dental issues, much less ones you can't get solved quickly. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

You've probably already thought of this, but what the hell: ever thought about using the barter system to get dental needs? A buddy of mine got a year's worth of vision (exams/contacts/glasses) in exchange for designing the doctor's website.

He got to take his time designing and upkeeping it so it didn't detract from his writing, got his vision needs taken care of, and didn't cost a nickel out of pocket.

Just a thought. Worst the dentist can say is "no", right?

Feel better.

Oh Bil so sorry to hear of all your pain. Yuck.

I'm sorry to hear it hasn't improved, and don't envy you.

It's a serious lack that medical insurers don't cover dental issues like this, especially when one considers the value of preventive health care. In many cases, it's far more fiscally sound to fund preventive issues than to have them balloon into serious quality-of-life issues. People typically can't see beyond the initial price tag, and that's a serious problem.

After GRS was delisted here (like dental, under the pretense that it's "cosmetic"), I've become vividly aware of how much of a difference these things can make.

Take care, and still sending positive vibes.

Bil, I'm sorry you've had such a hard time! Get well soon. love, Paige

Your story is yet another reminder of the failures of our health care system. I can't believe they want to cut care even more than they already have. I wish you a speedy recovery and, of course, I'm excited to be guest hosting tomorrow!

Don't just take painkillers and antibiotics. Have it analyzed for real to discover why it is not healing fast, and start treating it properly.

This is a silly obvious advice, and I hope you are doing it already. I just had to say it because very recently I had a relative with the same symptoms, and doctors took a long time until they start doing what they should.

I hope you get better soon!

Owww! That's some fucked up shit. I'm so sorry about all your pain and frustration -- sending you love and hoping they figure it out soon and get it taken care of. xo

Chitown Kev | August 24, 2011 10:43 PM

Bil, I really feel your pain.

In 2009 I spent a week and a half in Stroger hospital due to a tooth abscess.

Mine required two oral sugeries because the doctor realized that there was a second pocket of pus after the first oral surgery.

So I had 2 abscesses at the same time, I guess. But five?

Dude, I feel your pain. Really.

Bill, I hate to tell you this but it sounds nauseatingly familiar. I went through a similar round of hell-on-Earth when one of my lower wisdom teeth decided to come in. Abscess formed when the wisdom tooth broke the roots on the molar ahead of it, and it took forever to clear up. It wasn't apparent at first, but the infection had actually gotten into the bone itself and the anti-b's weren't reaching it. My periodontist put me on a different regimen which finally cleared it, but all of this took three months.

You have my complete, utter, cringing sympathies... and I always found Percocet worked better for me than Vicodin, but we all respond in our own way to the pretty-pills.

Bil, I'm sorry you're not feeling well. Get plenty of rest, and feel better soon.

I hate that you're unwell- I miss you kickin' my ass on Words With Friends!

Get better soon. Love getting your Daily Digest in my mailbox every day.

Was really sorry to read this, Bil. From personal experience, I can honestly say, "I feel your pain."

But it seems to me, as it has to others, that you would do well to holler about the extended time that it's taking for this to heal -- and also to find out if there might be other, underlying issues that may need attention.


Ed A