Dear beings made of squishy parts that cover the harder parts,
Hopefully all your parts regardless of density are in good condition. As you know, or maybe don’t, this week has been a general clusterfuck. I’m still sick, weak and emotionally distraught after my emergency on Monday morning and I just can’t seem to shake the pain from not only two syncopal episodes but also from falling literally on my face.Ow. But I’ve already explained all that here.
What I did not mention was the lovely silver lining that made the whole ordeal somewhat bearable. And that silver lining was my ER doctor. I can’t remember his last name, but I remember his first name was Shannon, so we’ll just call him Dr. Shannon.
I have been hospitalized, stuck in ERs and hospitals all my life and as a result have met many unforgettable nurses and doctors. I try to point them out because as I’ve said in a previous post, one of the hardest jobs a person can have aside from being disabled and chronically ill is being the person trying to save them. Everyone always talks about the times those in medical industry really fuck us over, because trust me, that also happens a good deal, but there is a tremendous number of spectacular people in this field and they deserve the proper acknowledgement when they make one of the worst days of my life a little easier to deal with.
After waiting, waiting, and waiting more because that’s the thing to do in Emergency Rooms (unless you’re coding and about to die, in which case I prefer the waiting), I finally met my doctor for the night. We went through the usual doctor and patient script. When I came to the part of explaining my symptoms and why I had passed out, I told him I was having severe pain in many places, including my jaw which even worse than normal. I continued to tell him that I suffer from a facial maloclussion; a genetic birth defect that causes the jaw to be malformed. 100% of the time, when I explain this to ER doctors especially, they haven’t the slightest idea as to what that means. It is no fault of their own. Maloclussions are more of a surgical and dental issue, so I try to not be irritated.
The second the word “maloclussion” left my, well, maloclussion, I immediately prepped myself to explain it. Instead, I was met with a response I have never, ever heard before, let alone from a doctor. “I have one too!” Dr. Shannon replied. My response was something along the lines of, “holy shit!”
Facial Maloclussions are a fairly rare condition, and despite seeing pictures of others like myself and talking to other people with facial or jaw issues, I have never talked to someone either on the internets or in person who actually has the same birth defect as I. What I find extraordinary is that for people who have moderate maloclussions, regardless of our genders or nationalities, we all look extremely similar when it comes to the shape of our faces. We all have long, narrow, slender faces, a trait caused by the fact that our jaws are often pulled downwards and back.
When he told me he had a maloclussion, I noticed that despite him being a nationality different than my own (because while it is shocking to believe, most people aren’t half Arab, half Austrian Californians like myself), his face was shaped similarly to my own. I use my big floppy bangs to distract from my maloclussion. He uses a beard to cover a surgical scar from a jaw operation. He explained to me that despite us having the same face shape, his maloclussion was the opposite of my own. His teeth in the front of his mouth all touch top to bottom, but as they go back, the gap between the rows widened. As for me, the teeth in the front of my mouth don’t touch at all, but the last two in the back of my mouth do. The gap between the top and bottom layers of my teeth is so large that I can clench my teeth and still stick my tongue through the space left in between. If you’re wondering why you never see me smiling with my teeth in the photos I post, you now have your answer.
I was so thrilled that Dr. Shannon was like me in this regard. Not only could he relate to how I look, but what was even more incredible was that for the first time I had met someone who knew exactly what I meant when I explained the TMJ spasms I have once a month, or as I like to call them, Charley Horses to the face. They’re excruciating, and no matter who I meet with whatever condition they may unfortunately be diagnosed with, I have not met anyone who knows what it is like to feel like Two-Face, half of my own visage fraught with pain every second. He knew how agonizing my neck and shoulders felt and how the migraines I get every day are enough to make me want to be like Rhys from Tales from the Borderlands and just shove a kinetic screwdriver into my brain. He. Just. Understood. It was the most astounding relief.
On top of it all, he was the first doctor to give me a better understanding of Vasovagal Syncope, and told me that there is actually medication I may be able to take to help prevent my syncopal episodes. He took the time to answer all of my anxiety driven questions and most importantly of all, and I can NOT stress this enough, he understood the importance of playing Pokemon Go. He was pretty much the most perfect doctor ever. When my adoptive mother, Rose, came with her granddaughter to pick me up and take me home, Dr. Shannon came to give me my discharge papers and I excitedly told her how he was the first person I’ve ever met like myself. He then proceeded to repeat everything to her that he had just told me. As the great Chris Hardwick says,
It’s always thrilling to meet someone who loves the same bands, shows, movies or food as you do. Being able to share something you love with a stranger is often times what creates friendships and turns strangers into important people that you can’t imagine living without. Just about everyone can understand this feeling. It’s often times a very good one.
When it comes to chronic illness, disabilities, defects and other things that are not what you have chosen to have like a favorite band, but rather a part of your very being that you had no choice in receiving, it is easy to feel alone and alienated. Most of my friends are averagely healthy and don’t know what it is like to have my pain, to constantly be in the back of an ambulance, or to have the insides of their elbows repeatedly assaulted with catheters that leave ugly bruises. Of course, I’m glad they don’t know what any of it is like, because I wouldn’t wish it on even the worst of foes.
To meet someone who shares your pain, your memories, your defects or even just one of those strange medical experiences is like meeting someone with the same musical taste as you…times ten billion. They have a part similar to you, they understand, and best of all, you are a bit less alone in the strangeness. Of course, just because someone shares some of your pain or illness doesn’t mean you’ll be best friends forever, and it is certainly not enough to base an entire friendship off of, but it’s pretty damn exciting regardless. I try to take moments for what they are.
I wish I could hang out with Dr. Shannon and riddle him with questions about how he found out he had a maloclussion, how old he was when he began to have pain, if he always feels self conscious about it as I do. Did his jaw lock at a young age like mine did? Did he used to be bullied for it in middle school and high school like me? Did he get tossed between surgeons and orthodontists?
Oh god, the curiousity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Chances are I’ll never see my maloclussed, medically inclined Pokemon Trainer friend again, but I will say that it was, in an odd way, lucky to be in need of emergency medical attention on his particular night of duty. I always count myself fortunate when I am lead to wonderful social interactions, even if the journey to them is quite the opposite. I will not forget this moment where for once I wasn’t seen as a medical anomaly or a freak, but as someone who has a rarity in common with another human being. Just as I can’t forget the first Celiac I ever met (and now friend) William, the first time I met a girl in a college class who also suffered from chronic anaphylaxis, or when Zach Braff’s character on Scrubs came down with Vasovagal Syncope.
Thank you Dr. Shannon for simply talking to me like a person, not a patient, and being for being genuine, where ever you are. I mean. Probably in the ER at St. Mary’s I am assuming, or maybe hunting a Pikachu… but you know what I mean.
The writing’s on the wall,
It seems like forever,
Since we had a good day.