I badly burned the roof of my mouth
while eating a piece of salmon that I’d reheated in a microwave. The immediate pain was so searing that I could hear my skin frying. It left a raw patch the size of a nickel on the raised hump on the hard palate right before the soft palate begins.
Swallowing tons of ibuprofen and icing worked for a few days, but I couldn’t get rid of the extreme discomfort completely.
Advice on the Internet said to keep icing, no hot or spicy foods and gargle with cold water. There were a few comments about applying bad tasting salves that were not to be swallowed. Most sites agreed that the mouth eventually heals over time unless blisters form.
A few days later, I began experiencing flu-like symptoms punctuated by pain on the right side of my face. My throat felt sore and there was dull ache in my ear, head and neck. I was also beginning to feel sorry for myself because I couldn’t drink hot coffee when I started work at 4 a.m. Cold coffee at that hour just doesn’t cut it.
I wanted pizza and soup and roasted chicken fresh from the oven. Not fair, I thought to myself. Why must I suffer with not having a hot meal in what seemed like forever just for making an innocent mistake?
Seeking professional help and clinging to my “woe is me” attitude, I slumped into a chair at the doctor’s office near a woman in darkened glasses sitting quietly in a motorized chair. She was turned toward the sliding glass doors as if waiting for someone to walk through them.
Five minutes later, two male paramedics rolled in a very sick man on a stretcher attached to lots of medical equipment. He was sleeping in an upright position. A breathing mask covered his mouth and a portable ventilator rested on his lap. It made an arresting, rhythmic noise that immediately unnerved the woman and she started to stir.
Feeling the seriousness of the moment, I sat up.
She said something in a low voice to one of the two female caretakers who had also arrived with the man. Everyone tried to reassure her that he was fine and that the loud sound the machine was making was normal even though it was different from what she was used to hearing.
But she needed to see for herself and took hold of the steering knob on the armrest of her chair to bridge the two-foot gap between him and her. She craned her neck to look over the side of the stretcher.
“Mr. Russell, your wife is here. Can you see her?” shouted one of the paramedics. The man opened his eyes and turned his head in her direction. He nodded and quickly fell back asleep.
Mrs. Russell appeared somewhat satisfied, but still seemed worried as the ventilator kept on breathing for a man she cared for very much.
Later, the doctor diagnosed the burn on the roof of my mouth as having instigated a sinus infection and prescribed an antibiotic and bed rest.
I prescribed a big dose of “Shut up, already.”