It was just after 2:00 p.m. when I uttered a serious, “Oh, Oh”. Sitting directly across from me, my most loving husband locked his eyes with mine. We were having lunch. He watched me look away, and how my fingers probed and pulled, bit by bit, pieces of a broken molar from out of my mouth.
My tongue curiously surveyed the damage. Hubby did not see curiosity, rather panic! The nerve of my tooth was stimulated and I was sure the core of my tooth was exposed.
Appetite left me, and I quickly excused myself from the table. “Finish lunch”, I said.” I’m going to the Medic”.
It was our first trip to Cuba together and breaking a molar was altogether unexpected. The medical office was just around the corner from the front desk. I recognized the doctor wearing her white smock and approached her with my concern.
She spoke some paragraphs in English, quickly with a heavy Spanish accent. “Do you understand?” She asked.
“No” I replied. Her English sounded completely foreign.
“It’s no problem Senora. We have a dentist on the island. Do you need to see her today?”
“Yes, today.” I answered. “I have medical insurance, I need to call them first” I stated as I remembered the claim regulations.
“The dentist is available to see you today before 5:00 p.m.” The doctor informed me.
“Let me first make a call to my insurance agency, I’ll be back”. I ensured.
At the buffet, my most loving husband was just finishing his lunch as I approached the table. I mentioned that I needed to go to our room and get the insurance company’s phone number. Off I whisked again, determined to reach our villa quickly.
Inside our room, I fumbled and fidgeted inside and outside of the safe; only to bring the completely wrong information back with me, and lock-up the information I needed. At the front desk, I realized, I had had the phone number with me all along!
Meeting up with Hubby, I let him know that we could see the dentist today. “I just need to call the Insurance Company”.
My cell phone didn’t work. The Front Desk did not have an international line, so they offered me to make the call from our room or from the ‘internet’ room. I opted for the internet room; just around the corner.
“Senora, the cost is 2.05 Convertible Cuban Peso’s per minute. Collect calls are not possible from here”. I was informed
Having connected with my party, I started my stopwatch and first gave them my name and informed them of the costs of the call. I spoke faster than ever! So fast, that they didn’t understand me, and all information was requested a second time, so I replied slower, wasting even more minutes on the call. “Is this call paid by insurance?” I inquired. “I will check that for you madam”. And she put me on hold!
The representative came back on the line, and I quickly informed her that the cost of the call was now 16.40 CUCs. “According to your plan, the call will be reimbursed, and you have dental coverage”.
I began to speak slower.
“Which dentist will you be seeing?” Asked the Rep.
[*“I left *]that information in our room”. I confessed.
“Well, just make sure you keep all original receipts and all written statements that you receive.”
My Hubby and I walked back to the Doctor’s Office.
“Senora, you can go this afternoon, but it’s getting late for the return trip by transit bus.” the Doctor said. Meanwhile, a Host of the resort was inquiring with a taxi driver to get a quote on a return trip to the dentist. Hola! Nearly $100.00!
With my visible frown and tears surfacing, the doctor declares, “It’s no problem Senora, the tooth will be fine for up to 36 hours, you can travel by bus in the morning. The dentist can see you between 10:00 and 10: 30 a.m.” My most loving husband and I decide that we will visit the dentist first thing in the morning using transit.
The first bus arrived at 8:59 a.m. and did not pull up for passengers until 9:00 a.m. sharp. We boarded the bus and gave our 5 CUC each. The driver helper seemed to understand that we wanted to be notified of our stop.
We took our seats, and my most loving husband proceeded to reach for an object hanging near the window that looked like a toy gun. It released a loud siren that could only indicate an emergency stop!
“Don’t touch anything”. I implored.
From the first stop and through the next dozen, I kept a keen eye. After an hour or so, we worried we missed our stop. Hubby asked the driver helper and was told it would be another 15 minutes. After 20 minutes more, I went up and asked about our stop. She finally acknowledged; “It will be the last stop Senora”.
At 10:30 a.m. we disembarked the bus and I was so thirsty I wanted to get a drink before even looking for the dentist office. As we sat with our water as Hubby pointed out a villa sign designating the Dentist Office.
We watched as a lady in high heels and a white smock left the dentist office and wandered towards the still idling bus. “That must be the Dentist.” and I sprang up and walked to greet her. She welcomed me with a smile, a hug and kissed my cheeks.
Tapping her index finger gingerly onto the tip of my nose, she said: “You come with me, everything will be okay”. And then she playfully tapped her finger onto the tip of my nose a second time.
