When life put me in charge of taking care of my brother in 2018, it did so without giving me an instruction manual, and to make matters worse, I never really had a proper paternal role model to look out to. The closest thing I had in my life to that was one of my uncles who, just like my mom, was taken away by a soft tissue sarcoma.

In spite of that, and because of my brother’s condition, I’ve done my best to fulfill the role of a parent to my brother, fully aware that I’m not exactly the sharpest nor the brightest, but I’m all he’s got, and he’s all I got. As such, we’ve both survived and grown together as a team for the past four years and counting. We’re both inept in our own ways, but together, as a team, we are able to stand a chance against the world itself.

There’s been ups and downs in our eternal Venezuelan grind, great moments of joy, and resounding defeats in my efforts to get us outta here. Thankfully, he’s had no health complications whatsoever — that is, until one December morning, when one of his molars fractured, just like that.

This is a personal account of the events from my perspective as his big brother, caretaker, and the closest thing he has to a father figure. 

Coming from an extremely brutal and tiresome 2021, I was looking forward to December to wind down and get some respite — if only to ease my mind after a crushing blow to my morale following the latest consultation with an immigration attorney. The morning when it all happened was just your run of the mill Saturday, and I decided to treat us both to some nice empanadas for breakfast out of a place that has a particularly good price/size/flavor ratio, all things considered.

All was fine and dandy until he chewed on one of them and felt something. He started to get scared and spat out the contents of his mouth, and that’s when we found out what happened to his molar. I immediately told him to use a mouthwash because that’s all I could think of at the moment.

Suffice to say, whatever appetite we had vanished in an instant. 

It is weird though, it’s not like the empanadas were toasted or hard to chew. They had the normal consistency that you’d find in any regular empanada across the country, and there was nothing that he spat out that could be attributed as the cause — the molar just chipped on its own, apparently.

Now, had our mom still been with us, she’d known exactly who to call, as she always had dental woes of her own. However, most of her friends and colleagues, including her closest ones, have either left the country or never stayed in touch with us after her passing. 

With no contacts in the world of dentistry, I reached out to a cousin and explained the situation. Unbeknownst to me at the time, her fiance had a similar problem, and he knew who to recommend me with.

This was a Saturday, though, so there was nothing to do beyond making sure that my brother would relax and not chew on that side of the mouth. He was still scared, and it took him a couple days to calm down and go back to his regular self. The rather shutdown way he was acting had me concerned.

I could not book an appointment with this doctor, as she was seemingly busy. She did refer me to a friend of hers that, while specializing in children, would be a good dentist for my brother, given his condition.

All in all we had to wait a couple days for an appointment, but on that Friday, six days after the incident, we were finally there, with plenty of minutes to spare before the appointment. My life does often tend to revolve around cycles and the dentist’s office happens to be right across the street from one of the last places we accompanied our mom back in 2017 seeking out the chemotherapy that could’ve potentially saved her life — votrient, which we never found.

I hadn’t been in that part of Caracas since then, and it did reopen some wounds, I’ll admit to that.

The dentist was extremely amiable and comprehensive. Before doing anything he’d explain to my brother what each of his tools of the trade would do, and then he’d explain the situation to me as if I was the father, starting with the obvious: the molar was indeed fractured.

First order of business was to carry out dental Prophylaxis and remove plaque, additionally, I needed to get him a panoramic x-ray before the dentist would determine any course of action. I took him to a place to get the x-ray right away.
Regardless, the dentist laid out the two possible scenarios to me. The first one was a more drastic one, and the least desirable of the two. If the molar was fractured all the way then there was nothing else to do but to remove it and let his mouth heal, which would take between seven to eight months. After that he would require a bridge.

The second scenario was a much less dire one: If the fracture was only superficial, then all they’d have to do is repair the molar with either a crown or a resin.
Whatever the case was, the x-ray yielded inconclusive yet rather promising results. Without a clear panorama the only way to proceed was to do a small surgery, removing some of the gum tissue around the affected molar, further exposing the teeth further to see how it fared.

