Yesterday afternoon, my 10 year old son had six teeth pulled. Because my kid is special, this had to be done by the Chief of Dentistry at our local pediatric hospital. When I say, “special” I mean that my son has bigger medical bills than your son.
Thanks to anxiety, gagging, reflux and a heart condition, this meant general anesthesia for the eighth time. I have always said that watching him get wheeled away to surgery is the hardest part. I was wrong.
Yesterday, the hospital staff gave me the option of joining my son in the operating room until he was asleep. I had never done it before and I was one part happy to be there to comfort him and one part curious about what he has experienced many times while his dad and I have been down the hall drinking waiting room coffee.
I donned something akin to the bunny suit from A Christmas Story, only it was blue and didn’t have ears, and followed the gurney through the heavy OR doors. What happened next is something I will never forget. Hint: It wasn’t a Red Ryder BB Gun.
Once transferred to the operating table, my son began to shake and cry and FLAT OUT refused to breathe the laughing gas coming through his strawberry scented mask. I knew this wasn’t going to go down as planned and when the nurse told me to show him how easy it was, and whispered for me to pretend to breathe into the tube, I would be lying if I didn’t think about taking a gigantic whiff.
Instead I tried to calm my son as four people held him to the table and forced the mask to his face. I placed my head directly in front of his and held his hands tight as I kept repeating, “You’re okay. You’re doing a great job. Good boy.” Over and over and over, for the eternity it took to get him to sleep.
His eyes had fear in them that I hope no parent ever has to see in the eyes of their child and as he tried to yell, “Mommy!” from under the mask, my heart broke into a million pieces. I calmly continued, “It’s okay. I’m right here. You’re doing a great job.” It was like watching a death scene in a movie, only it was real life and I was letting these people suffocate my son.
In less than 30 seconds, his grip on my fingers loosened and they laid him back gently. I picked up the Matchbox car he had thrown across the room and found his glasses that I was sure would be crumpled and smashed, but were actually intact. Then I went to the other side of the OR doors and took off my bunny suit and promptly began crying. I didn’t stop until the doctor came to talk to us.
Today my boy is playing, eating Jell-o like it’s his business, and marveling that the Tooth Fairy left him $20 and let him keep his bag o’ teeth.
But mostly, he’s just getting annoyed at how often I keep grabbing him for extra tight hugs.