My family is from Germany, so every summer we go to visit our cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, the whole deal… This summer, however, I was going to spend my first Fourth of July in the States. Fireworks at the lake, hanging out with friends – the classic Independence Day celebration – and I was really excited. But like approximately ninety percent of the population, I heard the sentence that I hoped I wouldn’t have to hear. “It is time to get your wisdom teeth out.”

Okay, I thought. I can deal with that. Sometime in mid-July when I have no other plans. Then the voice came at me again. “It will have to be July 2nd. We have no other dates available for the summer.” July 2nd? JULY SECOND? I looked at my Mom with pleading eyes, trying to send her my thoughts, “Please don’t make me do it. I can wait until Christmas…” She, however, is apparently not telepathic, overlooks my puppy dog eyes (they always used to work on her) and agrees to the date. So this year, my first Fourth of July in the United States, I spent on the couch, cheeks swollen and fat like those of a hamster, wondering if I was ever going to see fireworks on July 4th.

I had never been put to sleep before, and even though the operation only takes about twenty five minutes, I guess it is easier for them to operate when the patient is asleep. It was the strangest feeling I have ever had. Not only did the laughing gas not affect me until they turned it up so high that I got dizzy, but when they injected the anesthetic in my arm and my whole body went limp I vowed to myself that I would never wanted to feel that way again. The numbness started in my arm, crept all the way to my fingertips, and then slowly up towards my neck. I tried lifting my arm, but it felt like it had a million bricks strapped to it. Then my face started going numb, sparing only my lips and my eyes. The wave continued, over my stomach and into my other arm and finally down to my toes, numbing even the littlest one. I could her the machine that they had hooked up to my heard beeping fast. My heart rate kept increasing – the mixture of the dizziness and the numbness was making me nervous. And the last thing I remember thinking before I fell asleep was about my heart. I wanted to know why it was still beating when the rest of my body had gone numb and limp. Why did the anesthetic not affect me heart?

Now when I think back on that question it seems silly. Hopefully it was the laughing gas that was making me wonder strange things…

Now I have four small holes in the back of my mouth, and although I have moved from a liquid diet to a more substantial one, I can still feel a little pull when I open my mouth too wide, or, as I tend to do, when I talk too much. And I guess now I just have to hope that I will be home again next summer in order to finally have my first Fourth of July.

Vicky Waldthausen