Jilly D.

Dentists and dentures

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on April 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe retail model doesn’t work any better in health care than it does in education. The profit motive drives most physicians to prescribe unnecessary treatments and medications. This is also true in dentistry. I asked my dentist to pull a tooth and he wouldn’t do just that. He said I had to have a root canal and a bridge. Just three thousand dollars with a 3% discount for cash payment in full.

You may be the customer but once you are in the chair with your mouth wide open, he’s the doctor and you are the patient.

It wasn’t his bill that made me nearly shove him through a wall. When I went into his office to have the permanent bridge put into place, I told him I had just brushed my teeth with baking soda.

“Can I rinse with water first?” I wanted that chalky feeling off my teeth. An hour or so after brushing I was also thirsty.

“Oh no. You don’t need to. This should be applied dry.”

I leaned back and tried to relax.

“This is the easy part. It won’t hurt. You won’t need gas or novacaine. I am just going to apply a little pressure until it glues into place,” explained my dentist.

I opened wide. I watched him apply some goo onto the upper surface of the enamel imposter tooth. Then he inserted it into the gaping hole in my mouth. He pushed up.

“AAAAaaaaargh.” I put my right hand up against his chest and shoved him hard. The pain inside my mouth was excruciating.

He put his hands up in the air.

“What the….?” He exclaimed. His assistant grabbed my shoulders from behind and pulled me back. I put both my hands over my mouth and moaned.

“What is that goo made of?” I angrily grunted. “Hunh? What is it? Some kind of acid?”

The dentist looked at the tube and nodded yes.

“I told you I had just brushed with baking soda. What happens when baking soda mixes with acid? Hunh?” I yelled at him.

The volcanic explosion that had erupted in my mouth scarred me from ever seeking any further dental care. I will let my teeth rot out of my head before I will go back for more torture.

Sam had all his teeth pulled out at one time when he was much younger. At age 36 he was diagnosed with periodontal disease; along with his sister and millions of others during a certain dental fad. His sister had her gums scraped. She has all her teeth now and doesn’t have any indication of the disease.

Sam decided it would be easier to get rid of his teeth since they are a common source for illness and infection. He went to the local Trumansburg dentist and told him to pull them all out. Sam was home for a few days from his trucking route. He didn’t plan to get temporary dentures; no one would see him on the road for the next few months. What did he care what anyone thought about him not having teeth at a truck stop? He didn’t.

So Dr. Dore was instructed to pull them all. Dr. Dore told Sam he couldn’t legally do that in one sitting. Sam said he didn’t care. He was going to pull them all or he wasn’t going to pull any.

Dr. Dore pulled the first eight teeth.

“Keep going. Don’t stop.” Sam said.

Dr. Dore pulled the rest from the bottom. Sam was bleeding pretty badly.

“That’s enough,” Dr. Dore said.

“No. Keep going. Do it. Do them all. I will never come back if you don’t pull them all right now.” Sam insisted.

Dr. Dore kept pulling teeth. There were only four left on top when Sam grabbed Dr. Dore’s sleeve.

“Doc. I gotta have a smoke.”

Dr. Dore stopped a minute and helped Sam sit up. He daubed the blood.

“Soldier. Have your cigarette,” said Dr. Dore.

Sam fumbled through his shirt pocket and found his pack of Winstons and a book of matches. He lit a cigarette with his lips wrapped around the filter. He inhaled deeply. Then he exhaled. His fingertips were bloody where he held the cigarette to his mouth.

He had no novacaine. No pain killers. Not even a drink before he got in the dentist’s chair. The nicotine hit him. He took one more long drag on the Winston and handed it to the assistant. She removed it from the room. Only Dr. Dore saw him throw up the blood.

“Get at it. Finish it,” Sam said.

Dr. Dore pulled the rest of his teeth. He sent him home to bed and told him to take a couple aspirins.

Sam woke up a day and a half later and felt fine. He got in the truck and drove for six months without any teeth. He ate nothing but cottage cheese, apple sauce, runny eggs, oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits, mashed potatoes and meatloaf at truck stops.

Melvin Mitchell fit him with dentures. Melvin and his family lived less than a mile north on Buck Hill. The Mitchells were one of two black family farmers on Buck Hill. Francis and his wife are in their 90s now but they still live next door to the old Mitchell farm.
Melvin Mitchell still fits dentures in downtown Ithaca today. Sam wouldn’t think of going to anyone else. Sam is afraid Melvin will die someday, so a couple years ago Sam had Melvin make him an extra set.


Health and farm economics

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on April 18, 2014 at 7:17 pm

           Health insurance is a scam. It’s a gambling game and the house always wins. Whether you call it an HMO or Blue Cross, the bottom line is maximum profits.  Health insurance is one of the primary reasons health expenses have skyrocketed. What they peddle is fear.

Family worries about the fact that we don’t have health insurance. What are you going to do if you get really sick or in an accident? I guess I am going to die. We all die. Sooner or later everyone dies. Fears I can face.  Profiteering from human pain and suffering I can’t stomach.

As a self-employed farmer, I don’t pay exorbitant premiums to an HMO or an insurance company. I don’t feel compelled to spend those “benefit dollars” employers take out of earned wages and hand over to the insurance scammers. I don’t seek medical attention willy nilly. And do you know how much I save every year? Thousands of dollars every years.

966591-R1-23-24AWhen Sam or I do need to see a doctor we say we are self-insured; we pay cash for services rendered. Generally, the billing rate drops 50% or more.  We ask questions that can inform us as consumers. When you ask a doctor how much a test or procedure will cost, they are dumbfounded as though expense should not be an issue.  It forces them to practice the kind of medicine they peddle. When Sam sought out a neurologist because of neck pain and the disintegration of vertebrae (caused by turning his head repeatedly as a driver; especially on the tractor), he was told to stop doing whatever was causing the pain and strain. Surgery probably wouldn’t help him.

