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What It’s Like to Have an Emergency Operation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Zion Hodgkin Assistant Editor

    With the entire state and most of the world on full lockdown, most people know the fear of being forced to leave their house for any reason. Even a quick trip to the grocery store or the gas station can be anxiety-inducing and sometimes cause full week of stress, overanalyzing symptoms, and self-diagnosing, especially for those with an autoimmune disease like I have, having been diagnosed with diabetes type 1 in my early twenties. Despite this, last week I had to go into a clinic every week day, and have someone stick their hands directly into my mouth.

    I had made an appointment over two months ago to get a tooth pulled. It was a lower molar, the furthest one back, and it had been causing me pain incrementally for about three months. We looked into having it filled, but the dentist said that it was too far gone, it would be safer at this point to just get it removed. They took an x-ray, and had me make an appointment with the Oral and Facial Surgery Clinic in Farmington. There was a pretty extensive waiting list and appointment was made for March 31st. As that date crept closer, the COVID-19 pandemic started to get worse, spreading rapidly across the world and closing businesses and schools across the country. A week before my scheduled visit, I still hadn’t heard anything from the clinic, so I decided to give them a call. I was met with an answering machine, freshly recorded, stating that the office was closed until further notice due to the pandemic. By this time, the pain in my mouth had become pretty terrible, and the thought of waiting weeks, or potentially months longer before I could do anything about it, sent me into a panic. 

    I called around to other dental clinics in the area, to see if there was anyone who could help me, and discovered that the Strong Area Dental Center, though not open to the general public, was still available to take people who needed emergency procedures. Luckily I fell into that category. I called on Thursday, April 2nd, and they were able to get me in later that same day. They took a look, noticed that there was some infection, pulled my tooth, and sent me home with a recommendation to take ibuprofen over the next week. The rest of that day and the day after went great. The pain had already lessened and I was incredibly grateful that I wouldn’t have to deal with the infection any longer.

    Then the weekend started. I woke up in the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. It was worse than the time I had jumped face first into the water at Mill Pond Park and broke my nose, worse than the time I had three wisdom teeth shatter when I was getting them removed. There was immense pain at the extraction site, but on top of that, I could feel a throbbing in my entire face. My top row of teeth also were really painful, swollen, and incredibly sensitive to the touch. 

    I immediately called the dental clinic to see if I could speak to an on-call worker, but nobody answered, and the answering machine relayed the fact that they were closed for the weekend. The next two days were absolute misery. Turns out the extraction site had turned into a dry socket, which happens when the blood clot that builds up to allow for healing becomes dislodged.

    On top of that, the oral trauma from the extraction had caused a horrific sinus infection, causing my sinus sacs to swell up, applying pressure to the top of my teeth and gums. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even watch TV because I was in so much pain. All I could do for 48 hours was stare at a wall in painful delirium, cry, and then stare at the wall again. I was begging the clock to tick faster, begging for sleep to pass some time, begging the sun to rise on Monday morning so I could call the dentist again.

    On Monday morning, I called Strong Area Dental Center as soon as they opened and they allowed me to come in immediately so they could take a look. I pulled on some rubber gloves and headed out, barely able to see the road through the blinding pain. Once I got there and got in the chair, the dentist checked and saw that I did, in fact, have a dry socket. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be an easy fix. They were going to have to apply a numbing medicinal salve to the area for the next five days. 

    As the world became continuously more terrifying, and stopping to get gas spelled out a potential death sentence for my weakened immune system, I had to drive two towns over each day that week, to sit in a waiting room with other potentially ill people, and have a dentist stick his hands in my mouth every single day. Throughout this, I did my best to avoid contact with anyone besides my dentist (though I was afraid of him as well to a certain extent), but traveling and being in a clinic made that damn near impossible.

    Now, a week after my last dentist appointment, my mouth is healing up nicely. My sinus infection on the other hand, has persisted, fluctuating from incredibly painful to relatively mild. All I’ve wanted to do is to finally stay at home, cut out the rest of the world and protect my weakened body.  Instead, I’ve had to consider calling up the doctors to start the whole process over again.

Letter to the Editor: A Student Dancer’s Grief

Dear Editor, 

   I write to you as a member and Co-Captain of the UMF Dance Team. The spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has greatly affected many on our team. Every year, the team works hard to perform at TD Garden on the court of the Boston Celtics. This year our team would have danced to the song “Confident” by Demi Lovato. Our dance was fast, sassy, fun and well-rehearsed. We finished learning the dance a month in advance of the performance, but unfortunately we were never able to show our dance in the proper venue. Our season was over. At our last practice we filmed the dance and posted it to our Instagram page. 

