Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Great Extraction *volume 1*

Chapter 1: Make Me a Grill 

In the summer of 2005 I found myself deeply inspired by a young, prominent musician from St Louis. Cornell Haynes Jr strung together beautifully eloquent syllables and phrases that created stunning platinum, white gold, and traditional gold visions in my head. I knew at the ripe age of 19… that one day… I too would have a shiny new “grill” that I could display for the entire world to see. It only took 12 years for my grill dreamz to become a reality and over the past Thanksgiving break… I started the long process of getting my very own grill.

This sort of procedure had several possibilities but my initial choice was the classic “whole top diamond and the bottom row gold” option. I was super excited about my decision until I compared the estimated cost of the grill to the status of my bank account. Since my first rap album “Appalactic Thuggin: Trail Gangsta 4 Lyfe” hadn’t officially dropped yet… I thought I would holla at my boy Cornell to see if I could get a cash advance to pay for my grill…ya know… until the cash started rolling in from album sales…

Lil Z: Good afternoon Cornell… excuse me … I mean… Nelly. How are you today? Lovely weather you are having in St Louis good sir. Are you cruising with the windows down, smoking an L in your candy painted Range Rover?

Nelly: What it do Lil Z? Yea no dizzy. I’m going down down baby, yo’ street in a Range Rover.

Lil Z: Wait. My street? You in Alabama?

Nelly: Yea playa I’m here with Vanna White but we’re about to catch the next flight up to NYC for a party. What can I do you for gangsta?

Lil Z: Can I borrow some cash to get a grill?

Nelly: You don’t need no cash mayne… just go rob a jewelry store and tell em make you a grill.

Lil Z: Thanks Nelly. I will put some serious thought into that. Yall have a safe flight.

Since it is extremely difficult to run mountains from inside a jail cell… I decided to take the less criminal route.  Instead… we consulted Dr Glass for a more practical and less handcuffy strategy.

I’ve never been a big fan of the dentist and I’ve always had bad issues with my teeth. Though my sister and I had the same teeth brushing schedule growing up…and practically the same diet… it seemed like every single time we went to the dentist… one of us would walk away with a clean bill of health and the other would have upwards of 7 or more cavities. Every. Single. Time. 

**Spoiler alert... I wasn't the “golden child” with the clean bill of health.**

On top of the great discomfort from the constant construction going on in my mouth… my dentist would speak to me as though I was an idiot and incapable of properly caring for my teeth. I was doing everything I possibly could to take care of my teeth… but he just made me feel ashamed and self-conscious about my turrrble teeth. No matter how hard I tried or how diligent I was with brushing… I would still have 7-10 cavities errrrry time I would visit the dentist. Eventually I went to college and grew tired of the routine drillings and the “I know you’re not brushing your teeth… there’s just no way” lecture… so I just quit going. You can save your lecture… I knew I would eventually need a major mouth overhaul when I made my decision but I was willing to climb that mountain when the time came.

Chapter 2: Breaking Teeth

Last April… me, Matty Fierce and OJG set out on a lovely 30 mile route along the Appalachian Trail that tagged a group of beautiful Appalactic balds…

Somewhere during the final 6 mile descent from Wesser Bald to the NOC… I managed to perfectly time the munching of a granola bar with a hard, jarring step which resulted in the breaking of part of one of my back teeth. Though it wasn’t turrrrbly painful at the time… I was not in a good place by the time I reached the river.

pc: Matty Fierce 

I didn’t sleep much that night because of the throbbing pain. When I woke up around 3am to grab 2 more Advil PMs… I was certain the time had come to get a new grill. Since I had such a deep rooted distaste for dentists…it was going to be tricky to find one that I trusted and who would also treat me like a grown up. I needed a dentist that wasn’t going to be a Judgy McJudgerson but more importantly… had the laughy gas.

