The Extraction: Photos From The In Between.


Before I moved to Los Angeles I got three wisdom teeth pulled out of my head.  We were going for four, but the last one seemed like less of an issue so we let sleeping dogs lie.  I was incredibly nervous about the procedure and had quite a few strange dreams and anxious nights previous to the operation.  The pain, or the idea of pain, didn’t worry me.  It was the idea of being put under for an hour that made me uncomfortable.  For some reason, I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of that kind of chemically induced and maintained unconsciousness.  Where does my mind go?  What is my brain registering from the outside world?  Will stimulus I’m unaware of fill some dark part of my memory?  To be asleep that deeply and to be woken up after felt like time travel, but not in a cool way.

Tubes, wires, underpants.

I brought in my cell phone and a small disposable film camera and wanted to document as much of it as possible.  I wasn’t entirely sure what I hoped to capture, possibly the vulnerability, the fear I had, the anxiety around the anesthesia.  I wanted that moment that was the in between…the sliver of time separating my from the sleeping world and the waking one.  I took a few shots before of the equipment and my nurses, and I tried to send my future self a mental reminder to start taking photos the minute I was conscious.  The first shot above is the first photo I took after I was pulled out.  The nurses told me that while they were giving me the drugs I wouldn’t stop taking photos and they had to wrestle the camera away from me so I’d stop.  I have no recollection of that, but it sounds like me.  And that’s precisely why it makes me so uncomfortable–I have zero memory of two people taking away my cameras, or me taking the pictures as I was falling in and out of consciousness.  Where was my mind, at that point?  Am I the only one who is made anxious by this idea?

Left: I can’t keep my eyes open, but I know I’m supposed to keep shooting. Right: I almost walked out without these guys.

I was walked to the door before I remembered that they still had my teeth.  I vaguely remember telling the nurse that “I came with these teeth, I’m leaving with these teeth.”  She didn’t argue.

Dana is on the left, discussing my aftercare and the surgeon is on the right. This was one of the last images I took before they let me leave.

I had a professor tell us to make self portraits when we felt like we looked the worst.  He said he’d set his camera up by the bed and have it ready in the morning so all he’d have to do is grab his remote to make a photograph.  While I don’t think I’d necessarily describe these as self portraits, there is a distinct feeling of being unguarded, which I most certainly always am when placed in front of a camera.

Feeling better at home, still bleeding like crazy.

It’s been months since I had this done and I haven’t had any complications, although I am allergic to a lot of pain pills, so my recovery was a little tense.  Otherwise, no worse for the wear.  Email me if you want a tooth.  I’m kidding!  Or am I?


3 thoughts on “The Extraction: Photos From The In Between.

  1. You must have really freaked out the dental staff!!! LMAO Wanting to hold onto the extracted teeth is something I’d have insisted upon as well. I once kept the ureter stent after the urologist removed it and hung it from my car’s rear view mirror.

  2. I do believe our body has memory and it’s stored in our subconscious. So, those memories of what happened while you were under are in there, and might pop in a dream, or randomly…like de-javu. Have fun discovering them. On another note, I do thinks it’s weird to heal, post-operation, when your mind didn’t register the pain when it was inflicted, then after it seems a bit confused why there is pain during healing. I do think that’s weird, but no doubt the trama of doing these surgeries without any pain block would be harder!

    • It’s a tough call…I don’t think we fully understand the brain and anesthesia and that makes me a little wary. However, the idea of being awake while it happened doesn’t do much for me either. I never thought about what you’re saying though…you go to sleep fine and wake up in pain and needing to heal. That has to be confusing on some level.

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