I know I’ve already told you some things about my surgery, but you know? More needs to be said. Or really, I feel the need to say more, to tell you to be wary of your expectations.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? It started with some teeth pulled in a child’s tiny mouth. A few years later, it was a pallet expander with an accompanied face mask. I didn’t do all I was supposed to, then. I was a kid, about 10 years old, and didn’t understand what it all was for. I didn’t like the pain of the expander and the discomfort of the face mask. My mum didn’t force either onto me, so I avoided them as best I could.
In another universe somewhere, I wasn’t so irresponsible those first years of orthodontics and saved myself a lot of hassle later. Sadly, this isn’t that universe.
Some years later, at the grand age of 16, I got braces. I should have gotten them a few years earlier, but due to insurance issues, that wasn’t possible. The braces were only on the top jaw at this point, and helped pull down an adult tooth hiding beneath my gums. Those braces were still with me the following year, stretched across my face as I gave my graduation speech, as I pasted on a fake smile in photographs with people I’ll probably never see again.
That summer was my first surgery. All four wisdom teeth extracted and a tooth surgically exposed. The surgery hurt and the painkillers made me sick, but I slept through most of it and recovered in time for my orthodontist to add more metal to my mouth. This time, braces on the bottom jaw and elastics to go with them. That’s how it was when I started my first semester of university.
By this point, I knew full well I would need surgery to correct my jaw. I couldn’t bite into anything and only a couple molars touched at any given point, making chewing a laborious task. I couldn’t eat sandwiches or wraps, even pizza was difficult. Things like celery and mozzarella sticks were out of the question. Any kind of meat, even white meat, was painful and slow to eat. All of this was straining the joint, causing irreversible damage.
Things were tough, but looking up. I had a great surgeon, someone who discussed the procedure in a way I could understand without sounding patronizing. He treated me like a human with an opinion. He showed me before and after photos of others who had similar surgeries, and pointed out those whose surgeries were nearly identical. His name was Dr. Carmine Colarusso of Central Mass Oral Surgery, and he came highly recommended by the orthodontist I had been seeing for nearly ten years.
Over the next couple years, my orthodontist, the fantastic Dr. Todd Rowe, continued to shift my teeth into the best pre-surgical positions he could. I had elastics in the front, on the sides, and eventually in the back. The ones in the back were cross elastics. In other words, I don’t just have brackets on the outside of my teeth. I have two small brackets (“buttons”) on the inside of two molars, way in the back. The cross elastics went from the inside of my top jaw to the outside of the bottom.
Finally, at 20 years of age, I was ready for surgery. Small problem, though. I had been on my father’s health insurance, and it turns out he took me off of it over a year previously and didn’t care to tell me. Because it had been so long since I lost my insurance, no other insurer would take me. Not my university, not my mum’s insurance, no one. My mum had to pay an inordinate sum to put me on hers. CMOS cleared me for surgery with my new shiny insurance number.
Two weeks later, on my birthday, my mum was laid off. She was without a job, and both of us without insurance. That was last year.
Knowing my university insurance wouldn’t cover my surgery, we looked into Cobra, a fancy thing that puts you back on the insurance you had…at a cost. I now pay for my own health insurance, out of my own pocket, while going to school full time, paying the utilities for my three roommates on top of rent every month. FYI friends, when I say I don’t have money to go out, buy games, buy music, etc… I mean it.
But that whole process took time. It took time to figure out what we were going to do when my mum got laid off. Not just in terms of insurance, but in terms of money in general. Sorting out unemployment, eliminated needless expenses, shifting money around to have enough at the end of every month… it was a few weeks before we got to taking care of my insurance. Perhaps we should have gotten to it sooner. Perhaps it wouldn’t have changed what happened next.
Dr. Colarusso dropped me as a patient.
That sucked. I mean, that really sucked. Though to be fair, I can’t say I blame him. It wasn’t so much about the back-and-forth with insurance on my end, though that certainly did have something to do with it. If we hadn’t had that trouble, maybe he wouldn’t have dropped us. But that wasn’t the main reason. The main reason was insurance, but not mine specifically. Insurance in general.
You see, for oral surgeons like Dr. Calarusso, it’s actually more profitable for them to do things like wisdom teeth extraction than it is for them to take orthodontic patients like myself. For procedures like mine, he would have to coordinate with my orthodontist, with the hospital, with me. There would be several appointments across multiple places, with multiple people. It would take significantly more time and effort for less profit than would a simple extraction. For him, it wasn’t worth it. It was time he cut the strain from his practice. So he cut me.
I don’t fault him for the decision. I wish he hadn’t made it, but I understand why he did. Were I in his position, I probably would have done the same.
Thus began the search for a new surgeon, one who would accept my insurance AND was still accepting orthodontic patients. Dr. Calarusso was not the only one cutting orthodontic patients from their service, however. Many were, and still are. After weeks of searching, dozens of phone calls made, there was only one surgeon who would take me in. Just one, in the entire state. And since my insurance provider is based in Central Mass, it’s safe to say this was the only surgeon in the world who would accept me as a patient.
Enter Dr. David Kelly of Crompton Park Oral Surgery. An older surgeon who continues to use out-dated methods, who runs a business that doesn’t have a website or even email. He had no before/after photos for me, only an anecdote or two. He didn’t treat me like a person, he treated me like a statistic. Just another patient. The last orthodontic patient he would accept. Perhaps even one of the last patients in general before he retired.
He was my only choice. My only hope to fix my dysfunctional jaw and allow me to eat like a normal human being for the first time in my life.
I didn’t like Dr. Kelly from the start, but my options were clear: either have him do the surgery before he changes his mind; or call it quits and hope the market (and my insurance) is better in a few years.
Sometimes I catch myself wondering if I would have been better off waiting, but I know better than get stuck in that thought process. Debating the benefits of decisions I didn’t make isn’t going to improve my current situation. What is that current situation? Stick around. This was just Act 1.