Thankfully one of Kati’s coworkers’ wife is a dentist and came highly recommended. Like I said… NOT the biggest fan of the dentist but I must say… I absolutely LOVED Dr. Glass right off the bat. She was completely understanding of my situation, spoke to me like a grownup and was straight forward about my options. Not to mention the office staff was some of the nicest, sweetest and most genuine people I’d ever met. A month or so after getting the initial broken tooth pulled… I went ahead and got another bothersome tooth pulled and a root canal done. This was only the beginning. There was still major work to be done. We eventually decided on which route best suited my issues and this option was considered “major surgery.” Since I'd never had "major surgery" before… I didn’t really have any idea on exactly how long I would have to be inactive after the procedure so…. I made sure I got in a few fun runs and adventures beforehand…

Like helping lead the 1st ever Smoky Mountain Adventure Weekend with partner in crime Ashley

Running SCAR... a 71 mile fun run on the Appalachian Trail that traverses across the Great Smoky Mountain National Park...  

pc: OJG

And my favorite 50k of all time... UpChuck... 

Chapter 3: The Great Extraction

We scheduled the big procedure for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving so that I could have maximum recovery time without having to miss a lot of work. Thankfully my boss has been extremely understanding throughout the entire process.

I very rarely get nervous about anything... which I believe is one of the main reasons I was such a successful closing pitcher in college. I could get thrown into the most stressful and tense of situations and would be able to treat them as though it was like a normal day of practice. 

One major piece of advice I took away from my college baseball coach was:

“Learn to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations.”

I took this advice very serious. I mean look at Coach Goff… how can you not take advice that this man offers you seriously?

This advice has carried over into all walks of life for me. In the world of endurance trail running you often purposely throw yourself into uncomfortable situations. There’s nothing easy about running an ultra or long distances in the mountains. At some point you will encounter turrrble weather and times where you feel absolutely awful. There’s no way around those low spots and uncomfortable moments but as long as you remind yourself that those lows will eventually come if you can endure, carry on and make it through. So going into the procedure… I KNEW it would last a few hours and it would most likely be uncomfortable the entire time. But I just kept reminding myself… if I could a willingly put my mind and body through the pain of covering 108 miles in the mountains in one single push… I could withstand a few hours of uncomfortablness in a dentist chair.

When researching the different possibilities and grill routes... Kati was super positive and upbeat which kept me relaxed and happy-go-lucky about the entire process. I can honestly say I was never once nervous during the whole shebang. Since Dr Glass had already extracted 2 teeth and had completed one root canal without issue... I felt fully confident going into the big procedure. 

On the Tuesday of the procedure... I left work around noon and headed home for a small “non greasy” lunch. Dr Glass's office does not offer the option of being put to sleep (not that I would've taken that option anyway... ) so I went ahead and took my sedative to ensure I would be good and doped up by the time the Great Extraction started. 

When we arrived… I took my normal seat in room 4. The sedative still hadn’t kicked in yet so they went ahead and started me on the laughy gas.

Have you ever been drunk at a function or in a place where you probably shouldn’t be drunk? And you start saying things that give away your drunkenness?  Where you say something and look around and think to yourself… “Ahhhhh dammit. They know. They know I’m smackered right now. Abort mission!” That. That happened… except all of the office personnel knew and expected me to be in an altered state. The slurring of words and rambling sentence structures were all the confirmation Dr Glass needed to begin the procedure.

After what felt like a life time’s worth of shots… the numbness set in. I was given specific instructions that if anything felt overly painful during the procedure to raise my left hand off of the arm rest and they could give me more Novocain shots.

“Like the extractions before… you’ll feel some tugging and pressure. Are you ready?”

I nodded.

A gentle but steady tugging preceded a loud *crack!*. Tooth 1 of 18. Yes. You read that correctly. 1 of 18. I had opted for the one and done extraction procedure.

I felt Dr. Glass grip tooth #2…


The days leading up to the Great Extraction… I had consistently meditated and prayed to God to keep me calm and relaxed during the procedure. I asked to keep the pain minimal but never once asked for it to be painless. I believe pain is such an intricate and important part of the human experience. If you feel nothing… are you even really human?

