We have been waiting for this day for a long time now, the day that Harvey could finally get his "teeth fixed." For over a month I have been making smoothies, offering apple sauce, and when that failed using a toothpick to extract tiny pieces of food from inside the cavities exposed on two of Harvey's molars. After the dentist's attempt to fix Harvey's cavities in an office visit failed (if you consider failure Harvey's complete refusal to get into the chair) we had to wait over a month for an O.R. date, when Harvey could be put under general anesthesia to properly fix the problem. This tells you a little something about his stubbornness. Or his pain to don't-mess-with-me ratio. Both are high.
Harvey was looking forward to eating regular food again, and for many days he was asking how soon he could get his teeth fixed. So we proceeded to the hospital in a spirit of bravery, and it wasn't until we got into the pre-op room that he remembered: 'Holy Shit.' There he acted the way he does when he gets anxious, by completely shutting down and hiding in a corner.
Thankfully the team at Franciscan Hospital for Children is used to this sort of behavior, and the child liaison talked to Harvey for half an hour until he calmed down enough to have his vitals taken. She won him over by gifting him a red flashlight that he could wear on his finger. She actually offered him up to ten flashlights, one to wear on every finger of both hands, but Harvey's anxiety blinded him to negotiating clearly and in the end he only took the one.
I had to forcefully remove him from the corner, but once I held him on my lap he calmed down and even extended his arm for a blood pressure. This is less than I've had to restrain him for vaccines, and his compliance was quite a relief. Perhaps a little bit of physical pressure from me reassured him that he couldn't control the events of the day with his own will. Which, you know, is a good thing if you're about to get knocked out by heavy drugs.
The child liaison then led Harvey through a very impressive social story about what was going to happen next.
"Do you know why you're here today?"
Harvey's answer: "mmm."
"Are you here for your teeth?"
"mmm" but with a head nod for Yes.
"Do you know if you're going to be awake or asleep while they fix your teeth?"
"Do you think you're going to be asleep?"
Head nod Yes.
"Do you feel sleepy now?" (this made Harvey giggle.) "Do you usually fall asleep in the middle of the daytime?" (Now he was downright chuckling.) "No? So how are you going to fall asleep?" (mmm) "The doctor is going to give you some sleepy medicine, and I have a special mask right here just for you."
She showed Harvey how the mask would go over his face, and she let him pick stickers to decorate it. She told him that sleepy medicine in the form of gas would come through the mask, and it's kind of smelly, but bravely she said, "It's okay, I have a plan!" Then she let him pick his favorite flavor of chap stick and she spread some of that on the inside of the mask, for a custom olfactory experience.
Then with an iPad in hand she showed Harvey a series of photographs to illustrate what would happen after he got changed into his pijamas.
"This is a picture of the hallway outside this room. Once you get on your pijamas we will take a ride in this bed through the hallway to this big set of doors (next slide). On the other side of doors is this hallway. You can see there's a trashcan and a sink, it's just a hallway. (next slide) Then we will go into this room which is your special room while they're fixing your teeth. This is the tube your mask will attach to, and in this canister is the sleepy medicine. Your mom will stand right here next to you while you breath in the medicine, and you can play a game on this ipad while you're breathing. Now is there anything in this picture that you have a question about?"
(He shakes his head no.)
"Some kids your age wonder what about these two big circles, and I'll tell you that they're just lights and they won't even be turned on."
Suffice it to say that I was very impressed by how above and beyond this was from 'don't be scared.' Really, this woman had me at 'free finger flashlight.'
But if that wasn't enough, she gave Harvey a book with stickers in it, and we spent the next half hour reading and putting stickers in the book. Interspersed with waiting for the doctors, of course, and talking to them about the proper release forms.
The dentist wouldn't know the extent of damage to Harvey's teeth until he got in there, so he had me sign off on several possibilities. These included fillings, caps, extraction, and spacers, all the way up to nerve repair or removal. I wondered how we had come to this, massive dental surgery for my healthy eater who likes salads and only gets candy at parades and Halloween. Then I remembered that even our paleo ancestors suffered from tooth decay, and some things are just out of our control. As evidenced by the posed photo below.
