Tale of a tooth

Not long ago, I visited the dentist. Approaching the clinic apprehensively, I told myself that it was natural to be nervous. After all, there was a famous, albeit fictional, precedent. In one of Agatha Christie's books, the great Hercule Poirot tries to evade a dental appointment. I thought of telling the man in the mask that I would call on him later, but I had scarcely started to speak when he adroitly administered an anaesthetic. In went the forceps and out came the tooth!

That malevolent molar had plagued me for a fortnight. It grew increasingly hostile towards the end of December, when my husband and I were in Muscat, at the invitation of my brother-in-law and his wife. Even as we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Oman, my tooth repeatedly reminded me of its pernicious presence.

One evening, I was looking forward to a concert, when the envious entity struck! As we were leaving for the Royal Opera House, I experienced a terrible twinge that threatened to incapacitate me. My husband's brother, David, is a doctor, and he hastened to alleviate my agony. Armed with the analgesic, I sat enthralled through a superb vocal and musical performance. The following day, however, I needed remedial intervention again. David told me that I could not keep popping painkillers, and urged me to deal decisively with the problem.

Back in Bengaluru, I was overwhelmed with relief after my tryst with dentistry. I had not realised the extent of my discomfort until I was free from it. So remarkable was my sense of wellbeing that it seemed too good to last. I felt that I should pamper myself after my extraction ordeal and curled up on the sofa. Cautiously consuming a 'soft' substance I had been advised to ingest, I recalled a delicious meal that I had recently relished, despite my tiresome tooth.

Returning to Muscat after an out-of-town trip, we had stopped at a city called Ibra, where we had lunch at the home of one of David's former patients. Soon after birth, Afnan was diagnosed with a dangerous genetic disorder, briefly known as HLH. Subsequently, the baby underwent chemotherapy to destroy her defective bone marrow cells.

Some time afterwards, stem cells that matched Afnan's were collected from the blood of her elder brother and intravenously infused into hers. David, a haematologist at a reputed Muscat hospital, performed the procedure. He has since shared a beautiful bond with Afnan, who is now nine years old. Not surprisingly, Afnan, her parents and siblings hold David and his family close to their hearts.

Little Afnan endured a peripheral blood stem cell transplant. Her story (not forgetting David's care and competence) is a heroic saga. How trite and tame, in comparison, is the tale of my tooth!

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