A Lot of Nothing, With a Side of Frustration

I spent all of last night trying to psych myself up for today, prepared for Cordy to endure dental torture and probably some kind of sedating agent to allow tooth professionals to perform said dental torture.

No one told me the torture would be all mine today.

We arrived at the dental clinic at Children’s Hospital at 12:15pm. The emergency clinic opened at 1:00, so we took a number (#3 at 45 min. early!) and waited. Cordy was a little unsure of the waiting room, made worse minute by minute as more and more people filled the tiny room, eventually taking up every seat. It became loud and chaotic quickly. I silently hoped that, as #3 in line, we’d quickly be whisked away from the din of that waiting room.

The clock struck one and the registration window opened. #3 was called five minutes later and I approached the window, only to be turned away with a clipboard full of paperwork and instructions to return when I had filled it all out. Meanwhile, other numbers were called and other children were shuffled back into the office. I used my best speed penmanship to complete the forms and rush back to the window. I was again told to have a seat and they would let me know when they needed me again.

45 minutes later, we still waited. The room was still loud, Cordy was begging to go home and complaining of hunger. My head was pounding. When our name was called again, we went to the window only to be given an ID sticker to put on Cordy’s shirt, with the message to sit down and wait more.

Half an hour later, it was time to see the doctor.

We were brought back into a tiny room, where I explained what I knew: Cordy’s lower right back molar was broken, she may be in pain but we can never be sure, and she’s a difficult patient. The doctor coaxed Cordy into showing her the tooth (thanks to my offer to let Cordy cook tonight if she cooperated). The doctor then immediately launched into a lecture on cavities that made me feel about two inches tall. She seemed to assume I fed Cordy a steady diet of Mountain Dew and pixie sticks.

“Wait,” I interrupted, “How does she have a cavity? She doesn’t eat a lot of sweets, we brush her teeth, and I check her teeth weekly. I’ve never noticed even a darkish spot on that tooth. And she never eats hard candy or anything harder than a Goldfish cracker.”

The doctor paused, then told me how fluoride toothpaste can mask a cavity, effectively covering it up with a fluoride shell. I’ll admit, that made no sense to me at all. But then as she continued on, I again felt like she was somehow saying this was all my fault.

She then confirmed what I suspected: Cordy would need general anesthesia to repair the tooth. The better news? As long as it isn’t infected, they will be able to cap the tooth and not need to pull it. Then she told me, “The wait time for dental surgery right now is about 8-10 weeks.”

I stared at her hard for a moment, not sure if I heard her correctly. “You mean for routine stuff, right?”

“No, I mean for any dental surgery.”

As you know, I am nearly-a-nurse. I understand that a parent’s sense of urgency isn’t always the same as a medical sense of urgency. In that moment, however? I was ready to call the doctor a quack.

“8-10 weeks? But what if she’s in pain? We’re supposed to let her be in pain for 8-10 weeks?” I then explained Cordy’s odd pain reception, and how we don’t know if she’s hurting or not. She now won’t let me brush the tooth, so I can only assume she’s hurting. “There’s no way I can let her hurt for 8-10 weeks.”

The doctor nodded. “Well, since she is special needs, and has unique sensory issues, we can then consider that she is in pain and find an earlier surgery date. I believe there might be some spots available in 2-3 weeks.”

Again, a look of stupor had to show on my face. “2-3 weeks is considered acceptable for a child in pain?”

The doctor then tried to explain to me that there was acute pain and chronic pain, and how this is likely chronic pain, which a child can “get used to.” Ah. Well, that explains everything. She can just get used to hurting. No prob.

The entire procedure was explained to me, and I agreed that it sounded like the best possible procedure. General anesthesia gives them a chance to check for any other problems, correct them if needed, and give her teeth a good cleaning while she’s there.

So now we’re waiting to get a surgery date sometime in the next 2-3 weeks. And Cordy has to get a physical, also, to rule out anything that could prevent her from having surgery. (Including “malignant hyperthermia” according to the doctor, which I know can’t be determined from a simple physical.)

I am completely on-board with the procedure. It’s what Cordy needs. I also know that not everyone can walk-in and have dental surgery, despite what the ER led me to believe. I’m frustrated by the long wait, however. If Cordy’s tooth doesn’t become infected, we can save it. But if it does, the tooth will be pulled, which could throw off the spacing in her mouth. As someone who had braces for 5 years, I’d rather not screw up the good spacing she currently has. And the longer it takes to get this done, the greater the chance of infection, not to mention being in pain for longer than I would like.

The entire time the doctor and I talked, Cordy was miserable, sitting near the door, pulling on the doorknob begging to go home. She was scared by the medical equipment in the room, and the doctor often got right in her face, which is good for many kids, but completely intimidates Cordy. I hate that I had to put her through that today, and will have to put her through it again, along with a trip to her pediatrician, too.

We left Children’s Hospital exhausted: Cordy still with a broken tooth, and me with a killer headache and a lot of frustration. Cordy winced tonight when I brushed her teeth, denying that it hurt but showing signs that it did. The prescription painkiller (hydrocodone) did nothing to make it better, and in typical Cordy response, actually made her more alert and awake instead of drowsy.

This is one of those times when I can’t make everything better for her, and it really upsets me. I feel helpless, stuck in the system. I’m not asking for any kind of special treatment, either. In some ways, the special treatment we need is causing this to take longer – if Cordy could sit still and be a compliant patient, everything would have been fixed today in the dentist’s chair.

