Donning a wee surgical gown, pre-surgery

For those who have been following our tooth decay journey, I thought I would share the final instalment.

Initially, we planned to go through the NSW public health system. Elka was on a 365 day waiting list, and that meant exactly that – we had no idea when we would receive the phone call to take her down to Casino hospital for a procedure. I freaked a little when I had to sign the form that approved “fillings & extractions” at the dental surgeon’s discretion. Eek. So we began to look into alternatives.

A dental surgeon in Alstonville had been recommended to us, so we got into see him, and he was lovely. He didn’t push us into anything, but said he could get Elka on the list for the 9th December, and it would cost about $2,000 (out of pocket). It was a big expense, but we said to ourselves that this was our daughter’s health, and a primary concern. For peace of mind, and a clear procedure date, we were prepared to pay.

So, Thursday night, both Gregor & I lay awake in nervous anticipation. How would Elka respond to the anaesthetic? How would she go? would she need extractions? Would she feel pain after the procedure? Fortunately, as brilliant as she is, Elka does not have the same capacity to imagine the future.

I anticipated the worst bit would be the fasting prior to the anaesthetic. In the end, it wasn’t so bad. She had a good meal the night before, and in the morning I hid the fruit bowl, and didn’t eat my breakfast in front of her. I wanted to keep her occupied, so we made a Christmas tree (see my next post for more details on this!), which worked well. She happily trundled off to hospital; her only request for the morning being: “Mummy, apple? I want apple.” She has been raised well.

She obligingly changed into a very sweet little surgical gown, steadfastly refused Panadol (go Elka), and graciously accepted the very ugly but generously donated knitted teddy in a bag with other goodies. Although she was starved and deprived of water, she coloured-in while we waited, chatting all the while, and raising no fuss.

We went in about 10.30am for the anaesthetic. The anaesthetist had explained to me that he would sing a song to Elka while putting a gas mask on her nose and mouth, then we would lie her on the bed for her to receive the anaesthetic intravenously. I expected her to resist, but she was perfect, leaning into my chest, and allowing the gas to do its work. My eyes filled with tears as I lay my precious angel on the bed and walked away. There was such purity in her trust and acceptance. As you may know, I rarely shed a tear unless I am watching a movie, but I couldn’t control the stream as I left the room.

Twenty minutes later, the dentist came out to tell me that it all went very well, and he wanted to congratulate us on Elka’s excellent teeth. The issue, he said, was not diet related, but enamel hypoplasia, which may have been caused by a pre or post natal fever, or another unidentified metabolic issue. He could tell because only certain teeth were defected, in a pattern that exactly mimicked the teeth’s development. It was so reassuring, because part of my crisis surrounding this tooth decay affair was the uncertainty. What on earth did we do wrong? Dentists would tell us it was because I breast fed her to sleep, or should have brushed her teeth as soon as they arrived, or she drank too much oat milk or ate too much fruit or I didn’t take fluoride when I was pregnant…the explanations were endless. It was such a relief to hear it was incidental, and there is nothing we could have done. Essentially Elka’s teeth are healthy. I was told Elka had been wheeled to recovery, and they would let me know when she awoke.

I expected the worst when they told me she was awake – in an unknown hospital room with a row of sleeping old people and nurses she had never met. However, when I came in, Elka was sitting up in bed chatting and laughing with the staff. I couldn’t believe it. She was so thrilled! And so were the staff – why can’t they all be like this, they asked?

After an adult sized Vegemite sandwich, a huge apple juice, a banana and a tub of yoghurt, Elka was released into the world, and labelled fighting fit and ready to go. I was so proud of my darling girl, for her bravery and acceptance of everything, and for her beautiful shining white teeth. Gregor and I were both so relieved everything went so smoothly.

So…the teeth decay series is finally over. Thank you for tuning in, and for your kind thoughts and wishes throughout the whole debarcal. The good news is that I know a lot of parents who have been inspired by my story to brush their children’s teeth religiously. I am glad there is a legacy.

Have you ever had experience with children going into hospital? What was it like for you?