With the second and last of the prophylaxis sessions done on the next Monday, it was time for the surgery, which was scheduled on Wednesday. Given that he would not be able to eat after surgery, the dentist suggested that I’d really feed him well that morning, so I made him a rather large arepa with mortadella.

Everything went out without incident, and he left the premises of the dentist’s office pain free due to the anesthesia. I left him at home in the company of his video games while I went to the supermarket to get stuff that he could eat, such as ice cream, jell-o, mashed potatoes, juice, and other things.

Naturally, the anesthesia would soon wear off, and the pain began to kick in. I gave him Ibuprofen and he tried to sleep for a bit while all water ration duties were covered by me. The dentist said that the first thing he should eat was ice cream, but he just couldn’t have more than a bit that afternoon because of the pain.

He fared better the next day, was able to eat more ice cream, and even some jell-o. The dentist told me that by the second day after the surgery he should be able to eat pasta, which is what I cooked for him — big mistake, the pain was just too much to handle, and he was in shock for a bit. I took him to the dentist on the third day as instructed, but the gums hadn’t healed properly yet.

The next days were the worst out of all of this. He could eat ice cream, jell-o, mashed potatoes, and some other stuff, but nothing solid. He’d sometimes feel pain and that would paralyze him in shock. While I of course couldn’t feel his pain, it did affect me and brought my spirits down, I just wanted him to eat well again and be pain-free.

While completely different scenarios, it did remind me of my mom’s last weeks, when she could no longer eat well. I skipped any Christmas dinner plans for this reason, I was not going to do anything just for myself.

He seemed to have recovered enough after Christmas to eat something solid again, and he wanted a pizza. He had a bit of discomfort here and there and it took him an entire hour to eat it, but I was a bit relieved that he had finally eaten something solid. Still, the discomfort was not supposed to exist in the first place.

We went back to the Dentist after Christmas to see why he was still in pain, that one wasn’t a good morning, but it ended well. He felt an immense pain as the dentist checked him out, to the point that he almost choked. Honestly, that moment terrified me to no avail, and I legit thought I was going to get a heart attack or something.

They were able to figure out what was wrong: exposed tissue on the molar that was the culprit for all of his pain. After an intense anesthesia they were able to rectify the issue. Better yet, the second scenario was the one that played out in the end, his molar did not require extraction.

With the tissue matter resolved, he received a resin to repair the molar on that same morning, and finally, the nightmare was over.

He’s thankfully fine and all recovered, and all those bad days he went through during Christmas week are now in the past. I’m still thanking God every night because everything ended up working in his favor. I made up for the lack of Christmas plans by having a really good New Years dinner for the two of us.
Seeing him smile and be pain-free lifted my spirits back a little because I don’t have much strength in me these days — not after my visa plans crumbled down once more in November. I’m even surprised that he’s been coming out of his shell and acting a bit more outgoing and being more outspoken here and there, which is amazing.

In a way, I can’t help but feel responsible for all of this because while I’ve taken care of all his needs, put his well being above mine and everything else, and have given him all the treats I can afford without affecting our budget, I hadn’t taken him to the dentist before this incident. I’m also the one that decided to get those empanadas in the first place. All of this occurred merely two weeks after that hope-crushing call, so I wasn’t in the best state of mind throughout all of this.

It is probably a good time to confess that one of my fang teeth never fully developed, and I never cared much about it until 2013, when my mom had some spare money and got me a resin to make it look more “normal.” That resin broke after a year, I got a replacement one in 2014, which lasted all the way up to February of 2020. I got a replacement one literally days before the COVID lockdowns began, and that one broke a few days before all of this. 

I was planning on getting it fixed during December — but like I said, my brother will always come first, besides, it’s just an aesthetic thing, and with mandatory masking to enter stores it’s not like people will notice, lol.

There will come a day when I’ll have children of my own. When that day comes, all these years and experiences shared with my brother will serve me well when I assume the role of an actual father. At the end of the day, all that matters is that my brother’s molar was saved.

Until the next one,