   As a member of the UMF Dance Team, and one who, like the rest of the members, was looking forward to the chance to perform on the 360 degree stage, I am truly sad to see my team’s hard work lead to nothing more than a video. However, in light of these hard times I can’t help but think what an amazing season our team had. We may not have been able to perform at TD Garden, but we were able to perform on our home court, which is nothing to sneeze at. We can all smile when “Confident” by Demi Lovato comes on the radio, showing our bond to our team. While it may seem that our season and academic year has ended with a bang, in the form of a pandemic no less, you know what they say: “the show must go on.”

   As a team, we plan on hosting group dance sessions, so that even at home we all remain connected. We may even do group zoom yoga, which might help many to relax and destress in these very wonky times. Our team group chat is very much alive and healthy, filled with words of love and appreciation, not to mention all the lovely heart emojis. Even though the team is heartbroken over the cancellation of one of our most prized performances, we are all trying to remain positive, which is the most anyone can do right now. 

   Being able to remain positive and reminding yourself of all the love that your friends have and the love you hold for them is one way to help survive the new world that UMF has implemented. Trying to find ways to remain connected and in contact with others is a great idea when facing social isolation. Stay active, even if that means doing Zoom yoga. Hopefully we’ll laugh about this one day. 

   The UMF Dance Team, like many other teams and clubs on campus, have experienced cancellations due to COVID-19. Our team is trying to remain connected to each other. Staying positive will help us all to navigate these new and strange waters. 

Sincerely, 

Portia Hardy 

Co-Captain of the UMF Dance Team

An Airport Screening

Ciera Miller, Contributing Writer

   On March 15, I flew into the capital of the United States from Paris, France. It was the second day of Coronavirus screenings in the U.S. The plane I was on taxied took an additional 45 minutes in its hanger to allow the airport time to accept us without accidentally infecting its other passengers. An elderly woman in her 70s with a chronic back condition begged the flight attendants to let her off because she couldn’t stand nor sit down without being in incredible pain; they told her there was nothing they could do to help her, she would have to sit and wait.

   When my fellow passengers and I were finally allowed off the plane, we were separated from the inside of the airport. We followed a passageway whose windows looked into gates and terminals where passengers were waiting for their own flights to board. A little girl with a pacifier in her mouth waved at us as we walked by. Airport representatives wearing light blue gloves, some with masks over their mouths, gave us our customs papers and boarded us onto a shuttle that took us to the opposite side of the airport. There, we waited an additional ten minutes before we were allowed inside for the Coronavirus screening process.

   Inside was an unsterilized room with two lines: one for those who were staying in Washington, D.C., and those who had connecting flights to other parts of the country. I joined the huddle of passengers with connecting flights, who were all squeezed together with their hands in their pockets to avoid touching others. The screening took an additional half an hour, 20 minutes of which consisted of waiting in the large huddle. The door was about 100 feet from the front of the group and moving slowly. When I finally caught a glance of the screening process, I saw ten representatives (probably healthcare workers and/or doctors) from the Center for Disease Control dressed head to toe in blue scrubs, mouths and noses masked, sitting at two tables intersected to make an ‘L’. When they were ready for a new passenger, they waved a small American flag.

   When I was flagged over, I saw the representatives wore blue gloves as well. I handed mine the document which said I’d been in Schengen Province (also known as mainland Europe) for at least the last two weeks, I hadn’t had any symptoms (as observed by myself), and that my last stop was in Maine. He asked where I’d been while in Europe, if I’d recently been to Italy or Iran as both countries are highly infected, and if I’d had any symptoms. I told him I’d been studying about an hour outside of Paris, no I hadn’t been to Italy or Iran, and no I didn’t have any symptoms.

   He didn’t take my temperature. He didn’t wait to see if I dry coughed. He didn’t check my lungs for signs of trouble breathing. He took my word for it that I didn’t have any symptoms, put a sticker on my customs card, and told me to tell the security guards by the shuttle back into the airport that I wasn’t infected. He gave me a packet telling me about self-quarantine and what steps I should take since I’ve been in an infected country and waved the stars and stripes for someone else to move forward.

   All of it took less than five minutes. The screening was a joke. I could’ve lied. I could’ve been ignorant of having symptoms. I could’ve spread the Coronavirus to the capital of the United States. The doctor wouldn’t have known because he just took my word for it without testing me for a positive or negative result. This is what was happening in American airports across the country for the first week of the country’s national emergency, and it might still be happening now. Though I hope that the screening has gotten far better, for the sake of other American citizens.

