Thursday, October 6, 2011

Miracles Every Day

This is the post that has nothing to do with you-know-what.
It has everything to do with miracles though.
And something as simple as going to the dentist.

Hope is a form of planning. -Gloria Steinam

My oldest child, Maddie, has autism. She's 14 now and was diagnosed when she was 2 1/2 years old. This was back in 1998. There wasn't the knowledge, the awareness and the multitude of children with autism that there are now. It was very lonely having a child with autism in the late 1990's. It was very, very, very lonely having a girl diagnosed with autism, as the majority of those diagnosed were boys.

Of all the challenges Maddie faces, one of the largest for my daughter has always been oral sensitivity. Whether it be to hold or cold foods, taste or texture, Maddie was, and is, very sensitive to what went or around her mouth. She also had a sensitive gag reflex, meaning that as soon as something did go in her mouth, it stimulated her to gag, which in turn, became throwing up. As you can well imagine, that presented problems in trying to go to the dentist.

I first tried going when she was almost 3 years old. Maddie ended up kicking and screaming, assaulting me and almost assaulting the dentist and almost being restrained in the dental chair. She did not understand what we were trying to do, so she fought. We were asked to leave our first dental office and not come back. So, at age 3, no teeth cleaned by the dentist.

We tried again when Maddie was almost 4. Again, the same situation. This dentist, like the others, demanded that Maddie sit in the reclining dental chair, with a bib, and she was not allowed to touch anything. All of those things did not work. When she would sit in the dentist chair, her gag reflex was stimulated and she would throw up. It took us one time in the dental chair and lots of vomit to figure out that this would not work for her.

Yep, asked to leave the second dentist too.
Okay then.

I found the Special Needs Dental Clinic at our local hospital through our developmental pediatrician we were seeing there at the time. Our developmental pediatrician, at our yearly visit, and after hearing our horror stories at the other two dentists, looked at me and said, you know, there is a dentist upstairs, one who treats kids with special needs, he will see her.

I practically ran up the stairs to introduce myself and Maddie. I made an appointment right then and there and began to spew forth our history and ended with 'Do you think you could just clean her teeth? Do you think you could just check them?'

You know what the dentist said to me 'She's a beautiful child. She's just lovely Mom. We can clean her teeth. It might take us a while, but I promise to never hurt her. I promise to move at her pace. And I promise that when she leaves my office every 6 months, she will have clean teeth.'

And as he said it to me, I started to cry. No one up until this point ever pointed out that my child was beautiful, that they saw the beauty in her. No one ever told me they would clean her teeth. No one promised me that they would not hurt her. And boy did I cry. And I hugged him and thanked him.

And we have gone back, faithfully, every 6 months, since 2001.

We started with Maddie sitting in a regular child's chair, hygienist facing her, Maddie wearing surgical gloves that she requested, holding every tool. Slowly opening her mouth, never asked to use 'Mr. Vacuum' or whatever they call the thing that sucks up the saliva. She was allowed to spit. She threw up - many, many, many times. And you know what they did? All those dental hygienists and I cleaned up the throw up and they continued to clean her teeth. We changed clothes after every visit, we were less-than-spot-clean. We once cleaned her teeth while she lay on the floor. We let her hold books and toys and lovies and chew tubes. We sang songs that she loved. We once cleaned her teeth while giving her a break to walk around every 4 minutes. She cried throughout one visit. She screamed throughout another. They kept cleaning her teeth and smiling.

It has been 10 years since that day that the dentist told me he would clean her teeth. And he kept every promise he ever made to me. He cleaned her teeth. He, to this day, never has hurt her. He moves at her pace. And each and every time he sees her, he takes her hands in his and tells her, straight up, that she is beautiful and lovely and my, isn't she growing up just great.

When Maddie was 4 and just getting started with him, he looked at me in the eyes after a visit and said, 'Penny, I know you won't believe me, but one day she will walk into this office and come back without you. She will trust us. She will sit in the dental chair. She will wear the bib. She will let us clean with all the tools. I know it. I have faith that we will get there.'

And I smiled, because that day, 10 years ago, seemed so very far off.

And yet, here I am.
10 years later.

And guess what Maddie did today?
She went back by herself.
She sat in the dental chair.
She wore the bib.
She let them use all the tools.
And she got her teeth cleaned.

Miracles every day.


Colleen said...

Well, you made me cry.
I hate, hate, hate going to the dentist.
I'm so very happy that you found a wonderful dentist to work with your daughter. How very, very nice.

Joanne said...

What a lovely post. Your dentist sounds like a wonderful man. I love hearing about people like him.

Heidi / D-Tales said...

This tugged at my heart strings! I can imagine how much you must appreciate this dentist, who treats your daughter with such kindness, respect, understanding and patience. The world needs more people like him!

So glad you shared this story!

Maddie looks as though she's beaming with pride in her photos. :)

Alexis Nicole said...

Thank you for making me cry! What a beautiful post, and I love hearing about this beautiful girl.

Wonderful post Penny xo

Unknown said...


That smile is infectious....and those pearly whites -- GORGEOUS!

Great job, sweet Maddie.

(and Mama)

Unknown said...

WAY.TO.GO.MADDIE!!! You and your smile are beautiful and inspirational.

Penny, thank you for this. This post is a gift. xo

shannon said...

what a beautiful post. thank you so much for sharing your story, it brought tears to my eyes. how lucky to have found that dentist. amazing. way to go maddie! :)

Hallie Addington said...

Penny- I just can't tell you what a beautiful post this is! It made me cry! The things we take for granted... I am so glad you found that wonderful dentist! And I am so glad that she handled it on her own! Proud of her - AND you!! Thank you for sharing this! Love you!

Amy Lederer said...!

Loved this, Penny. LOVED IT!!!

LaLa said...

WOW! I am in tears. What a wonderful, wonderful dentist and staff. Bless them and bless you, Penny you are an amazing woman.

Yea Maddie!!! You rocked the dentist!! Great job!!

Tracy1918 said...

Penny, this is the most beautiful story I've read in a long time. Beautiful. I'm so happy for you. What a blessing.

Misty said...

Loved hearing this story! So happy that all those years ago you found this amazing dentist. Way to go Maddie!

k2 said...

And I'm crying happy tears for the both of you!