Janey had dental surgery on Thursday. You don't hear a lot of positive dental surgery stories, I don't think, but I've got one to tell!
The background---Janey has gotten dental care at school over the years, a service for kids without dental insurance, like ourselves! Gradually, though, it became harder for her to be treated at school, because, well, she's autistic and she didn't cooperate. When we went to Boston Medical Center's autism center, they recommended Franciscan Children's Hospital for dental care for her. We are lucky in Boston to have a few children's hospitals. The big one, Boston Children's Hospital, is certainly the place to go for a severe medical emergency, but it has some issues, and is not a terribly autism-friendly place. Franciscans caters especially to children with special needs. It's not a flashy place---it looks as I would bet a lot of hospitals looked in the 40s or 50s, but we decided to give it a try. They saw Janey for a dental consult, and we were very happy with them for that. It took 5 people to get Janey in a papoose hold so they could look well at her teeth, and they did it in such a kind and caring way, both to Janey and to us. They found she had two cavities and also a broken tooth. We have no idea how her tooth got broken, but guess that it might have been when she was having a tantrum and biting things. It was a molar and broken in the back, and we never saw it. She never seemed in pain from it, and indeed you could press right on it and it didn't seem to bother her, but it needed to be fixed. She also needed good x-rays, which weren't going to happen when she was awake, so they decided she needed dental surgery.
It took a few months to get all the approvals and doctor's visits and so to arrange the surgery. We had to pre-pay for the dental part of it, which was a financial hit, but actually so far not as much of one as we had feared. Still, a chunk of change, but it had to be done. Our regular health insurance will cover the surgery part, minus of course our 15% co-pay (and let me say here, if anyone thinks federal employees have some great kind of health insurance, think again. They don't) But that aside, everything got in place and we got a date for the surgery.
Tony and I were both nervous out of our minds about the surgery. Mainly, we were worried about not being able to feed Janey after midnight, and about how she would react to all of it. We could picture a nightmare. We didn't get one.
We fed Janey all we could before the midnight deadline, and kept her up as much as we could so she would sleep from midnight on without wanting food or water. We locked up all food in the house, as she tends to get up and forage. The first nice thing the hospital did was give us an early surgery. We had to be there at 6:30 am for a 7:30 surgery. Janey slept well, we woke her and drove her there, and she only ever asked for food a few times---chips, as she associates going to the doctor with chips.
The surgery took about 90 minutes. When it was over, the dentist/surgeon came and showed us all the x-rays, and said they hadn't found any extra problems, and that her teeth overall looked very good and clean, which made us very happy. We've tried extra hard over the years to be good with brushing her teeth, and she actually does like her teeth brushed, unlike a lot of kids with autism. She does have what they call "delayed dentation". She is just starting to get her 6 year molars. I don't know if that has anything to do with her autism, or if it's just a genetic thing. When I was in college, a dentist told me I was just starting to get my 12 year molars, so that might be just something she got from me!
Janey woke up quite well from the anesthesia. She was sleepy, but we got her up, and there was a true minimum of crying, less than on a typical day! The nurse with us was so sweet. Everyone there seemed focused on making sure Janey felt comfortable. For example, when she struggled with the automatic blood pressure machine, they got out a non-automatic one, let her play with it a bit, and then used that instead to make it quicker. The nurse walked with us to our car when Janey was ready to leave.
Janey was a bit sleepy all day after the surgery, but nothing extreme at all. They had given her long acting pain medication during the surgery, and we gave her Tylenol a few times, and we didn't see any signs of pain at all from her. By the next day, it was like the whole thing hadn't happened.
I tell this long story in order to give credit to the hospital, and to all the little things they did that made this work---sedation before the mash, IV after the mask, long term pain medication, calm personal nursing and doctor care, a nice waiting room, understanding of Janey's fears, quickly allowing us to make changes like the syringe when necessary---I felt the day was a great example of autism-friendly medical care.
Franciscans doesn't have a flashy look or reputation, but it shows what we've seen quite a few times with Janey. Sometimes, it's better to go with a hospital (or a school, or a store, or a therapist) that is used to dealing with children who are in need of understanding and caring just as much as they are in need of the latest shiny equipment.