Departure angst

Take off_240

 

Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed travelling.

Yet, as long as I can recall, I have always experienced  nervousness for a few days before my departure. When I was a child and even in my twenties, I used to feel positively nauseous during the last few hours before setting off. Nowadays, I still feel anxious a few days before leaving on a trip, but I no longer have that sensation of nausea.

The cause of my anxiety is probably a mixture of concern that all will go according to plan and excitement at the prospect of travelling and new experiences.

Whatever the reason for my pre-travel ‘neurosis’, the problem evaporates once I set off on my travels.

Am I alone in this needless worry before departure, or do others feel the same way?

Fear of flames

Coiffure_500

” I have always been filled with fear at the prospect of any physical intervention on my body. This may come as a surprise to anyone who knows that I am a dentist, who makes a livelihood from trying to assist people who fear my interventions, but this is the case.

For example, from an early age, I have feared going to the barber, an experience that most people enjoy. I am not certain whether this fear of having my hair cut originated from hearing the tale of the barber of Fleet Street, who used to deliver his unsuspecting customers to the basement of the butcher next door, in order for them to be turned into sausage meat. I still cling onto the armrests of the barber’s chair, just in case… Or, did my fear arise from the worry that I might be injured or infected by the scissors or the cut-throat razors, which are still used today?

There is yet another possible source of my ‘pre-barber angst’. This dates back to the 1950s, when I was less than ten years old. In those days, I used to be taken to a large hairdressing salon in Golders Green Road, where Mr Pearce attended to my coiffure. The salon was filled with a nauseous odour, that of people having the split ends of their hair singed with the flame of a lighted taper. What, I wondered, would have happened had Mr Pearce begun to singe my hair? Would my head have erupted into a fiery ball? Well, this never happened. My beloved, but neurotic, mother would never have allowed anyone to approach my hair with a flaming taper. Indeed, as a child, I was never allowed to hold a box of matches, even safety matches, because, my mother was concerned that it might have spontaneously burst into flames. She should have known better. Her grandfather manufactured matches in South Africa. “

 

This is a short extract from my book “Going without the Flow“, which is about the fear of surgery. It is available on Amazon, Bookdepository.com, Lulu.com, and Kindle

This won’t hurt a bit!

human fist

 

One of my dental colleagues, a very confident fellow and a competent operator, told me this true story many years ago.

One day, he had a nervous male patient, a well-built strong looking man. However, the patient was extremely anxious, as many dental patients often are. The patient needed to have root canal treatment and was convinced that he would experience much pain during the procedure. 

As my colleague prepared his local anaesthetic syringe, he said, trying to be reassuring:

“Don’t worry, sir, after I have given you this injection, the procedure won’t hurt a bit!”

The patient turned to my colleague brandishing his tightly clenched fist, and said:

“You’d better be right because this will certainly hurt you!”

 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fears of the dentist

Faces

Most people are very apprehensive about making a visit to the dentist. But, how many dentists are filled with apprehension at the prospect of seeing patients? Almost every day during my 35 years of practising dentistry, I walked into my surgery with a feeling of worry, concern about what might happen during the day.

The average non-dental person might not realise that treating patients is like walking on thin ice. With many patients in the UK just itching to sue the dentists, whom they fear, even the slightest thing might lead to a legal confrontation between the patient and the dentist. Clearly when a patient suspects that the dentist has made a clinical error, pulled the wrong tooth for example or made a filling that keeps failing, recourse to compensation is sometimes reasonable. However, something far less ‘life-threatening’ like a verbal misunderstanding can lead a litigious person to attempt to obtain remedial compensation. So, to avoid trouble and also to ensure that a patient leaves satisfied, the prudent dentist must treat each patient with tact, delicately, and clinical excellence. All that seems quite reasonable.

