I love what I do. Dentistry is not only artistic but also rewarding. It’s probably more artistic in today’s world than it ever has been. People are more aware that their dental health is an important part of their overall health. And we have you, the AGD, and other organizations to thank for that.
I also love my patients—most of them. Of course there always will be those few who seem to make or break your day. And case work doesn’t always go as smoothly as we’d like. And sometimes equipment breaks down. Then there was the time all three of these happened on the same morning. My last day before a long-awaited vacation included all three mishaps and then some. That’s why we occasionally need to recharge.
Somehow folks know when I plan on closing the office, which creates an incredible bottleneck of patients who “have to be seen” before I leave town. The day before our 6 a.m. flight, a walk-in claimed that the filling I had recently put in had fallen out. I took a quick look and saw it was another tooth, but he didn’t want to hear it, still giving me grief for using inferior materials.
I managed to extricate myself and went back to preparing the four veneers I’d started when the suction went out and the high-speed stopped. The compressor and vacuum simultaneously shut down. I had to tell both patients that I couldn’t treat them until I returned from vacation or they could see my on-call backup. They weren’t happy and neither was my blood pressure. How does an artist paint without brush or pallet?
In the U.S., most folks get a set amount of vacation time per year. Typically, it’s not enough, although some people are able to finagle exceptions. I’m one of those exceptions. I feel more attuned to my patients when I’ve taken time off to just relax. My wife might take issue with that statement because what she considers relaxing and what I consider relaxing can be two different things. I am an avid reader but I can sit still for only so long. Hiking, biking, skiing, climbing, whitewater rafting, etc. are my way of chilling. I usually get enough reading in during the plane ride to wherever we are going.
Leaving behind the stress of that out-of-control situation in the office, my wife and I flew to the Galapagos Islands off the Ecuadorian coast. For me, chasing sharks around reefs in my snorkel is fun and relaxing. And you can’t hate the silly way blue-footed boobies walk or the way a flightless cormorant poses on a lava flow, its sad-looking wings spread out like it’s trying to fly. I think the other birds make fun of them. Iguanas are not supposed to swim but those that live in the isolated environment of the Galapagos do. Unafraid, they come right up to your face mask, blink, and swim away. They’re really quite docile but sea lions are incredibly friendly and curious. They playfully bump in to you in the water, like a dog that’s happy you’re home.
I’ve included three pictures of me and my wife, who is my office manager. The first picture was taken during that last day of work when everything was going wrong; you can see that it’s my fault. The second one shows us traveling via a local airline, taking off from the mainland to the islands. The last is of us relaxing together in the almost warm waters at the equator.
Now that I’m back in the states, I can concentrate on delivering good dental care to my community. And when—not if—things go wrong, I’ll be able to calmly cope with them.
Next stop…a resort/spa in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. My wife arranged that one.
Jim Rhea, DMD