We headed out this morning for the 3+ hour drive to Glenwood Springs to visit Kenny's orthodontist. He ate an apple and lost a front bracket on his braces as well as the wire. Wanting to get it taken care of before surgery, we hustled to get an appointment and were on our way.
Upon our arrival, we were ushered in to the orthodontist's office for a quick consult, where he shared with us that he had just gotten off the phone with Shriner's, and it was requested that Kenny have 4 baby teeth pulled today in order to have time for healing for surgery. We knew it was possible he might have to have 2 pulled, but had been told they would do it during surgery, but after receiving copies of his latest xrays they decided 4 had to go in order to allow more tissue to use to try and close the palate again.
Dr. Johnson knows of Kenny's fears of procedures and handled it beautifully, presenting it as if Kenny had options, explaining everything, and explaining why it would be best to do it today so the surgery could go ahead as planned, I talked with Kenny and between us we decided he would go ahead with it, and I was so proud of his courage for what I know was a very intimidating and scary decision for him. He asked two or three times if they would give him the shots to numb it, as that was what he was more concerned about and if that would hurt. Dr. Johnson said they would have to leave that up to the dentist who shares his office space with him, and then he handed us over to the dentist to do his work. I explained to the dentist about Kenny's fears, and how we had to let Kenny lead on this. He was a young guy, kind of cocky and blew me off a little but I trust Dr. Johnson and knew he would pick someone good with kids to partner with him, so didn't worry too much.
Perhaps I should have...
We get into the back office area and they give Kenny nitrous to mellow him out and use the gel to numb his gums.. Kenny asks 3 or 4 times about the shots, and the dentist reassures him he won't need any becausde they are baby teeth and he is at the age they should be ready to come out and probably have very little root anyway. I am reading a People magazine, glancing up here or there as Kenny is so mellow there was no real concern and he was floating quite high :-) The next thing I hear is Kenny saying a quick "ouch" and the dentist saying "I am just wiggling that gel in there Kenny, no problem.". He and the nurse have their backs to me and at my angle I can not really see what is going on.
Then I see a needle being hidden down below Kenny's line of vision and I realize the dentist just lied to him, and continues to do so as he is injecting his gums again to numb them. I was livid, but also realized if I said anything at that moment Kenny would jerk up in a panic and was likely to get hurt so I decided to clamp my lips together and shut up for the moment, praying Kenny didn't catch on.
I was SO MAD!!! We have always promised Kenny we would be 100% honest about any medical procedure, and that when possible we would give him choices. This is a kid who has literally had pliers used on his teeth in the orphanage, and was also often not told about medical procedures until they were about to begin. His anxiety level with medical procedures is understandably high, and we have worked 3 years to gain his trust that Mom and Dad will always tell the truth, even if the truth isn't pretty. We have made great strides in this time, and it is because Kenny knows he can always trust us to give him the straight scoop...so when we tell him these days that something really won't hurt much at all, he is able to calm himself significantly based upon that trust in us, where before he would flip out over everything because he didn't believe what anyone told him.
Thankfully, Kenny did not figure it out during the procedure, and within a half an hour all 4 teeth were pulled.
I was going to have a little chat with the dentist to express my displeasure, but before I could he starts pounding on me about 2 of Kenny's bottom molars that have the beginnings of cavities in them and need to have fillings. I explained to him that we were not expecting this procedure today which was quite expensive, and were not prepared to deal with the other financially for a bit but would get to it. He continued and pushed and made me feel like a totally rotten and neglectful mother because I was not willing to do the work today or schedule an appointment to do so. I explained to him that we had 5 kids, 2 new to us that also needed significant dental work and that was going to have to come first...and the truth is that Kenny's are not full fledged cavities yet and this is more preventative than it is medically necessary. Sure I'd love to catch it right now at this stage, but we have to prioritize and Angela's crown has to come first, as does Olesya's chipped front tooth that bothers her tremendously. We are working on getting these things taken care of now. I couldn't believe I was actually sitting there justifying to this guy who had just lied to my son why I was not going to get a procedure done right then. I might add that his price was $563 for two minor fillings. We have not had to fill any cavities yet on any of our kids, but is this SERIOUSLY the going rate these days?? It felt more like I was trapped in a used car salesman's office being tortured until I gave in and purchased the extended warranty policy!!
I left the office fuming after refusing to sign a document outlining the costs for the fillings, which looked to me like it was essentially binding me financially to get it done.
Now, I know the reason he didn't want Kenny to know about the needle, and I understand he didn't want to deal with a child's fear if he didn't need to, but he should have consulted me before lying to Kenny. Kenny left with a false illusion that there is a way to do extractions without needles, and that needles hurt way worse than they actually do, as he experienced today. We were halfway home when he was talking to his siblings about it and explaining how they didn't even use a needle when I told him the truth, and why I had not intervened. I apologized profusely, told him that I promised him I would never lie about anything and I honestly hadn't known what was going on until it was too late, and then for his safety I made the decision to let the procedure continue since I knew it would not mean more pain for him. I asked his forgiveness for allowing this to happen, and told him I hoped he understood why I acted the way I did. I wanted him to understand that he HAD experienced the needles so that he could recognize that it really didn't hurt bad. Because he has years of ongoing difficult procedures, I wanted him to be confident knowing that he didn't need to panic in the future if a needle was required because he now knew it was all OK and wasn't that bad at all.
I then asked Kenny what he thought I should have done, what he might have done in my position. He thought about it a lot, and a few minutes later replied "Mommy, I think you did the right thing. I know you wouldn't want me to get hurt, and that had to be a very hard decision for you to make right then, especially when you were so mad. I don't think you lied to me, you were just protecting me from being more hurt. But that dentist is not a good man, he shouldn't have lied to you or me. I will never trust him now ever again." and I told him that neither would I and we would not see him again, that we only wanted to work with medical people whom we could trust.
You know, you work and work to gain a child's trust, to move past their very rational fears from their past, and after years of hard work someone can potentially blow it all up for you with one reckless action. I know many parents probably would have preferred the lie, they might even be happy that the work was done and their child was none the wiser. I also know many might shake their heads at my decision to reveal to Kenny what really happened, but honesty is honesty and I want him understanding how all of these procedures are nothing to be afraid of...and that Mom will always tell you the truth. The next procedure with the next dentist might require a needle and Kenny would still have a fear of it, and also a different expectation of what it all will feel like.
But I feel lousy tonight, I know I failed him and am kicking myself. I am also mad at myself for not standing up to the "medical guilt bullying" that was attempted to get me to agree to more costly procedures. I was embarrassed at the fact that we flat out couldn't afford to drop almost $1000 total at the dentist in one afternoon (Like who CAN without warning??? I know we sure aren't the only ones!) and wanted to "shop around" the fillings to see if we could find a lower fee, Why I was feeling embarrassed, I don't really understand, as part of our health care system problem is that many of us DON'T shop for services. I was upset and angry over the way the extractions were handled, and I slunk out of there feeling about 2 feet tall. Of course I called Dominick on the cell immediately to vent, but it didn't help much.
As usual though, Kenny was wonderfully understanding and insightful when at the and of our conversation he said "It can be really hard being a mom and knowing what decisions to make. I am glad you are the Mom, you always seem to make the right ones." Feels like quite undeserved trust tonight.