Getting to the root of it

To say that I’m annoyed, would be putting it mildly. To say that I’m furious would be a tad too strong. But somewhere between annoyed and furious you’ll find me as I vent my frustration at the pace of modern society and the ensuing damage this does to our health.

For the best part of two years, I’ve been attracting every bug known to man and a few that have not yet been catalogued. I’ve had MRIs, injections, antibiotics, steroids, tablets, and tonics. I’ve seen doctors, neurologists, nutritionists, psychotherapists, ophthalmologists and all sorts of alternative practitioners. And not one of them could explain what was going on with me.

Last month, I changed dentist. Since I’ve been to Budapest, I’ve had three. This is my fourth. My first was clearly in it for the money. Never trust a dentist whose greeting is: ‘do you have insurance’? I got fillings I didn’t need and a bill that left me reeling. Obviously my nem was lost in translation somewhere as dental insurance is something I’m singularly lacking.

The second came highly recommended. Clean surgery, pristine reputation, reasonably priced. I went twice a year – two cleanings and an annual check-up. But the waiting drove me mad. I was never seen on time and never, ever had his undivided attention. The third was by far the most personable but I lost faith when he tried to convince me to invest in my mouth by replacing my porcelain fillings with gold.

Tomorrow will do

Before Budapest, in the UK, I made my bi-annual visits. I’m quite religious when comes to my teeth. Back in the early 1990s, I’d had all my amalgam fillings replaced with porcelain and was told I’d need them redone in about ten years. Every dentist I’ve been to since has commented that I’d need them done ‘at some stage’. Yet not one of them ever took the time to make that ‘some stage’ a reality.

Yes, they took x-rays. Yes, they took photographs. Yes, they poked and prodded before pronouncing me fit to munch again. And idiot that I am, not having spent seven years in dental college, I took them at their word. All was well and would be well as long as I flossed some more.

Calling time

So, this fourth guy, checked me out, took some photos, and called time. I had to have those fillings replaced. Now. And, I needed my crown replaced as well. The figures totted up to quite a healthy sum but I knew I couldn’t escape forever. All went well until he removed my crown. When I saw the state of it, I nearly threw up. As for my tooth – it looked as if it would have been more at home in the mouth of one of Macbeth’s witches.

Not satisfied, he insisted on x-raying the root. And lo and behold, the root canal filling stopped 3mm short of the root itself. And in this 3-mm gap festered a pool of bacteria that had been seeping into my blood for God only knows how long. A little reading about the theories of one Dr Weston Price, a dentist from the 1900s, and his thoughts on root canal treatment, and hey presto, all the pieces suddenly fell into place.

Every last symptom I had presented with in the last two years could have been a result of this infection. Every last one. Without exception.

Making money

My gripe? Until now, not one dentist has had time for me. Like so many others, I’ve been slotted into place between patients and as I waited for my injection to take effect, they’d be off working on someone else’s mouth. As for the doctors:  Try this. Try that. We don’t know. We have no clue. It could be this, it might be that. Let’s see. Let’s wait and see some more. And in the meantime, I’m having trouble keeping my life on track and am beginning to doubt my sanity.

I’m not naïve enough to think that efficiencies and economies of scale are unimportant. I know that people have to make a living and the more patients in the chair, the more hours that can be billed. I know that Dr House is just a TV character and doesn’t exist in real life. I know that doctors are underpaid and overworked and like dentists are often harried and hassled. I know all this. I do.

But when did quantity win its fight with quality? When did more become less? When did the treatment become more important than the cure? When did we lose sight of the basics? Did you know that football coaches won’t take on a player without a full dental check-up? I didn’t. But now, I’m left wondering why no doctor or dentist thought to check my teeth.

