A few days ago, Nancy wrote about her struggle to find a therapist for herself. We face a similar dilemma with Cami on many of the “normal kids’ doctors” front. God is so faithful, though, to guide us to the health professionals who are best for Cami and her needs. Sometimes, God leads us by trial and error. Other times, it takes a calamity.
When we moved to Virginia, Cami was five years old. She had tubes in both her ears and wore glasses for strabismus (eyes crossing). Although we didn’t have a professional diagnosis, we knew Cami processed life differently than other kids her age. That meant Cami’s Mommy (me) was a nervous wreck taking Cami to a new doctor. Or dentist. Or anyone who would poke and prod her.
We found a reputable pediatric practice. The doctors were doctors–not mean, but not overly personable. The nurses gave her shots and wanted to take blood to test her cholesterol. It took three of us to hold her down for the blood test. I’m sure people in the parking lot could hear her screaming. It hurt my heart to see Cami so scared and upset. We eventually discovered that Cami trusted the nurse practitioner, so we made all out appointments with her. Until she moved away.
We found a reputable pediatric dentist. The first few visits went fine, and then it happened. We went in for a routine cleaning at the end of the day. When they lowered Cami’s head too far backwards, she couldn’t breathe through her nose. Of course, the dentist stuck his hands in Cami’s mouth, and Cami started flapping her hands and pushing to sit up.
The dentist tried to keep her in a lying-down position so he could finish his work (counting teeth, I think). Cami fought harder. I stepped in and said, “Wait. Let her sit up.” I knew my child wouldn’t disobey an adult’s direct orders unless there was an extenuating reason. In this case, she couldn’t breathe.
The situation quickly deteriorated because now, she was crying. The dentist said (and I quote), “Oh, come on. You’re too old to act like this.”
Well. She was seven, and we were new on this hidden-disability road. I didn’t trust my mommy-knower back then like I do now. Cami was due for her first set of dental x-rays, and here she was, melting down in the dental chair. The dentist was looking at me like he expected me to make her “behave appropriately.” So I tried.
I tried to comfort her. She blew her nose which helped her breathe better when she was lying down. I held her hand while the dentist finished the exam. She’d had her teeth cleaned, so she was already overloaded with stimuli. I know that now. I didn’t know that then.
We pushed ahead through the x-rays. Everything was holding together until I had to stand out of Cami’s sight behind a wall during the x-ray. She lost it. She started screaming, “No! I want my mom! No! Don’t you keep my mom from me! Don’t you make her go away! Mom!” Oh, my heart broke.
I stepped around the wall and said, “That’s enough.” We didn’t get an x-ray. We sat in the car and snuggled until we were both calm enough to drive home. We never went back to that dentist again. No hard feelings, just not a good fit for Cami and her different needs.
I dreaded finding another dentist. So I didn’t. I made sure Cami brushed her teeth, I limited her sugar intake, and I prayed. A lot. I knew Cami needed to have her teeth cleaned. Just like she needed to have her ears checked. And her eyes checked (dilated every six months: talk about trauma!). She needed wellness check ups and vaccinations. It felt like every time I turned around, we were visiting another health professional and returning home in meltdown mode.
When Cami was nine, she crashed her scooter. It was a Saturday afternoon, and the neighborhood kids were riding scooters on the sidewalk. One friend tried to pass Cami, who ended up veering into the grass, which stopped her scooter but not her. She hit the ground so hard, it broke her helmet. And both bones in her left wrist. And her front tooth.
We never did find the piece of her tooth. We did, however, find a compassionate, understanding pediatric dentist who waited in her office on a Saturday afternoon until we could get Cami there. She calmly talked Cami through x-rays, never letting her tone of voice change in response to Cami’s fear and screaming. I was so impressed.
Cami’s positive experience with the new dentist helped her find language for the visit to the emergency room the next day. Although Cami said her wrist didn’t hurt her, I could see she wasn’t using it. We spent our Church Day that week at the ER getting her wrist x-rayed just like she had her teeth x-rayed. She told me, “It must be all right, because it didn’t hurt when they x-rayed my teeth. So this won’t hurt at all.” Whewy.
By the end of the week, Cami had a temporary cap on her tooth and a green cast on her arm. Not only did God lead us to the right dentist for Cami, but He also led us to one of the best pediatric orthopedists in our area. What started as a calamity ended up equipping my girl to handle some tough stuff. Three years later, Cami loves going to the dentist. Really. Cami uses her words when she’s uncomfortable or when she needs to sit up, and the dental staff listen to her. I think the listening—their validation of Cami’s expressed needs—makes a big difference in Cami’s dental experience.
Now if we can only find the right pediatrician for Cami. Without a calamity.
Grateful for God’s leading,