As Dr. Glass took hold of tooth #3… I telepathically communicated another prayer asking for a dampening of sound. My body became completely relaxed and I slowly drifted into a euphoric calmness as she started tugging again…


My conscious came back to my body as tooth #17 was being extracted. The last 2 teeth were my top teeth on each side of my mouth that had direct connection with my sinus cavity. The roots of these molars are separated from the sinus by a “bony floor” which functions as a protective barrier. Oftentimes in an invasive procedure like this… there’s a chance of creating a hole in which could expose the sinus cavity. The initial x-rays showed that my “bony floor” was rather thin but it was hard to tell just how thin it actually was.

As Dr. Glass started tugging on tooth #17 I started picturing my tooth as a tree in the midst of a violent tornado. The storm’s extreme winds pulling this old ancient, deep rooted tree upward into the sky while every single root gripped as tightly as possible to the earth’s surface… clinging to the only home its ever known. It was if I could feel every individual root fight it’s hardest before eventually giving into the inevitable. The pain was excruciating. I let out a moan as I felt the roots popping…

 Dr. Glass gently spoke with a very calming voice…

“I know… I know. It’s almost over. Just hang in there.”

Dr. Glass is an absolute sweetheart. Even after the procedure… during her own Thanksgiving break… she would take time away from her family to call and text Kati to check in on me. I’m extremely grateful and thankful for the type of care and concern she has for her patients.

Since the pulling of tooth #17 resulted in a hole in my sinus cavity… Dr. Glass held off on pulling the last tooth connected to the other sinus cavity. There was a lot of trauma with opening one sinus cavity and she didn’t want to risk having both exposed. I was surprisingly aware and coherent when Kati was allowed back to room 4. But as soon as Kati and Dr. Glass started talking in details… I could feel myself slipping into the void…

Chapter 4: The Blood Flood
(written by: The Dark Princess)

I don’t remember how long it took, 2 or 3 hours maybe. Maybe more. I was pretty nervous while waiting, but with each passing moment I knew it was further in progress and closer to being done. Finally, an assistant came out to get me because it was done. When I came into the exam room (AKA surgery room), Zach was all drowsy, numb, and his mouth was packed full of gauze. He was somewhat responsive which brought me a huge relief.

The doctor unloaded tons of information and prescriptions on us. Everything went okay, but we did open up a hole to one sinus cavity. Take pain medicine, ice, sleep propped up, etc. etc. Please remember this was a major surgery. It’s probably going to be a long night for you both. She gave us a bag full of gauze and I guided Zach to the car. Off we went to the pharmacy, which was unfortunately about 30 minutes away.

Zach was a total zombie. Generally unresponsive. No moving, no talking, no expressions. It made me really nervous to see him not being himself. We listened to crappy music and I sang Usher to him. Not that he remembers.  When we parked at the pharmacy, it was already time to change his bloody gauze out. I awkwardly took care of it in the low lighting.

I left him in the car with 95.7 Jamz. He requested a Sprite (but later didn’t remember doing so.) I was so anxious in the pharmacy, as my bloody hands handed the technician some blood-spotted prescription slips, and just wanted to get Zach home and in bed, as if that would make everything better. I picked up his plethora of pills, his Sprite, and I got him home. We had an overnighted package on our stoop from OJG, with a t-shirt and a few mini bottles of whiskey, his version of a care package. Too bad Zach wouldn’t be able to drink them for a while.