   I have been self-quarantining for the last two weeks for the sake of others because COVID-19 can develop between 2-14 days from exposure, and if I do have the Coronavirus, I don’t want to accidentally spread it. After my quarantine is up, I plan to practice social distancing like the rest of the country to keep myself, my family and friends, and the rest of the country safe. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests the same.

Selling Our Soul to C.M.P.

Madison Lecowitch Contributing Writer

 

   It was a Tuesday night in the Lincoln Auditorium, and the room was brimming with people who traveled to Farmington from all over Maine. Police officers stood watch inside and outside of the auditorium, an unusual spectacle for a usually quiet campus. The crowd had come to testify for and against the proposed Central Maine Power transmission line at a public forum hosted by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.

   CMP has been one of the most talked about topics in Maine for awhile now, with what seems to be the majority of Maine rallying together in opposition of the transmission line. The proposed line would run 145 miles from Quebec to Lewiston, where it will connect to an existing grid. The energy would be generated by Quebec hydro-power and would supposedly provide Massachusetts with clean energy to help the state decrease their fossil-fuel emissions.

   According to the maps plastered all over the internet, the transmission line would run right through my home town of Livermore Falls. My town has an abundance of wild animals, from turkeys to deer who rely on the forest for everything. The transmission line would destroy more of the habitat local fauna need to survive. Although Livermore Falls is already apart of the existing transmission line, the clearing would need to be widened to provide room for the new lines. More forest would be torn down and more chemicals would be used to keep the trees and other plants from regrowing.

   Many of the individuals in favor of the proposed plan spoke about the line traveling through logging forests that are already damaged. They spoke about how the power line would provide clear cuts for animals to find food. They spoke about how the power line would help reverse climate change and prevent disasters expected to occur in the next twelve years if we don’t drastically change our impact on the environment .

   They forgot to mention that the transmission line would damage recreational sites and undeveloped Maine forests and species through habitat fragmentation. They also forgot to mention that the lower power rates promised to Mainers would only be a few measly bucks, while CMP would make billions of dollars in profit.

   The Natural Resource Council of Maine has even stated that the new transmission line might actually increase climate-changing pollution, instead of decreasing it. The council also stated that line would clear vegetation through, “263 wetlands, across 115 streams and 12 inland waterfowl and wading bird habitat areas, and near remote Beattie Pond.”

   How would ruining Maine’s natural lands benefit the environment? Isn’t it best for Maine’s ecosystems if we left the woods alone and let the clear-cut plants grow back? Once the transmission line is put up, there will be no replacing cleared trees with new sprouts. Instead, there is the promise of herbicides to keep vegetation from regrowing.

   One of my greatest goals in life is to become a teacher and live happily in Maine. I’ve never felt the need to go anywhere else. I’m always happy when I cross over the Piscataqua River Bridge after a vacation and return to Maine. I want to be able to take long walks in the forest with my family and I want to swim in pristine lakes every summer. I’m not sure if I, or anyone else, could do that if CMP took control of our state. They already control almost all of the power supplied to Maine, and now they have the chance to control Maine’s environment as well.

   Central Maine Power has been in trouble the past year for raising rates for Mainers and now they want to give up valuable Maine land to benefit another state. The people of Maine shouldn’t be selling our land to a company who is owned by large corporation that’s based in Spain.

Central Maine Power has no interest in protecting Maine’s environment and no interest in benefitting the people who live here. 

Opinion: Campus Police Email Limits Outreach of Art Installation

Avery Ryan Contributing Writer

   The familiar ding of an Instagram notification jumped across my phone late on Sunday, March 31. Intrigued, I looked into the profile that had followed me. I wasn’t expecting the incredibly provocative artwork of UnBEARable UMF.

   My first reactions were of intrigue and curiosity. The bravery of this artist to not only spray political graffiti on university buildings but to parade said graffiti on social media was astounding. The passion for spreading awareness that inspired this courage was successful; I immediately looked further into the Yemeni Civil War mentioned in the account’s first post. I also felt a strange reservation— should I follow this account? If I do, will somebody think I did the graffiti?

   This fear emphasized what was so successful in a piece like this. Provocative public artwork lives on a wide spectrum of success, and this piece’s mystery solidified its accomplishment in starting conversation around its focal topics. This conversation was multiplied in the apparent shock that spread through campus in those first 24 hours. Calls to campus police, whispers among friends, and support and rejection of this approach surged across campus, leading to the premature climax of the exhibit: an email from Director of Public Safety, Brock Caton.