However, there are patients, whom the dentist dreads. The very sight of their name on the day’s appointment list can ruin the dentist’s day from the moment he spots it. These people, many of whom I wish I had been courageous enough to dismiss, often exploit the dentist’s desire to provide them with excellence. They ask for the impossible, or for things they know that they cannot possibly afford, and they are never satisfied. Worse still, they keep coming back to the surgery for minor matters, which are often unresolvable because of their sad personalities. I may sound a bit harsh, but many of the persistent complainers that I saw were unemployed, receiving their treatment free of charge (because of state subsidies), and had little else to do apart from sit in dentists’ waiting rooms.

Then, there are the dental obsessives. These patients are often quite charming until they reach the subject of their teeth. Even what you and I might hardly notice becomes a major problem for them, even a life crisis. They will keep asking the dentist to redo some small repair on a tooth because they, and only they, can perceive that there is some minute imperfection. And because of fear of complaints and litigation, I used to plough on with these people and long for retirement. Sometimes, I felt like telling them that in the grand scheme of life, a minor ‘defect’ in the teeth is nothing compared with having a major illness, or starving during a famine, or being injured in a traffic accident, but I ‘bit my tongue’.

Despite my continual anxiety about keeping the patients on my side, there was the odd occasion when a patient was genuinely grateful for something I had done. Those expressions of gratitude were worth more to me than whatever fee my treatment had attracted.

So, next time you have to visit the dentist and are filled with fear, spare a thought for the dentist, who might well be feeling the same as you, but cannot show it because it would wreck your confidence in him or her.

 

Fear of flying

Flying by wire_500

 

I used to be very apprehensive about flying. It scared me to think that each time we lifted off from the runway might be the prelude to the sudden ending of my short life. I used to read the safety instruction card, and still do today. However, I had little faith that by following the safety instructions, had there have actually been a disaster, would my life have been saved. On one occasion, I became very agitated because the man in the seat beside me had not fastened his seatbelt when instructed by the voice that cracked through the loudspeakers of the ‘plane’s tannoy system. My mother mentioned my concern to him, and I felt reassured when he told us that he worked for BEA (British European Airways) and knew exactly when it was essential to fasten this safety device.

During the 1960s, there were no moving map displays in aeroplanes such as are commonplace today. However, halfway through the flight, a small piece of paper used to be passed from passenger to passenger. It contained a bulletin about the progress of the flight, and it was signed by the pilot. I used to feel privileged being allowed to handle such an important document.

It was many years later that my hitherto irrational fear of flying became rational. I was on a jet ‘plane flying into London’s busy Heathrow airport from where I cannot remember. The ‘plane was descending, the buildings below us were becoming larger and clearer, and most of the clouds were above us, when suddenly the aircraft jolted and began to ascend rapidly.

We have had to climb,” the captain announced calmly over the loudspeaker system, “to avoid another aircrft that had come into our flight path.”

A few minutes later, we began descending 

We can now continue our landing,” the captain announced in a nervous voice, “There are no other aircraft in our way this time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought it was a bean

Is fear of the needle 

worse than fear of the mask?

Without them, we suffer

business care clean clinic

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Many of my adult patients remembered going to the dentist when they were children and having to be put asleep under a black face-mask. This memory instilled in them a life-long fear of visiting dentists.

The day after the 17th of March 1982, when I qualified as a dentist, I was legally allowed to administer general anaesthetics for dental procedures without an anaesthetist being present. General anaesthesia is hazardous enough but without the assistance of an anaesthetist, the risks of problems multiply. I could have accidentally killed a patient on my first day in practice. For the record, I have never ever administered general anaesthetics with or without an anaesthetist.

For a brief while, a few months in the 1990s, I worked in a practice that specialised in treating dental patients while they were under general anaesthesia. The anaesthetics were administered by a visiting hospital anaesthetist, who was assisted by a fully trained anaesthetics technician. The patients, when unconscious, were intubated to maintain their breathing and all the right things were done to ensure their safety. When the patients were ‘under’, I worked on their teeth, as quickly as I could because the anaesthetist wanted to keep the patients ‘under’ for as short a time as possible.