Do yourself a favour. If you’re not feeling well, and despite their best efforts, if no one can give you answers, have your teeth x-rayed. I know just the chap who can do it for you, too. You’ll have his undivided attention as he sees only one patient at a time. Dr Imre Mohos

First publishing in the Budapest Times 8 March 2013

Nincs probléma

As a child, I hated going to the dentist. I couldn’t stand the way this kind, well-meaning man would tell my mother that the p-a-i-n wouldn’t be too bad but that the d-r-i-l-l might be s-c-a-r-y. I was 10 years old for God’s sake. Surely he knew I could s-p-e-l-l? As a teenager, I dreaded going to the hairdresser.  My colourist once got into an argument on the phone with her boyfriend and forgot about my peroxide. This happened the same day my passport expired. I had to live with that photo for ten years.  As an adult, living in Budapest, I now break out in a cold sweat at the thoughts of going anywhere near a phone company. To date, by my reckoning, my attempts to get wireless Internet in my flat have cost me 21 hours, a complete set of fingernails, and my dignity.

For the purpose of this account, let’s not go with the usual Company A, Company B, or Company C. Let’s instead do something completely radical and call them, say, Company T, Company U, and Company V.

T is for thrasonical

My electrician assured me that my flat was wired for a phone and therefore I should get wireless Internet. Nincs probléma, he said. I cajoled a Hungarian friend of mine into coming with me when I paid the first of three office visits to Company T. I had every form of ID imaginable, including my birth certificate and vaccination records. Best be prepared. We explained that I wanted wireless Internet in my flat and that my KFT was registered at one address but that the Internet was to be installed at another. We filled in the forms, handed over the various proofs of identity and were assured that a technician would call out, to the right address, the following whenever.  Nincs probléma.

And call he did, on schedule, but to the wrong address. I called my friend. She called Company T. They said they’d have to reschedule. Nincs probléma. Then they sent me a letter confirming that I had cancelled my contract; shame we couldn’t do business, etc. What? I went back to Company T with yet another Hungarian-speaking friend and went through the whole scenario again: explanation, confusion, clarity, assurances, forms, ID, and signatures.  Almost two hours into the process, just as I’d signed my name for the umpteenth time, I was told: sorry, whoops, Company T didn’t service my building after all.  mmmm…

U is for unthirlable

So I tried Company U. I decided to phone. The woman I spoke to was a breath of fresh air. Of course they could supply me with Internet. Nincs probléma. What package did I want? I was on a high. I couldn’t believe it. The technician would be out in a couple of days. He came. He saw. He told me the wires wouldn’t reach from the second floor to the fourth floor. Terribly sorry and all that…but they couldn’t help me after all. Anyway, he said, almost as an afterthought, I should be dealing with Company T as they provide Internet to most of this building.  I checked with two of my neighbours and yes, one used Company T, and the other used Company U. mmmm…

So back I went to Company T. I knew the drill:  explanation, confusion, clarity, assurances, forms, ID, and signatures.  Just let me check one thing, the girl said, again nearly two hours into the process. Yes…. it appears that your building is oversubscribed. Sorry! Oversubscribed? I blew a gasket.

V is for verisimilitude

Next stop on the Internet tour was Company V. Same drill: explanation, confusion, clarity, assurances, forms, ID, and signatures Nincs probléma. But, wait! They could only give me mobile Internet. It wasn’t what I wanted but I was desperate. It worked fine for three days. All was well with the world. Life was good. Then, for no obvious reason, it stopped. I went to their office with my laptop and the offending stick. It works fine, the chap said, having checked it on his machine. He was busily texting his mate and not even looking at me! In a voice that would freeze the blood in Berlusconi’s veins, I reminded him that I was the customer; that I should be his priority; that he should cease texting and look at me; that I was paying for a service I wasn’t getting; and that my Internet DID NOT WORK. And then I broke down.  Dignity? What dignity? I flung myself across his desk and bawled.  I couldn’t take any more of this. People got hooked up with Internet every day. Why not me? He checked my laptop. He checked the stick. He did what he had to do. And he fixed it. Nincs probléma.

First published in the Budapest Times 12 April 2010