The Dentist Office was small with just enough room for two seats in the waiting area. Inside the operatory was a low, round, glass-top coffee table, its’ perimeter was lit-up with colourful Christmas lights. Beside it, I was relieved to see that the operatory contained all the important components that work together; patient chair, operatory light and spit bowl. There was a young gentleman standing in the room, and I assumed he was the assistant. I took my place on the chair and the Dentist adjusted the headrest making sure I was comfortable.
Finally, someone other than me had an interest in seeing my broken molar. “Yes, it is broken; do you want me to repair it?” She asked.
“Yes, please repair it.” I answered.
[*“Do you want Anastasia? I don’t think it is *]necessary, but the most important thing for me is that my patients do not feel any pain.”
I wondered to myself. I wondered if that should really be the most important thing.
“Let’s try without Anastasia I replied.” hoping that the tooth would be restored properly.
“Okay Senora, if it begins to hurt we will use Anastasia”. And I agreed.
The Doctor began to set up her instruments and I watched with interest as she muscled the sliding cabinet doors open to reach her equipment.
She approached me with a thick plastic baby-bib, obviously one that had been reused countless times before.
“Do you want air conditioning turned up?”
“Do you want the windows open?” She asked.
“No, it’s fine”. I said.
The telephone rang and the Dentist walked around my chair to answer the call. I patiently waited and turned my gaze to the window. It was decorated with white ceramic butterflies at each corner and cream coloured window curtains. The overall décor was definitely unique for a dental office, somewhat like a shrine displaying multiple knickknacks collected over the years.
Tuning out the one-sided Spanish conversation going on behind me, I examined the operatory light and noticed its yellowy tinge, tinted by age. It looked just like the Canadian ones from the 70’s.
When the Dentist hung up, I looked over my shoulder and noted that she placed her cell phone on the glass coffee table behind me before taking a seat by my side.
With equipment in place and her gloves on, I instinctually opened my mouth as she approached with instruments in hand.
The drilling didn’t hurt.
“Spit”. She urged me, and nudged my back as I leaned over the bowl.
After several ‘spits’, she walked around my chair and poured bottled water to rinse the spit-bowl. That’s when I realized there was no running water.
Then a lady in beach attire carrying a cocktail in one hand waltzed in to greet my Dentist with kisses. They had a short conversation as I lay there in awe; my mouth beginning to close.
Once back to drilling, the phone rang. She excused herself. After listening to a Spanish conversation, the Dentist sat back down beside me and told me; “It was my boss”.
Again she went to the cabinet, wrestling to slide it open and then returned. She then struggled to fit a metal die between my teeth. “Your teeth are tight”. She exclaimed. Something touched my nerve and I let out a soft groan. She leaned over me and kissed my forehead through her green medical face mask.
“Do you want the window open?” She inquired. “No, it’s fine.” I said.
The phone rang again and that is when I realized that the young gentleman was not her assistant. When she returned from that call, I wondered if she had taken off her surgical gloves. I removed the thought from my mind. She continued her work on my molar.
The Dentist convinced me that I was brave, and her two fingers massaged the centre of my forehead for a few seconds.
In the end, she let me know that the repair was permanent. I did not need to see my Dentist in Canada. “It is permanent!” she ensured me and gave me another facemask forehead kiss.
My tongue assessed the repair. The bite was very good. I had a reconstructed permanent Cuban tooth!
“I need a receipt for the insurance company.”
“Uno momento Senora.”
Getting out of the chair, I saw her go to a closet and pull out a cluster of cluttered files. She pulled out a three-part receipt and as she began to write I looked at the young man sitting near the corner of the counter. He was busy grinding dentures using a laboratory lathe. I tried to remember if I heard him using the lathe while my mouth was open. I removed the thought from my mind.
I needed the bathroom and walked past my most loving husband in the waiting area. Alas, no toilet seat, no water; no surprise, I mused.
It was time to pay and so the Dentist escorted me to the resort’s Front Desk to use Visa. While we were waiting on the transaction, I wondered whether people tip a Dentist in Cuba. I asked the Dentist her name. She smiled and said; “My name is Daisy”.
“Thank you for everything”. I smiled back.
The Front Desk clerk needed my attention. By the time I turned around to look at Daisy, and caught her, in her white smock, exiting the lobby doors: my Cuban Dentist.
- Author: Susan Stamm
- Published: 2017-01-29 00:20:08
- Words: 1852