So, as far as I can tell, everyone in the fire service has a vomitus trigger. We have the sympathy pukers, whom you can always see flying out of the back of the ambulance when the patient has tossed his or her cookies. There are also environmental hurlers, those who wade knee deep into a medical call only to find the patient sitting amongst the contents of several cat litter boxes, and begin to gag uncontrollably, resulting in (from my perspective) riotous results. Typically, we send in the newest member of the crew to deal with the crazed half-tonner wedged between the toilet seat and wall, just to see what sort of violent physical reaction we can witness. Firefighters, being as they are, will capitalize on ANY weakness, ESPECIALLY if we can get a co-worker to lose control of a weak stomach. A classic firehouse example? The Lyrical Jackass is deathly terrified of feminine hygiene products, and can be made to dry heave if you utter the word “tampon” preceded by various descriptive adjectives. We are an immature lot, no doubt.
My own debilitating scenario? ANYTHING at all with regards to teeth, their breakage, oral hygiene, dentures and/or meth mouth. This most likely originated when I saw, as a rookie, a patient who unsuccessfully tried to cap himself with a .22 to the mouth. The result? One pissed off old man with a pie hole full of broken choppers. Riding the ambulance to the hospital, I was assigned the task of performing suction and never got past the hideous sounds he made as he spit out teeth like so many bloody Chiclets. I vividly remember how my stomach turned over and over on itself and it wasn’t but a few moments of this until I found my very own puke trigger; unfortunately, so did the ambulance crew and our irritated suicide attempter. Years later, every car wreck involving facial trauma reminds me of how, despite an ability to waltz through bodily fluids, human remains and other assorted disgusting things, I can’t stand to look at broken teeth, or worse, the ever-feared meth mouth.
You might well imagine that this presents a bit of a dilemma when it comes to my own oral hygiene. I am fairly religious about keeping the click-clacks meticulously clean. Visits to the dentist, however, are still a source of much anxiety, even routine cleanings. I recently found the perfect dentist, though, one who mocks me loudly as I preemptively writhe in agony moments after entering the waiting room. There are two things going in her favor. One, she is a she and as such, there are no over-sized hairy knuckles with which to contend. This is a definite plus. The second positive for her is that she is more than willing to dispense drugs to me during each visit in order to minimize my screaming. And, for the record, I AM a screamer. She did a minor filling on me the other day (the horror! A cavity?) and actually had the audacity to ask if I needed some “numbing” for such a minor procedure. I made one thing clear: if she was approaching me with an air-operated drill that operates at a pitch that can break glass, then she better have me doped up to the nines. At that point the assistant (a friend of mine) laughed at the big pansy in her chair and then strapped the nitrous oxide mask on me to smooth the rough edges of the unhinged lunatic in front of her. Shortly after the numbing solution and laughing gas began to take effect, the doc came at me with what looked to be the kind of needle with which you might anesthetize a horse. I tried my damnedest to not flail my legs about and pitch a fit, but I can’t really recall how it all went down; there’s a good chance I made what might be referred to as a “scene”.
The upshot of all this is that at no point, as far as I can remember, did I lose my breakfast. Of course, as I write this, my hands are all clammy and I am getting a little uncomfortable. Maybe the doc NOT having knuckle hair helped; putting up my most macho front might have been beneficial as well, right? I have no doubt that the next medical call involving the removal of a patients dentures will have me back to gagging, but I think I am headed in the right direction. And as to the time when The Heathen’s baby teeth come out? I will do as any testosterone-fueled tough-guy fireman might: I will leave The Wife to deal with it, calmly head out to the shop and nonchalantly puke my guts out.