Finally it was time for the surgery. Harvey was not at all nervous getting wheeled down the hall and into the O.R. because his friend was holding an iPad game over his face the entire time. Press press press, he put virtual food in a microwave in anticipation of good things to come, and soon his lids blinked heavily until he was asleep.
I gave him a kiss and was then escorted to the waiting room where I was eager to see how the rest of my family had been keeping busy for the past hour. They seemed to be doing fine.
We had decided to come to the hospital as a family so that I wouldn't be away from the nursing baby for 7 hours, and also so that Dan could deal with the driving/parking aspect of the trip. Dan says the boys were great when I was with Harvey, and Zion only became a complete pain in the ass when I came back into the room, when he screamed that he wanted a diaper and/or he had suddenly become unable to move his legs. He's like that at home too, though. Heaven forbid Harvey get something that he doesn't get, even if it's dental surgery.
Meanwhile Elijah wrecked up the room. Like you do.
It wasn't long though until it was time to wait with Harvey waking up. The total damage (or fixage as it were) came to: two white fillings, a silver cap on one tooth, and an extraction dash spacer deal-y on the other side. No nerve work which, I guess, is a relief. Also, the x-rays revealed an extra tooth coming in on the top. But that, the dentist told me reassuringly, is not something we have to worry about for another year.
Thank God, because this whole process is rather tiring.
I don't have any more pictures from the hospital, because Harvey liked waking up from anesthesia about as much as he likes waking up in the morning, except perhaps a million times LESS AS MUCH. There was a lot of moaning and coughing and moaning, and he wasn't really himself again until he got a nap in the car and woke up to a bowl of chocolate ice cream at home.
Then he demanded all the meals he'd missed on account of fasting. So we called his ice cream breakfast and after that served him yogurt and jam (lunch) followed by clam chowder (dinner) and another bowl of ice cream for dessert. It sure felt good to have my happy eater back again. Now fortified with bionic teeth!
I also feel like I earned some silver myself (albeit in my hair) for surviving my first hospital parenting experience. Altogether we've had an extremely healthy six years. We had three home births, no major accidents, no allergies or illnesses or hereditary conditions. As I listened to parents on the other side of the curtain rattle off daily medications, prior surgery dates, reactions to anesthesia, and behavioral concerns, I was reminded how truly easy my lot is. Even if Zion did scream half the ride home that he wanted the remainder of Harvey's blood-soaked drug-covered popsicle, and Elijah spent the pre-dinner hour playing with a biohazard bag. Most days our hardships are few and our blessings many. And for the harder days, there's ice cream.
ED UPDATE: In between finishing this post and publishing it I came down with the worst stomach flu I've ever experienced (though to be fair, I say that dramatically about every time I get a stomach flu.) Poor Dan, after spending a day at the hospital watching little kids, had to sit on the floor outside the bathroom watching me get sick because I was afraid I would pass out. As with every time I get sick I immediately started to wonder where I was at fault. Worrying so much it suppressed my immune system? Processing my post-surgery anxieties through chocolate? Or maybe it was completely psycho-somatic, and my reaction to seeing my child in pain and vulnerable was to VOID EVERYTHING.
There is something else. When Harvey was recovering from the anesthesia, and totally pathetically bewildered in pain, ("I thought they were going to FIX my teeth! Why do they hurt?") I cried out to God in the fashion of my foremothers, saying "If there's any way for me to take this pain from him, Lord, I'll do it." Now it may be all coincidence or the workings of my mind, but Harvey felt fine and nausea-free once he got home, and after the kids fell asleep I was writhing in pain on the bathroom floor.
When I shared about my prayer of transference (between sobs) Dan asked, "Is that allowed?" My imagined answer was, "Only for Jews."
Now after six hours of torment I am finally recovering and dreaming of Gatorade. The moral of the story is: don't do that guys. Ask Jesus to take your burdens like a good Christian would. And wash your frickin hands a lot when you go to the hospital. Lord have mercy.