He sat on the couch for a while, staring into space. I told him to take his pain medicine. He said he didn’t want to. I argued with him gently for a while until he finally took it with a few sips of a protein shake. I got him propped up in the bed. He complained of an incredibly intense headache.
He was in and out of sleep for a while. What a relief it was, when he would drift off. I always hoped it was for the night, but it never was. What we came to call the “blood floods” kept him from sleeping too long. Blood gurgling down his throat and running down his chin would wake him up. I had to change his gauze quite frequently. We blew through all the gauze the dentist gave us about halfway through the night. I had just enough tea bags (makeshift gauze pads) to get us through till morning. I “slept” next to him, listening for any moment he might stir and it would be time to tend to him again – change his gauze, his ice, get him a drink. I got about 2 hours of sleep, but it’s strange how the human body reacts. Yes, I was tired, but there were more important things than being tired. Yes, I hadn’t eaten in forever, but my body didn’t try to tell me I was hungry. It was a difficult night. Nothing could have prepared us for that night, and we agree that perhaps it was best we didn’t know what we were in for.

As the night went on I began to think the bleeding would never stop but I did my best to stay calm. When morning came, and the last tea bags were used, the blood floods had subsided. This is where my indifference threshold became dramatically altered. Suddenly, absolutely everything around me was beautiful. This was a great day. Everything was wonderful, because my husband isn’t drooling copious amounts of blood everywhere anymore. Life is perfect.

Speaking of blood, well, it got on everything. EVERYTHING.

That morning, when Zach was no longer packed with gauze, no longer experiencing major headaches, and able to drink some “food”, that’s where our journey took a turn for the better. The dark night was over, the sun had come up, and finally it looked like things were going to be okay.

 Chapter 5: The Most Thankfullness of Thanksgivings

I woke up the morning after the procedure with very little recollection of what had happened the night before. I honestly only remember 3 things:

  1. Waking up choking on my own blood and leaning over the garbage can to let it all drain from my mouth…
  2. Waking up again with an alarming amount of warm blood running down my chin and spilling onto my chest…
  3. The sweet, sincere look of love in my wifey’s eyes
I won’t ever be able to put into words how thankful am to have Kati as my wife. Her selflessness, sincerity and humor (ie: like instead of telling me to go brush my teeth... she would tell me to go brush my tooth...) throughout this entire process has only made me fall in love with her even more. She truly is my soul mate.

Given the zombie like state I was in post operation… we decided to opt out of all things Thanksgiving. We literally did nothing for 5 days and it was spectacular.

It is extremely rare for me to just kick back, relax and do absolutely nothing but I’ve found that if you have 17 teeth extracted.. it kinda forces you into a brief sedentary lifestyle… no matter how anxious or cabin fevery a person gets.

 Each morning we would wake up naturally without alarm clocks, we stayed in our pjs all day and lounged around. I would take the occasional painkiller and zone in and out of a peaceful medicated sleep.

I’ve always been more of an “eat to have enough energy until the next meal” kinda guy opposed to someone who eats for enjoyment. I like food… but don’t love it… so missing the traditional Thanksgiving meal didn’t phase me much. My Thanksgiving meal was just as fulfilling… a meal consisting of chicken dumps (chicken and dumplings), mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, ice cream and a Slush Puppy.

During the Thanksgiving break… we binge watched Stranger Things, watched a lot of cartoons (Arthur), watched the entire 2 seasons of RL Stiens the Haunting Hour and I watched Kati play Until Dawn (freakin awesome game!!) to completion. It wasn’t until the end of the weekend to where I felt up for a short walk around the neighborhood. It was nice to get out for some fresh air but I was completely wiped out after a mile walk. I felt sluggish, my head hurt and my mouth was throbbing from even the slightest increase in heart rate.

Going back to work that following Monday was just awful. My head was cloudy, I had trouble focusing on the simplest of tasks and it felt like I couldn’t formulate statements. I started getting these turrrrbly painful sinus headaches and every day after work I would come home and just lay on the couch until it was time for bed. I went back to the dentist that following Wednesday to get all of my stitches removed and told Dr. Glass about the headaches. They had become extremely severe to the point where it was painful to touch my cheek and around my eye. I was starting to worry that there could possibly be some unforeseen issue but she reassured me it was pressure and build up due to the hole that was created in my sinus cavity during the operation.

