I have a plugged up salivary gland. It’s pretty awful. If you want to hear the tale of my salivary gland up until this point, check it out here. This is to inform you of what happens when your salivary gland is plugged up for months and multiple doctors don’t know what to do about it.
Spoiler alert: it’s not a lot of fun.
So after months of being bounced between doctors, I finally found one in Meadville, PA who was willing to deal with my mouth. I arrived at Dr. White’s office ten minutes early and sat in the waiting room, thumbing through my copy of ‘The Sportswriter’ by Richard Ford. I shifted in my seat uncomfortably. I always find doctors’ offices a little unsettling.
When they called me to the back room, the doctor poked casually in my mouth with his fingers. He told me he looked at the CT scan of my mouth and couldn’t see anything and asked if it hurt when he poked my mouth, to which I replied that it did. He milked my salivary gland, which is a weird experience to say the least, and then told me that he needed to take a biopsy of the swollen tissue. Reluctantly, I agreed.
This was the first time he jammed a needle in my mouth. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last. After numbing the left side of my face, he cut a small piece of skin from inside my mouth, which would tell him a little about what’s going on with my salivary gland.
As an aside, I like to imagine my salivary gland as the Martin Riggs of my mouth; completely out of control and doing whatever the hell it wants. That made my whole experience a little bit easier to get through.
The doctor told me that he was fairly certain that what I am suffering from is a ranula. A ranula is basically a cyst that fills up with nasty fluid and is typically caused by some kind of trauma. As I have no salivary gland piercings, I’m at a loss for what kind of trauma occurred in my mouth. So for a few days I waited for the results of my biopsy. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to wait for the results from a biopsy, but it’s pretty unnerving.
After a few painstakingly long days, I was scheduled to go back into the doctor’s office. Thankfully, the biopsy was negative and all it showed was swollen tissue in my mouth. He said that if he were to cut open my salivary gland, he could use a stitch to hold it open, which could, over the course of a few weeks, reduce swelling as well as help the cyst in my mouth pass. So the doctor suggested a quick operation.
This of course led to more needles. Three of them, to be exact. I’m pretty manly about most things. I’m of the attitude that if you just suck it up and get it done, things won’t be as bad as you make them out to be. I will also tell you that if you have had a needle shoved in your mouth once, that’s enough to make you hesitant of having it done again. Buying into my own shut-up-and-dance bullshit, however, I opened my mouth and lifted up my tongue.
“Go ahead, do your worst,” I told the doctor. “I’ll see you in hell!”
I didn’t actually say that. It probably would have made me feel better about getting my mouth stabbed, but I didn’t want to confuse the doctor who was about to cut open my mouth.
There was something about this doctor that I liked. It wasn’t that he was about to cut open my mouth. That definitely wasn’t it. I could tell by the way he nonchalantly stabbed a needle into my mouth the last time we met that he was a no-nonsense kind of guy. Like I pretend to be sometimes. He reaffirmed my belief in him by saying, “This is going to hurt a little bit.” Had I not peed a few moments before going into that room, I probably would have just then. I appreciated his honesty though.
Feeling a needle pierce the soft underbelly of my tongue three times is a sensation that I am sure will haunt my nightmares for weeks to come. However, it only took a few moments for the left side of my mouth to go numb. After that, all I could feel was the pressure of the tools as my glad was sliced, spread wide-open, and stitched to hold as such for the next few weeks. The end result:
Now I sit and wait for this ranula to pass through this gaping hole in my salivary gland. I go back to Dr. White in a few weeks to make sure that everything is on the up and up. If it’s not, then at that point I have to explore having my salivary gland removed.
I’m hoping that Dr. White is the Roger Murtaugh to my Martin Riggs-of-a-salivary gland. My gland isn’t too far gone that it can’t be saved; it just needs a partner that understands it and the trauma that it went through. It was a salivary gland in the Special Forces in ‘Nam and it lost its wife in a car accident a few weeks ago as well.
In all seriousness, if anyone needs a recommendation for a doctor who can repair your salivary gland. I know the right guy.