Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week #43 Oh oh, something's going on and its not good . . . a trip to Lima?

For a week or so, there's been a dull ache located around my upper right jaw.  This is not good news, not only for the possibility of what it may turn into, but because of the dismal lack of competent dental care in Cusco.  If anything does require dental work, it will likely require a trip to Lima, with the resulting inconvenience and expense.  Quite worrisome, as it seemed to get worse daily, first as a general sensation around my right upper jaw, then it localized to a specific tooth. 

In the meantime, work goes on:   Elders Black and Belliston have no mercy on us ancianos.  They schedule a cita way up on the top of Cusco, where there are no driveable streets, and the taxis don't even go.  The only way up is a series of steps, starting at Plaza San Blas.  There are about a half-dozen sets like this that we need to climb to get to our appointment.

 Well, we made it to the top without cardiac arrest, and the view from here over the city of Cusco is quite breathtaking.

Especially when I move to a position where the rocks, adobe walls, and sheet metal aren't in view.  The cathedral at Plaza de Armas is at the left.  This is a view of the west sector of the city, there's much, much more that is not in view to the right and left.

We got to meet Hno Willian and Hna Marisol and their two hijos Marcielo and Facundo.  They lost their daughter in a tragic accident a couple of years ago.  They are excellent examples of faithfulness and testimony in the face of tragedy.  We had a very delightful visit with them, and they rewarded us with chocolate milkshakes - just like we'd get at home.

 After our cita, Hna Marisol needs to head to the capilla, where she has a cleaning assignment before the meetings start on Sunday.  Hna Willian must head to his job as a chef.  With Facundo bundled in a back blanket, we're ready to start down the hill.

 Hna M is watching a couple of neighbor girls til their madre gets home from work, so they came with us.  Going down is much easier than going up.  I guess if you live up there, you pretty much get used to it, doesn't seem to bother Marisol and Willian at all, even though they have to carry all their groceries up from the stores below. 

 We catch a taxi at Plaza San Blas.  I had to act quick because Hna Marisol was about to wave the driver off because she thought he was charging 50 centimos (18 cents) too much.  I was paying the fare anyway, and I'd rather get a nice Toyota Yaris than a Tico.  5 of us jump in the back seat, Hna M with Facundo in the front.  I think the kids don't get to ride in taxis very often, they were pretty excited.   The total fare was about $3.

The tooth problem isn't getting any better.  Since I have been traveling around the world for a number of years, and to some pretty backwater places for several weeks at a time, I have always had a full course of antibiotics and a bottle of heavy-duty pain meds.  Have never had to use them, they have been refreshed several times to keep them relatively current.  As the pain localized and started to increase, I started an antibiotics course, with the pain meds as needed (the pain never got above 6/10).  Got a priesthood blessing from Elders Hasler and Rhoades, and the pain leveled off, but was still persistent.  Had time to evaluate the options, which are not good at all in Cusco.  E. Hasler strongly recommended Dra. Wendy Johnson (no relation) in Lima.  I did go to a local dentist here for a consult, and she tapped the affected tooth, took a blurry X-ray, and was ready to do a root canal right then and there, just because she could charge me in US dollars.  I am severely underwhelmed with Cusco dentists.  In the meantime, we continue working.  We got to meet Hna Jhamely and her lovely and lively hija Amira.

 Couldn't find my hat when we were ready to go, must be a hat thief somewhere, and pretty soon here she comes.

 We have a follow-up cita at the home of Hno Pedro and Hna Koki.  They were the very first family we met when we arrived in January, and it's taken a while for us to be able to get back to see them again.  Hna Miriam (with her hija Maria, below) is Pedro's hermana, so their family trees are identical.  With information from both, we were able to extend their tree back into 4 generations, with approved temple ordinances.

 I called my dentist at home, described my symptoms, he pretty much thought it was an abscess.  I decided the best thing to do was get to Lima for treatment, where there is also a reputable  endodontist.  Big hassle and expense to get airline tickets, hotel, transportation, but I didn’t see any alternative.   BTW:  The Church insurance will pay for the actual medical/dental treatment, but will not pay for related expenses (transportation, meals, lodging).  After all the appointments were made and the tickets were bought, the pain started to diminish, actually quite rapidly.  With something as potentially serious as this, we decided the best thing was to go to Lima anyway, it would be taking odds to divert from the plan already made on the chance that it is going to get better without treatment.

