Intubation Injury Revelation

Don’t you think this could damage your palate?”
asked the oral surgeon.

He was waving a laryngoscope in front of my face
while I was sitting in his dental chair.

This event unfolded during the summer of 1998
after an oral injection minutes before surgery had precipitated
my ‘flying’ out of the dental chair and clutching onto the surgeon’s arm. 
And, I remembered nothing, wondering how and why I came to be grasping his arm!

Oral surgery was postponed.
Memory of anesthetic trauma had been triggered. 
And I was alone, ninety miles east of Chicago in a Super 8 motel…
a long way from my home in Phoenix.

The puzzle pieces began to fall into place after twenty-five years.

My osteopath had informed me about dental cavitations and suggested I rule this out of possible complications since there had been previous TMJ mismanagement and extensive equilibration. After information gathering and several different consults, a local oral surgeon referred my puzzling case to a specialist and researcher in osteonecrosis of the jawbone (NICO – Neuralgia Inducing Cavitational Osteonecrosis). His office was 90 miles east of Chicago! Lab results for hypercoagulation had to be positive before an initial appointment would be scheduled.  This research lab was near Indianapolis. This was 1998 and screening for DNA hypercoagulation polymorphisms (variations) was in its infancy.

I passed the first screening with flying colors – lab results revealed not one, but three DNA ‘red flags’.  The front office scheduled an initial consult. Trip Number Two to the mid west and the surgeon’s office was more complicated than the
lab testing.  The I-90 from Chicago to northern Indiana became well-traveled by my rental car during the next several years. The Super-8 motel became a home-away-from-home; ten trips back and forth from Arizona to the mid west and navigating without a map was no longer a challenge.


Cavitations vs.
Osteonecrosis of the Jawbone  

Searching and Seeking
information in the world of dental
controversy provided a perfect topic
for a creative nonfiction writing class
 at Arizona State University. 

This paper was published in a local newspaper. I was shocked when this ‘controversial topic’ labeled me as a ‘controversial person’ and was cited
as the reason to cancel my
homeowner’s insurance policy.

It was 1998.

Initial Visits

 George Winston always accompanied me on these journeys.
His piano music became permanently implanted into the neurons of my audio cortex…
forever reminding me of these years of my life.


George Winston

The initial visit confirmed that the three hypercoagulation disorders could definitely be a contributing factor to my facial pain due to impairment in microcirculation of blood to the jawbone, one of the densest bones in the body. The surgeon recommended curettage and surgical debridement of the retromolar areas where extraction of wisdom teeth could have potentially created the problem. The fact that I had no root canals, a very common cause in jawbone complications, simplified my case. A return visit was scheduled for this procedure.  

A second Southwest trip was scheduled. Midway airport became more friendly. Finding I-90 was easier. And, the road trip seemed shorter. The Super 8 Motel  had an invisible ‘welcome back Carolyn’ sign in the lobby when I walked in. The debridement procedure came and went.  And so did I. The surgeon would be in touch once the pathology report was released. And the waiting game began the minute I turned the car facing west and heading back to Chicago to catch my flight.

Six-weeks post op, my low back cracked while bending over a filing cabinet. My left ear started ringing and I heard a loud snap. Simultaneously, a round object the size of a pea popped out of my mouth. A vapor and a burning fume, rising  up from the back of my throat and moving through both my nose and mouth along with this ‘treasure’ encased in a clear fluid, landed in my hand as I quickly straightened up, covering my mouth with my hand.

I was flabbergasted and a terror-stricken thought raced through my mind:  “Something broke off…and they’ll never find it.”  Placing my ‘treasure’ in a jar, I raced to the phone and called the oral surgeon. I was shocked when he said: “This is precisely the kind of event we’re looking for. Ship it to me immediately.”  

The oral surgeon shipped my post-op ‘treasure’ to his research associate’s pathology lab in Texas.  An appointment was scheduled for a return visit.

Detour and Flashback

I thought I knew where I was going on the I-90 this time, being a seasoned traveler of the area. An “Expect Major Delays” sign made this trip quite the adventure. During these travelling days, I did a lot of reading as well as writing, having enrolled in creative non-fiction writing class at ASU.  It’s been interesting to read my reflections during these back-and -forth days.  Was this Detour a metaphor of my life? I did arrive at my destination that Sunday in July ….eventually.  

Little did I know what was about to transpire on this return visit.


The oral surgeon, ready to proceed with syringe in hand,
raised his eyebrows, hesitated and asked,

“Did I inject this area to see if I could block the pain?”  

My response was immediate: 
  “No, you didn’t; but I’ve had multiple injections with several other dentists
 and no one’s been able give me any relief.”

My oral surgery adventures certainly gave me material for creative non-fiction writing.  

I wrote about this experience
for one of my assignments.

A sheet of pressure raced through my head. Unable to speak, the next thing I remembered was becoming aware that I was no longer seated in the dental chair, but was standing beside him behind the dental chair, clinging onto his arm. He was patting my hand and explained I had literally “flown” out of the chair and grabbed him. I was shocked – I remembered nothing. He immediately cancelled surgery and scheduled a consultation with his ear, nose, and throat doctor colleague for the following day. My friend, who had accompanied me on the trip, returned home. 

At the follow up appointment in his office the next afternoon, he entered the examination room with an odd  piece of equipment in hand. While informing me that the ENT had nothing new to add to my case, he began waving this object in front of my face.  I quickly learned this was a ‘laryngoscope’, a surgical tool used for intubation when undergoing surgery.  “Don’t you think this could damage your palate?” he questioned, as I looked at this ‘tool’ in disbelief. He then suggested that I visit his acupuncturist the following day. He wanted me calm before he would proceed with surgery. The first words rolling out of my mouth asked him how and why he was bringing this surgical instrument into the room.  His reply was simple and straightforward:  “I read your history.”