   “Paw Prints Are Not Vandalism — The paw prints seen around campus are an on-going art project and do not need to be reported to Campus Police.  For more information, please see the email traffic below.”

   This short interjection into the project stands out as equally fantastic and disappointing. The confirmation of this being “an on-going art project” and not graffiti removed the assumed bravery of the artwork. It remained meaningful, yet lost much of its power. When I see the paw prints scattered across campus I no longer am driven to discover the motivation for such an installation. I no longer had that spark from the first 24 hours— the excitement and drive to understand why this person had been inspired to such bravery. This email violated my experience of the artistic merit of this project, as I’m sure it did for many others. By sending this email as quickly as they did, campus police prevented a number of students from that initial spark of curiosity that was present from Sunday night to Monday morning.

   Was this a perspective that was unique to me? I sat down for a brief conversation with Student Senate Presidential candidate Jess Freeborn on the subject. “I didn’t see any of the paw prints until after the email was sent out. I think people were alarmed by them.” Freeborn said. “I think I would have been more curious if I had seen the artwork before the email.”

   Nick St. Germain, a senior, echoed these sentiments. “[The paw prints] were pointed out to me specifically as an art project. I didn’t see a point to look further into it because it was just an art project. I would’ve been more excited if I’d seen it and thought it was graffiti.”

   I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that both students were robbed of the excitement and curiosity of first seeing the artwork in its purest form. Their perspective had been modified and the artwork had been limited in its reach.

   Was this the correct approach by campus police? As a university with an occasionally provocative arts program, more flexibility from campus police would have been incredibly beneficial. Imagine the conversations spread across campus had that email been sent out later— the historical and contemporary issues raised by UnBEARable UMF would have stood greater ground and the mystery of what would come next would have been an incredible excitement.

DAM Good Eats Presents: The Downtown Press Café

By Eryn Finnegan and Jeremy Austin President and Staff Reporter

   The latest excursion found our food reviewers once again at a local joint: The Downtown Press Café. Located in downtown Farmington on Marceau Court, in the building where the former Asian cuisine restaurant – Sweet Ginger – once operated. Downtown Press Café is known for their wide array of paninis, breakfast sandwiches and signature waffles.

   The inside of the restaurant has received a substantial makeover since its Sweet Ginger days. The walls are now a warm shade of orange and the counter has moved from the corner of the dining room to a more central location right outside of the kitchen. This gives the space a sense of openness, and creates an inviting atmosphere. T-shirts, mugs and other Downtown Press Café merchandise sit on a shelf off to the side next to the restrooms. There’s also a small coffee and tea bar with a cooler of cold beverages.

   Journalism club president Eryn Finnegan kicked off her meal with a small cup of cheeseburger soup (minus the bun). The cheesy broth, vegetables and beef meatballs evoked the flavors of a traditional cheeseburger, and was just small enough to fill her stomach temporarily and keep her hungry for the main course.

   Following the soup, Finnegan dove into the “Sweet Mama,” a panini layered in crisp, smoky ham, fresh pineapples, and enough honey mustard to lightly coat the bread – but not so much that it dripped from the sandwich and made a mess. The honey mustard was key in tying everything together as the blend of flavors was surprisingly sweet and tangy, creating a memorable flavor profile.

   Staff reporter Jeremy Austin ordered the Whistle Stop, a panini consisting of oven roasted turkey, applewood smoked bacon, tomato, provolone and pesto mayo. The combination was absolutely delicious, and has become the standby order for this staff reporter. The sandwich remained clean and intact, yet was still satisfactorily saucy.

   Along with the paninis, the writers split a five-cheese pizza. It had asiago, romano, parmesan, provolone and mozzarella with a marinara base and Italian spices. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a simple slice of cheese pizza, and this particular one packed a lot of flavor with its blend of cheeses. The pizza was less a pie and more of an elongated flatbread design, giving it a more gourmet appearance.

   Though these reporters were too full by the end of their paninis to experience the sweet side of the Downtown Press Café, dessert options were plentiful and tempting. Dessert offerings can range from cinnamon buns to cupcakes and tarts. In addition to baked goods, the café also offers dessert waffles – with new daily flavors.

   For college students keeping to a tight budget, the Downtown Press Café is worth a try. The café’s menu is plentiful, and a full meal consisting of a panini, a drink, and a soup or a side comes to less than $20.