But as her mom, with all nearly-a-nurse knowledge put aside, I think it’s unfair to make her endure more pain because a condition she can’t control keeps her from being a model patient. I want to rage about how insane this all is to someone who can do something, but it wouldn’t help. It’s not rational, but isn’t that part of what being a parent is all about? We want to protect our children against anything, against all enemies, even if those enemies are reason and logic. Mama bear instinct is strong.

So now, we wait. And I make every effort to relax, while watching Cordy closely for signs of infection and hoping she isn’t hurting.

I hate this.

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  1. kimbearly says:

    quit kicking yourself! first of all you are cordys mom….you know her better than anyone. you are her first advocate and protector. second you are not “nearly a nurse”…. you are a nurse….you finished school,have all the education…

    you have a special place in this world—-mom/nurse to cordy who needs a fierce advocate to make her life wonderful!

  2. Kimbearly – Thanks, and you’re right. Oh, and I call myself “nearly-a-nurse” because legally you aren’t allowed to call yourself a nurse until you have your license. For now, I have to go with that term, even though I do have all the training. :)

    Amelia – I am asking to be put on the waiting list, too. Any cancellations, etc. – as long as we have enough notice to keep her from eating, we’ll show up.

  3. This just simply stinks. I agree with Amelia, start calling them each night to see if they have a cancellation. They will get tired of you calling and will probably get you in sooner.

    *bats eyelashes* Not that I know anything about that…LOL

  4. That is just ridiculous! You should not have to wait that long. I really hope you can get in sooner. My daughter jammed one of her front teeth up into the gums when she was 2. It came back down and was ok for a while, but ended up infected about 5 months later and had to be pulled. I share that only to say–if you do have to wait the 2-3wks, hopefully she’ll stay infection free.

  5. I just want to give you a general show of support and say “Arrgghhhh” for you.

  6. Amelia Sprout says:

    As someone who has been through huge amounts of dental work (some of it even in Columbus) I think you both did great. It is unfortunate there seems to be such a shortage of available appointments. I would ask for a waiting list spot for sure given infection concerns.

  7. Jennifer, Playgroups Are No Place For Children says:

    I’m shocked! I can’t believe they’d make her wait 2-3 weeks or worse, 8-10 weeks?!?

    I’m crossing my fingers for a quicker appointment, or for her pain to magically disappear.

  8. *Shakes head in indignation* – I can’t believe they’re making poor Cordy wait that long! I’m with everyone else, keep calling to check on cancellations, maybe they’ll set you up with something just to get some breathing space! I’d try calling the pediatrician and the ER doc who looked at her too, tell them about the wait and find out if they have any suggestions. Maybe they’ll be able to swing something with the clinic that you (as “just a mom”) can’t. We’ll be thinking about you guys!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Have you considered calling around to other dental practivies in the area, and explaining your situation.

  10. Man that so sucks – is that your only option of doctors?! I hope that the infection stays down and remember this is NOT your fault you have done all you could!

  11. It’s bad enough that you have to go through this in the first place, but waiting always seems to make it more insufferable. And doctors always make me question myself: Am I being too pushy? Am I overreacting? Am I drunk and not making any sense? You know, all of those typical questions. I feel for you.

  12. I’m so sorry you and Cordy are going through this! Though I’m not fully aware of her sensory issues, as others have mentioned, you ARE her mom. You know her better than anyone and care for her better than anyone. She’s lucky to have Mama bear on her side!

  13. Motherhood Uncensored says:

    Ugh sorry C. Aside from the need for GA, the idea that she has to walk around without a tooth for that long would make me completely insane.

  14. Ugh. I hate people who say “I’ve been there” but um… I’ve been there.

    It is total CRAP that way “special needs” are dealt with in this way. Because you are right – the cap would have been done easy-peasy had Cordy been a “model patient.”

    One unsolicited suggestion: ask if she really needs GA or whether a milder sedative could work. For us, just the pre-sedative calmed down my son enough that they could have EASILY done what needed to be done without actually knocking him completely out.

    (As a [nearly-]nurse, you probably know much more about the possibilities therein – but there is definitely middle ground between nothing and GA.)

    In our case, we were REQUIRED to pay $800 out-of-pocket for the GA and as you know – “special needs” issues are not considered “medically relevant” (despite laws to the contrary) so pay we did.

    However, the next time he had a procedure done, I told them that he’d be fine with the mild sedative… and they agreed, and he was – dare I say it – a model patient.

  15. Have you tried contacting the dental school at Ohio State U. They may be able to accomodate you sooner. They should be epuipped to handle sedation. You can also ask the pediatritions office who they refer to for pediatric dental needs. Worth a shot at getting in sooner! Good Luck!

  16. I feel so badly for BOTH of you. Your readers have made some good suggestions. You could maybe even come over to Eye and Ear hospital in Pittsburgh where they do a LOT of oral surgeries..or maybe even Children’s Hospital here in the ‘Burgh?? I hope this gets resolved quickly for you both!

  17. Rachael says:

    How incredibly frustrating. I’m sorry!

  18. My special needs cat (he’s semi feral) went to the vet today with an infected paw. They were instantly able to sedate him and treat it. Can you teach Cordy to mew?

  19. My special needs cat (he’s semi feral) went to the vet today with an infected paw. They were instantly able to sedate him and treat it. Can you teach Cordy to mew?

  20. Mrs. Chicken says:

    Poor baby. And poor mama. Posts like these make me crazy — everyone should be able to get dental service when they need it. I can only imagine how frustrated you are about this!

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