Fair warning: this post is frenetic and disorganized at best. We had a terrible ER visit on Saturday and I do not even know how to come to terms with it. I am hoping that writing about it will help me heal.
This weekend we went from this:
…and my mama heart is sick over it. Chipmunk landed face first on the ceramic tile floor. It cracked his front tooth all the way into the gum. It was all but impossible to find a pediatric dentist on a Saturday, so we ended up at Children’s Hospital. We tried our hardest to avoid going to Children’s because the billing department is mean, lazy, and incompetent. We still are not confident that they have properly billed our insurance for our last visit in October. Several fellow parents have had similar experiences. Heading back to Children’s for another billing nightmare was not particularly appealing.
That choice was ultimately taken out of our hands when we could not find anywhere else to go. I will spare you the specific play-by-play, but know that our child was not given the appropriate pain medication for a procedure that went horribly, horribly south. His blood curdling screams of pain will haunt my dreams for a long time. (This is not an exaggeration. I had nightmares Saturday night and Husband said I was talking and moaning in my sleep.) Chipmunk’s screams did not stop the dental resident from continuing to dig the pieces from his gums. She kept saying, “I’m almost done. I’m almost done.” Yet minutes later she was still digging. There was never a re-evaulation of the situation or the thought that the medication for the initial procedure was no longer enough. Our nurse was never informed that the extraction was taking place. The look of fury on her face when she came racing around the corner to us was all the validation I needed. While Husband was holding Chipmunk, I began silently bawling in the corner. My child was effectively being tortured by someone I was supposed to trust, and I felt powerless to stop it. As a mother, I failed him.
We received apologies from a few nurses and the attending doctor when it was done. Chipmunk’s nurse was in tears as she apologized to us. Discovering she is a mother of a three-year-old bonded us in that ER room. When she rounded the corner and heard Chipmunk’s screams, she knew he was in pain – even though the resident tried to tell us that Chipmunk had not felt anything. Having had dental work numbed by lidocaine done on my own teeth, that statement did not fly. Being an expert on my child’s scream, I flat out call BS. Her coldness toward our son and general lack of awareness or concern for his pain level was absolutely horrifying. Even worse was being told, “We do this in the clinic all the time.” Needless to say, we will not be doing our two week follow up at that clinic.
This is the treatment we received at a top ten ranked Children’s Hospital.
We feel guilty because we did not step in and stop it. Guilty because we did not realize our nurse should be with us. If she had been there she would have intervened. I feel guilty because Chipmunk busted his tooth while we were baking Easter cookies that I insisted we make. Husband feels he failed because he is a paramedic who knows enough about pain medications to have stepped in and, at the very least, asked to speak with the nurse or attending before continuing the extraction. He is not giving himself any credit for asking about pain medications before we even took Chipmunk back to the dental chair. We believed the dentist, at least for a while, when she reassured Chipmunk that she was almost done pulling his tooth. After all, the extraction should have been quick. It was not her fault that his tooth broke into multiple pieces.
I am rambling. Sorry. Clearly, I am struggling to process this event. It was traumatizing for all of us. Going to church on Sunday morning helped. It was healing to speak with other moms about the horror of hearing your child scream in pain, watching him contort his body in incredible ways, and sweat through every inch of his clothes; about the powerlessness and pain of a mother who, holding her inconsolable child, had to put him back in the dentist’s arms for a second round because there was still a fragment in his gums. Their tears as I explained the procedure was reaffirming. It was validating. Speaking to an MD about it and watching the horror and disapproval in his own eyes was equally ratifying.
At the end of the day, what was already a tough experience was catapulted into the world of trauma. Chipmunk has begun having nightmares. While we cannot say what the nightmares entail, we cannot help but wonder if they are related to Saturday’s visit. He is not one to have bad dreams often and the timing is suspicious.
It is going to take time to come to terms with this one. It is going to take time to not tear up whenever I see the gap in Chipmunk’s mouth. I will not stop worrying that other children will make fun of Chipmunk for the missing tooth until his permanent one has replaced it. And I know it is going to take more mourning before I am over the “loss” of full-toothed kindergarten photos. At the end of the day, we are grateful it was only a tooth that was damaged (as opposed to, say, his brain) and that it was a baby tooth at that. That does not change the way it all played out, though. No. That clock cannot be turned back.