Children were given gaseous anaesthesia through a face mask. Once, I sniffed the gas briefly. It was terrible stuff. It felt as if a knife were shooting up my nose. Most children were, quite naturally, terrified at the prospect of anything that was happening in our clinic. Getting them to accept the black mask with its attached rubber tube was often difficult. The anaesthetist was a friendly man from the Middle East. He would say to the children things like:

“This smells of peppermint.”

The child might reply:

“I don’t like peppermint.”

The doctor would then say:

“I’ve got strawberry flavour.”

“I don’t like strawberry.”

“How about some lovely banana?”

And so, it went on.

One mother impressed me. She said to her child that if he allowed the mask to be put on by the count of three, he could have a treat at McDonalds later. She counted “one”, and the child refused. And, then “two”, but the child still resisted. Then, I wondered how different it would be when she got to “three.”

I was impressed when she said:

“Two and a quarter,” and then “Two and a third”, and so on without ever reaching “three”. Eventually, her child cooperated.

 

I must to admit that although we got a lot of work done on fully anaesthetised patients, I did not enjoy working under these conditions. However, I enjoyed my weekly encounters with the friendly anaesthetist, ‘Dr A’. He was extremely fond of fiery chillies, which he consumed during our lunch breaks. He was always seeking hotter chillies. This was probably because his taste-buds had become partially damaged by his excessive consumption of these almost corrosive chillies.

One lunchtime, Dr A and I were sitting in the staff room with a male anaesthetic technician from an agency. Wickedly, Dr A passed him a long, thin fresh green chilli, saying:

“Try this.”

The young man put the whole green chilli in his mouth and started chewing it. Soon, his face went bright red, and he rushed to the sink to fill a glass of water. When he recovered, he turned to Dr A, and said:

“I thought it was a bean.”

PS: Nowadays, general anaesthetics for dentistry cannot be administered anywhere in the UK except in a fully-equipped hospital.

Sabotaged

My late and much-loved mother was very protective of her two children. She saw dangers everywhere. We were not allowed to go near to electric wall sockets just in case we got an electric shock. Intelligent as she was, I have the feeling that she believed that electricity flowed out of the holes in the socket like water from a tap. 

 

During my childhood, my aunt and uncle used to smoke Benson and Hedges cigaretess that were supplied in nice small hinged metal boxes, which when empty were very useful for storing small objects. When one day I was given one of these boxes, empty, my mother confiscated it immediately. She was concerned that I might cut my fingers on the sharp edges of the box.

As for matches, much caution was needed here. Despite the fact that her grandfather had owned a factory that manufactured safety matches, even safety matches were deemed unsafe by my mother. Therefore, we were forbidden to handle boxes of  (even safety) matches just in case they should spontaneously ignite in our hands or packets. I am sure her intentions were well meant, but sometimes they went a bit too far. This excerpt from my book “Charlie Chaplin Waved to Me” (he did!) shows how her anxiety sabotaged what promised to be a wonderful hiking trip:

The four of us (aged 17) embarked on a second youth hostelling trip the following Easter. Once again, we took a train to South Wales, and made our way up to our first hostel, which was located at Capel y Ffin in the Black Mountains near to the English border. We spent the night there, and awoke to discover that snow had begun to fall.

 

I had been instructed that I had to telephone home every morning to ensure that my mother knew that I was still alive. I rang from the hostel’s public telephone and my mother answered. She had heard on the radio weather forecast that there was snow in Wales, and asked meabout it. When I said that it had begun falling where we were, she ordered that we return to London immediately. Believe me, this was not an order that could be discussed. My mother, anticipating that we would surely be lost like Scott of the Antarctic in an avalanche or in freezing snow drifts, had to have us back as soon as possible. I broke the news to my 3 friends, who were furious. For about an hour they kept offering me reasons that I should give my mother in order to try to change her mind about our premature return. Eventually, they gave up. We all knew that none of these would work. And, because, I imagine, they feared my mother, we set off back to London. I have never been allowed to forget this fiasco. Even Hugh’s mother, now in her eighties, often recalls her amazement when she learnt how my mother had successfully wrecked our trip.

 

Charlie Chaplin Waved to Me” is available by clicking: HERE