Presidente Vera (counselor in the Cusco stake presidency) and his family have a temple trip planned, so he called us to set a cita for a review of their temple-ready family names.  Hna. Guillermina is up first, and we found new opportunities, as well as some names she has had reserved and forgotten about.  Getting Hna G. all tuned up took longer than we thought, as there were several convolutions to resolve, and "cases" to open.  Our faithful Hna Pily (back to camera) was there to help us.

Next, we booked a new cita with Presidente Roger (ro-herr) Vera.  We met at the nice hotel he owns, just a couple blocks from the Tullumayo capilla.  We also did some cleanup (eliminating duplicates, updating names, places, and dates) and found new opportunities.  One of the handiest words in the Spanish language is "aproximadamente", which is a word that is acceptable to when exact dates can't be found.  With this tool, we are able to move family names from the "necesito mas informacion" category to "esta disponible", meaning that they are now approved for temple work.

Hna J makes new friends everywhere, especially with a warm hug and my keyboard protector (underneath the paper) to quiz Jhowasa on his letters and numbers while while waiting for his madre's temple names to print.  I thought our grandkids are smart (they are, of course), but this pre-schooler is pretty sharp as well, knows his letters and numbers, and even knows that the backspace key means erase, or  "borrar".  He doesn't believe that there are little men writing very fast inside the printer though.

Sometimes the Elders have to do their own laundry on an old-fashioned scrub board, and the results are shown on their knuckles.  They just take it in stride, like they do everything else here.

 The day before we left, it the pain in my tooth was actually gone, but I decided to go anyway, just to get it looked at by someone competent, and to avoid a recurrence.  After Dra Wendy’s consult and very clear digital X-rays, she said there was no evidence of an abscess, it was likely a sinus infection, or I had bruised the socket by a hard bite (don’t recall that), or something else.  Anyway, no root canal was required, to my great relief.  I credit the priesthood blessing.  I did get a thorough cleaning, which was really needed, stopped the antibiotics and we were done.  An afternoon’s rest, brief shopping (the Rhoades needed some more missionary ties), a nice evening meal, good hotel, and we flew back to Cusco the next morning.  We got to make a brief stop at the Lima temple, but only to resupply in the bookstore in the temple annex.

 As always, Hna J takes time to stop and smell the flowers, including multi-color hibiscus that beautify the temple grounds.

Hna J makes a selection of missionary ties from the store across the street from the temple.  They have the ties made locally with BYU, U of U, Angel Moroni, Llama, and Temple logos.

After the exam and cleaning, I snap a pic of Hna J (who got to read some current magazines while waiting), and the excellent Doctora Wendy Johnson, an expatriate American from Wisconsin, who now lives in Lima with her family, and has a thriving and modern dental practice, mostly from diplomats and expat executives.  She certainly lived up to the reputation that Elder Hasler gave us, everything about her skills, techniques, and equipment is equal to the state-of-the-art in the USA.  And she is pretty funny too.  Right now she's calling the endodontist to cancel my appointment for a root canal, because I don't need one!!!

And here's proof:  A digital X-ray of the suspect tooth (middle) that shows no anomalies in the root system.  A digital copy was emailed to my dentist at home, and he agreed that there is no abscess.  The pain went away as described, and has not come back.  I'm very grateful for this, and that no drilling was required.  A week later, and everything is still normal, so whatever caused the problem has gone away.  We've watched our health (medical and dental) very closely here, and with only a short time left, we hope to make it back to the USA with all the parts we left with.  After a reunion and reacquainting with our family, we have a full round of medical and dental check-ups scheduled to get us ready to enjoy the golden years.

Up next:  A treasure at the baratillo!


  1. That is great that it wasn't your tooth. We have had so much trouble with root canals going bad that I was going to suggest getting it pulled if it didn't show and get an implant when you come home. We came home with a health scare a month early and the Hoffmans with a dental crisis. It is always a disappointment. Blessings!