Editorial: Wishing for a Perfect World

Editorial: Wishing for a Perfect World

William E Stein, D.D.S.:

A few weeks ago our Northwest Dentistry Managing Editor, Sue Miller, approached several members with the question, “What would your wishes be for dentistry in a perfect world?” There were three categories:
• The Sky’s the Limit: What would you want or do if money or technology were completely unlimited?
• It Could Happen: What problems could you solve if you could get people and organizations to work together?
• Brass Tacks/In the Here and Now/Doable: What problem is close to being solved; what would it take to cross the finish line?
 
I thought Sue had another of her great ideas, and of course she did. You will be able to judge the results in our cover feature this issue. 
 
While pondering my contribution to the piece, it became apparent to me how often people start a sentence with “in a perfect world”. The other day Julie, my dental assistant, after a particularly difficult experience with an elderly patient, exclaimed, “In a perfect world there would be resident dentists and hygienists in every nursing home!”
 
Why didn’t I think of that?
 
In a perfect world, 64-year-old dentists wouldn’t come down with Carpal Tunnel syndrome. That was my latest adventure. In late fall, a creeping numbness began to attack my right hand. From the symptoms, it was that annoying occupational hazard, Carpal Tunnel. I embarked on a regimen of physical therapy to no avail, and in December I found myself consulting a nationally award-winning surgeon who 20 years ago recruited me to serve in Haiti. It is my great blessing to know many such talented and dedicated doctors and health care workers. My  surgeon is a pioneer in minimally invasive surgery, and he was able to treat me by using a small scope. I emerged with only two tiny incisions and a gratefully healing hand.
 
We are so fortunate to have a state-of-the-art hospital in Aitkin, truly the result of a lot of people thinking, “In a perfect world, what would we want for a great health care center for our  town?” And by golly, through the generosity of the people, businesses, foundations, and yes, government, we have one of the best hospitals in the state, with a world class medical staff. 
 
My carpal tunnel procedure was the finest surgical experience I have had in my checkered and many-sutured past. I checked in to the cheerfully decorated outpatient surgery suite, and was treated by several friends I have known for years. Many were longtime patients of mine who obviously relished the opportunity to turn the tables on me. They were, of course, all kind  and professional.
 
I changed into pajama bottoms and a long disposable blue top with what appeared to be a plastic hose connection on the side. I was ushered into a nice but small alcove with a flatscreened TV and a comfortable lounge chair. An IV was painlessly started, and a hose connected to my gown. This was to provide me with a stream of warm air to keep me comfortable  in the cool operating theater. So there I was, happily ensconced in my easy chair with the balmy air billowing up my skirts. I was so relaxed that I turned down the kind offer of a mild  sedative to relax me. 
 
I was in the good and capable hands of a young male nurse anesthetist. I had not met him before. The hospital has been so successful that quality professionals are coming from all over  seeking employment. I was interrupted in my enjoyment of “Hoda and Kathy Lee” to be taken to the operating room. The only mildly unnerving thing was to be lying there arms  outstretched as for a lethal injection or crucifixion. Funny what you think of …
 
My surgeon arrived on time, and we exchanged pleasantries. The anesthetist gave me a dose of Propofol, the same drug that did in Michael Jackson, but my guy knew what he was doing,  and I soon awoke back in my chair and ready for breakfast. The actual surgery took about 15 minutes. My freed nerves have since regenerated to the point where I am happily back at  work. 
 
The Riverwood Healthcare Center is a marvel of what rural health care should be. Sadly, due to the laughingly titled “Affordable Health Care Act”, the CFO of the hospital has announced  that we will have a funding shortfall of two million dollars this year.
 
In a perfect world, that wouldn’t happen.
 
 
 
*Dr. Stein is Executive Editor of Northwest Dentistry. He is a general dentist in private practice in Aitkin, Minnesota, Email is AitkinDent@AOL.com.