The neurologist did not bill for his services for more than 18 months and when he finally did it was for an obscene fee for his 5 minutes of practical advice. Sam spoke to him on the phone. He had paid in full for all of the tests, examinations and visits for which he had been billed. What was this bill for? A cruise or a kids’ college tuition credit? If he didn’t need the money in the last 18 months, Sam thought he probably didn’t need it at all. That Doctor never sent another bill.

The Ithaca community is progressive enough to support the Ithaca Health Care Alliance. Initially the brainchild of Paul Glover, the visionary who invented Ithaca Hours, the Ithaca Health Care Alliance is an alternative to insurance. We don’t belong to the Ithaca Health Care Alliance, but when Sam broke his wrist I drove him down to the Ithaca Free Health Clinic. He’d suffered the injury more than three weeks earlier, but the pain and swelling had not subsided.

Sam had put his own cast on his wrist for the second and third week after the break.

“Cut up some of those newspaper strips,” Sam instructed. He’d watched me make papier mache and decoupage. “I need you to make me a paste of flour and water.”

I helped him stabilize the wrist with an ace bandage. Then I dipped the strips of newspaper in the paste and laid it over his hand where he directed. We built a nice cast. It took two days to fully dry.

Then he went back to work using it. Even turning the knob of the door involved using the broken bone. He welded; spray painted; fixed equipment using screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, and more. He carried buckets of feed and drove tractor. Inside the cast lay a treasure trove of itchiness. He cut it off.

He agreed to let me take him to the Free Health Clinic. The parking lot on West Fulton Street in the west end of Ithaca was nearly full.

“Pull in here,” Sam said. There was a real spot right outside the front door. We entered and saw the sign directing us up a flight of stairs. At the landing, we turned the corner and found ourselves at the end of a long line ten minutes before clinic hours started.

People stood talking to each other. Kleenex boxes passed around. Some people sat on stairs. Others had chair seats lined up outside a lobby door.

“You just getting here? You need to check in?” asked a young woman who didn’t appear to be sick at all. She pointed to the lobby door.

“Yeah,” I said. “He’s got a broken wrist.”

People moved to the right slightly and less us climb the stairs to the left. Inside the door a receptionist sat at a desk and another woman looked over her shoulder facing a throng of sick people today.

“Do you need an appointment?” the receptionist asked.

“Can he see a doctor today? He has a broken wrist.” I said. Sam stood behind me and to my left. For once he let me do the talking; not that it would do much good.

“Oh, my, baby, let me see. Not today. And when finally get to see a doctor here all they be able to do is refer your bones to Cayuga Medical Center. We don’t have no x-ray machines here, honey.” The receptionist looked at us like we were the couple of country hicks we are.

So to the emergency room I drove Sam. Within three minutes he found himself in the care of our dear friend, Rosie Carpenter, registered nurse at Cayuga Medical Center. Rosie is the first licensed wildlife rehabilitator I knew; she’s also a hunter and an exquisite marksmen. Rosie and Roger Linton are a couple who are as odd as Sam and I are. Rosie supervised and advocated for Sam’s medical care for his broken wrist. He left with a diagnosis, x-rays and a cast.

He already knew it was broken and where. He could feel that. Now he had $847 pictures.


Deep economics

In Off-The-Grid Memoir on April 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm

AFCU Class Swenson & Cooper Work 20100521GHIn a small rural community you can’t go anywhere or doing anything without someone you know seeing you and noticing what you say and do. This makes face to face accountability for your actions a way of life. And in a small town, people never forget. It’s a social system based on trust. Trust is earned. It cannot be bought. Trust is worth more than money.

For example, Sam had a business deal I thought went awry and it vexed me for at least five years. He’d rented out a piece of machinery and the man didn’t pay him. Despite several months of effort to collect what he was owed, Sam just let it go. He had no further business dealings with the man and did not contact him further. Years passed. The man fell upon hard times and auctioned off everything he owned. Sam still didn’t get paid. More years passed. One day Sam got a call. The man wanted to sell a piece of machinery and wondered if Sam were interested. They struck a deal. The money Sam was owed was deducted from the final price the man asked. Sam got the machinery, repaired it and sold it for three times what the man had owed him. Things come around.

Bull elk in full velvetSam sold some of our livestock to a rancher in the Catskills with the agreement that Sam would be paid over time set forth in a contract. The rancher made several payments but then stopped. I was furious. Sam would charge him no interest or late payment fees. Sam told him to pay whenever he could. I couldn’t believe this foolishness. No bank or credit card company would allow this kind of consumer behavior.  That was exactly Sam’s point. When a man shakes hands on a deal, it’s his word, his honor. Good business rises and falls on face to face accountability.

Observing Sam work deals every day that involve little or no cash is a lesson in deep economy. Many more good things have come our way; but being on the butt end of raw deals leaves its mark on memory. You never forget lessons learned from mistakes.

Sam taught me how easy it is to trade and barter informally over time. I might have a lot of ruby red swiss chard or spinach that I know my friend Annie loves. I give it to her without any explicit expectation of payment. Next time she visits she has brought something; a book, a recipe or grapes. Sam got paid with a black lab pup on an engine repair job. My friend Sue and her shepherdess daughter, Marie, bring me a fleece to spin into yarn for them to sell and pay me with a fleece to spin for myself. The Gunnings cut the field of clover hay and bale it for us; they keep half and we keep half. Sam traded two nanny goats for a Dalmatian puppy for my birthday. Somehow we ended up with those goats back and Lucy dog.AFCU Class Swenson & Cooper Work 20100521GH


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