By the time the weekend rolled around… I was right back on the couch nursing my painful headaches. Kati had to work a mid-shift at Publix so my plan was to fall in and out of medicated sleep until she got back. All afternoon I kept spitting up these gloppy blood clot looking things…

My headache progressed from bad to worse by the time the sun set. Kati texted that she was on her way home and when I raised up… something dislodged in my sinus cavity. I ran over to the sink and out plopped a huge blood clot (I'll let ya slide without a picture of this one). A mix of flowing blood and clots kept pouring out of my mouth painting the sink red. As the drainage continued… I could literally feel all of the pressure and build up release from behind my eye/cheek. The second the drainage stopped… my headache went away. It was instant relief. From that moment on… I haven’t had a single headache! I was so thankful for this purge! 

Chapter 6: #fatZach

After nearly 3 weeks of being completely inactive… I finally felt normal enough to go to the gym and do some light running with Furuto and Scooter….

But even the easiest of runs left me feeling winded and super out of shape. Despite everyone’s worries of me losing weight due to changing my eating habits to softer foods… I took the opposite approach and had somehow managed to gain 11 freakin pounds in 2 weeks. Mentally I had prepared myself for this let down… not the fatness… but the out of shapeness. I knew it would be a long road back and that I shouldn’t get too worked up or too focused on stepping right back into training. I still had a good amount of dental work to do… including the last extraction and crowns for my remaining teeth. Instead of getting frustrated… I decided to use this time to get back to my roots… no… not the roots that were violently ripped out during the Great Extraction… back to my running roots. Back to the pure enjoyment of running the trails and spending time being active with my friends in the great outdoors. No pressure to perform… nothing competitive… just back to the basics.

OJG and I had already planned to bounce up to Chattanooga the following week to support Matty Fierce and Humphrey at the Lookout Mtn 50 miler. Matty Fierce had been training his ass off for LM50 and this would be Humphrey’s first 50 miler. This year they opened up a 21 mile option that OJG and I signed up with hopes of killing a few hours before settling into our crewing duties. The race was probably against my better judgement… but somehow OJG can get me to do anything and to be honest… I was desperately wanting to get back into a normal routine of running mountains again.

pic: Jobie Williams

I felt “off” for the first few miles. I was extremely conscious of my breathing and kept focusing on the weird sensation and slight whistle that the hole in my sinus cavity created with each breath. After a few miles I started to adapt and settle into a groove. I chatted away with a friendly dude from Arkansas for a few miles but shortly after the mile 13 mark…  my legs gave out and I accepted the sluggish stroll to the finish.

The rest of the day was spent supporting Matty Fierce and Hump while simultaneously nursing a turrrble hangover from the ridiculous amount of whiskey that me and OJG consumed the night before…

I’m so proud of  Hump! He beasted his first 50 miler and looking forward to spending a lot of trail time with him to get him prepped for #thebighorny adventure this summer…

And of course Matty Fierce finished strong…

Being back running trails and watching my best friends push their limits was so rewarding. It was EXACTLY what I needed to feel normal again. 

Though I knew I still had a loooooooooooooooong way to go before the construction in my mouth was complete... an amazing wife, great friends and the mountains provided all the peace and solace I needed to remain one lucky and happy dude. 

pic: Jobie Williams


  1. Intense.

    My favorite part was kati singing Usher to you ����


  2. Dude! No pic of your mouth with no teeth!! WTF!

  3. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds additionally? I’m satisfied to find so many helpful information here within the put up, we want work out extra strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing..

    Best Implant Clinic In Chennai

  4. Reading this was a little like stepping into a time machine. I had a similar extraction done about five years ago. And, like you, I had the pressure build up. When the plug, or whatever that thing was, released, I experienced one of the most unpleasant sensations in my life. Years later, though, I'm happy I got the work done.

    Marco @ Natural Dentistry