I was amazed and relieved that someone was listening to my plight. Never, in my wildest imagination, had I ever entertained the idea that the upset in my face was not the sinus surgery itself but rather an anesthetic intubation injury.
Spending a relaxing afternoon visiting the Indiana Dunes and reading, I was most thankful for this insightful and amazing doctor who could not only read and hear but also listen

That night, I awoke suddenly, scared and sweating, in a panic. My friend was gone; I was alone. It was 4:00 am and I was frantic. I had to get home; I had to leave immediately.  Calling Southwest airlines to reschedule my trip home was time-consuming. And by 5:30 am, I was calling a friend in Tennessee; I desperately needed to talk with someone. By 7:30, I was in the surgeon’s office, blubbering and feeling foolish as I tried to explain why I had to leave town. As I was talking, he was rummaging around the room and brought the surgical instrument again. Seeing this instrument again, I began to moan and broke down in tears, heaving and gasping. The surgeon simply took my hands and softly said, “Do you know what this is, Carolyn?  This is very, very good.”  His gentle and kind demeanor persuaded me to see the acupuncturist before I dashed out of town in a frenzy.

The office was close. Having been “needled” by several acupuncturists in my pain management search, I was not ambivalent in the least about this kind of treatment; actually, I was relieved that he wasn’t prescribing strong anti-anxiety medications. This doctor greeted me warmly; I immediately liked him.  He had me lie down on his treatment table as he began inserting needles into my face and arms.  I became extremely agitated and, to my surprise, bolted off the table and dashed out of the room.  He ran after me; but I arrived at my car before he could stop me.  I drove out of the parking lot, onto to the main road back to the oral surgeon’s office. Passing by a Shoney’s restaurant, a phone booth beckoned me.  Pulling into the parking lot and  jumping out of the car, I called my osteopath, asking if he would see me the minute I arrived in Phoenix.  This was the only person who I thought could calm me down, remembering the drug withdrawal extremes and the astonishing relief that would provide.

Arriving back in the oral surgeon’s office, I raced up to the front desk, acupuncture needles dangling from my arms and face.  The staff looked at me in shock as the doctor walked into the room.  He took one look at me, came over and calmly said:  “Before you leave, let me get these needles out of your face and arms.”  He began gently removing the needles and, as if nothing was out of the ordinary, asked me:  “What time is your flight scheduled today to return to Phoenix? Take care and call me when you’re able to reschedule the surgery.” 

Chaos Connections

How I managed to drive back to Chicago on the I-90, alone and scared, I will never know.  The vivid remembrance of the calming effects that I had experienced during the “cold turkey” drug withdrawal when I first began treatment with this amazing doctor was uppermost in my mind – my grounding and sanity on this homeward bound trip.

Arriving back in Phoenix, I immediately contacted my osteopath; within a matter of hours, I was in his office.  And, yet again, my body began to deeply relax in response to his light touch, despite my heightened anxiety and fear.

Waves of calm, sweeping in and through me like a warm blanket as I lay on this table, was quite the contrast to my recent ‘treatment table experience’ with the acupuncture needles. My mind settled along with my body.  Welcome moments of deep sleep embraced my frantic nervous system as I melted into his treatment table.


The facilitation of deep states of internal stillness and a sense of inner peace are
the hallmarks of a “Still Point” that arises from a balancing of the autonomic nervous system, bringing sympathetic and parasympathetic tone into equilibrium. Minor fascial restrictions, muscular tension and overall stress are released.
The increased circulation of the CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) ensures fresh fluid is moving into the system and
old fluid is flushed out. 

The following day, rummaging through lecture notes to locate the business card of the anesthesiologist whose lecture on Awareness Experiences that I had attended, I was acutely aware of how invaluable this information had been during my  unanticipated adventure with the oral surgeon.  It turned out this doctor was ready to leave for the airport to catch a flight to Paris; fortunately, not only had he happened to hear but also to answer his ringing phone.  Our conversation was short and to the point:  he gave me the phone number of his colleague in New York City who was a psychiatrist as well as a seasoned expert, having personally experienced an anesthetic trauma.

Within five minutes, I was talking with her. When asked to relay my experience, I began my story with, “The acupuncturist had me lie down on the table…” and her moan and high-pitched response of “Oh, No! That’s the worst thing he could have done!”  revealed her immediate recognition of my trauma… an instantaneous and welcome confirmation of her expertise. She further clarified her reaction:  “This happened while you were lying down! Another trigger in your heightened state of awareness.”  My bolting off the table and running out the door made more sense and didn’t seem ridiculous at all. We had a reassuring conversation, and she gave me the name and phone number of her colleague in Hawaii, as she was not seeing patients at that time.

Within the hour, I was talking with a psychologist in Hawaii! He again was a validating voice and sympathetic ear. Confirming the awareness experience as his area of expertise, he was not as reassuring about the injury to the oropharynx: the physical trauma was another level of awareness retention, and he did not think he could treat the injury. He did recommend EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Thus, I did not take the next flight to Hawaii.  The rest of my day was spent trying to locate a local EMDR psychologist – enough flying around in the sky! By the end of the day, an appointment for the following week was scheduled.

EMDR   |  Eye-Movement
Desensitization and Reprocessing



Coming Soon!


A doorway had emerged from out of nowhere
with miraculous networking and connection.

Professional reassurance and support
had materialized from across the country

…and my trusted physician was just down the street.

A  second tidal wave
had inundated my life with no warning

…and I had been blessed with encountering the
Eye in this Hurricane!