Nothing could have prepared us for it. I wrack my brains to see if there’s anything I could’ve done to save him from this morning. In fairness we did a few things. So there should be no guilt. And yet.
Some weeks ago I rocked up to the school dentist with marque 4 complaining of a sore tooth. A swift check had a cavity diagnosed and it was quickly filled. Great. Until five days later in school when he sneezed and the filling flew out across the classroom. A couple of weeks later the complaints began again. We traipsed to the school dentist. An abscess was diagnosed. Antibiotics were prescribed. I asked, perhaps a little suspiciously, why the filling had flown out of his mouth. I was told that the abscess probably pushed it out. Silly me. I had been wondering if it was made up properly. Off we tootled to try the antibiotic route. Great. Until three days later when the vomiting bug visited and he couldn’t continue to take his medicine. A week or so after that we were back at the school dentist. Along with hundreds of others, it being the Monday after Hallowe’en. We waited two and a half hours to be seen. A different antibiotic was prescribed. And a conversation began about saving the tooth versus extracting it. I was told that for a HSE dentist the only course of action in situation like this is extraction. But I could make an appointment with a private kids’ dentist and see if root canal treatment plus crowning would be possible.
‘That’s what I’d do if it were me’ the sage dentist said. ‘As he’s only eight and has another four years before the second tooth is due to appear. It’s entirely up to you though. We can pull it out if that’s what you choose’.
Well that wasn’t a choice was it? What parent would say ‘ah just yank it out there’ when it could possibly be saved. When the good dentist herself would do that for her child. We made an appointment with the very busy private kiddie dentist. For an ‘assessment’. Two weeks down the road. I forgot to ask what an assessment meant or what it might cost. Silly me.
I managed to dodge that appointment and father and son took off to a whole new world. By the time we met up for a coffee, after dropping marque 4 to school, he was reluctant to speak about it. An acute form of allergic claustrophobia had kicked in as soon as he set foot in the plush colourful waiting room and it only got worse. He was drawn into the lair and performed to in a sing along fashion. Shown how to brush his teeth – the father that is – and told that the tooth in question might well be for the tooth fairy. But sure we’ll X-ray and see what’s going on. €150 euros later he left with a treatment plan heading well north of a grand – for milk teeth – and with the knowledge that the troublesome tooth could not be saved. Oh and with a food/tooth brushing chart. Worth every cent so. ‘Do you agree to this treatment plan?’ the form asks us. Sign on the line. No we bloody well do not.
Back to the lovely free no-frills non-performing school dentist it is. We play tag on it. He gets him there on time. I get the others to school. Then I get there and take over. Just as the anaesthetic begins to take hold. Just prior to the job in question. He scarpers merrily off to a meeting. We chat – the dentist, her assistant and myself – about how marque 4 is a super long distance runner. How he can out-run all his brothers. We are, I take it, relaxing him. But he’s not worried. Neither am I. I’ve told him he might be getting a day off. Depending on how feels. Which he knows really means he’s getting a day off. Even if I’ve dressed him in his uniform. I’m wondering how soon it will be before the local anaesthetic wears off and I can take him out for a treat. Before I’ve had time to sing a few more of his praises she’s up with her wrench.
‘You might feel a little tug’ she says ‘and there can be some sound effects’ and she smiles knowingly at me, in cahoots as we now are, but I know not why. Not yet. She tugs and she pulls and he lets out a whimpering groan and there’s an almighty elongated crunch and his legs are wriggling and I’m up holding him, my eyes stinging, telling him how brave he is and there’s more tugging. Brutal, brutal, horror show stuff. He is groaning ‘no, no’ as the colour drains right out of him and a sweat breaks out around his little nose and on his furrowed brow. I hold his clammy hand and tell him that it’s over but he’s still in agony and suffering from shock, murmuring ‘no’ repeatedly. Like after an assault. A floored, bewildered victim. No, no, no. But no one can hear. He thinks he’s going to throw up so the assistant produces what looks like a bed pan and I think I might throw up too. I just want to grab him and run the hell out of here. But there are instructions for care being mouthed at my frozen brain. He now looks like he’s going to faint rather than puke so we prop him and pull his legs up – they’ve been dangling over the side of the chair in a bid to escape. The assistant swears she sees a trace of colour return to his cheeks, invisible though it might be to the mother, which means it’s time to go. I scan the room for a recovery corner and have a little chat with myself. Surely there’s a recovery area in here for query fainting patients? You can’t just turf us out onto the street keeling over, can you? Can you? Is it just me or is everyone deaf and blind in here? Did you not hear my son saying no? Can you not see him now? Where’s the heart? Maybe sing along Sue should’ve been given a chance after all. I bet she’d have somewhere cosy for us to sit a while.
I can’t carry him out as there’s another little boy waiting to be seen and we don’t want to scare him. Or his mother for that matter. The boy is from a younger class the dentist informs us. Marque 4, it is hinted, heavily, is to go out looking like a big brave role model. So he gives an encouraging little ghostly wave as he wobbles gingerly by and when we’re out of sight I swoosh him up in my arms. I strap him into the car and as the seat belt clicks he goes out cold. His body just shuts down with the sheer shock. I’ve never seen anything like it. It is all of 9.20 in the morning. I just want to get him home to the couch now and see his eyes opening with a glimmer of trust left in them. Please God. And then we’ll clean up the grisly tooth for the lucky fairies.