Charlie in the waiting room at the outpatient surgery center at the hospital Thanks once again to everyone for your too kind wishes!  Charlie did fabulous at the hospital where he had his dental surgery. Though, the funny thing was, the actual surgery was, in some ways the easiest part, with what happened before and after being harder.  

All told, we were at the hospital—yes, the same hospital where we took Charlie to the ER the day after Christmas—from 6am till just around 11am. I woke up at 5am and Jim got up shortly afterwards. Charlie seemed to be still sleeping soundly as 5.30am neared. I set the timer and Jim went in to talk to him and in ten minutes Charlie was out of bed, dressed, and putting on his shoes, no fuss no muss—a big (and very welcome) change from a year and a half ago when we were still trying (always unsuccessful) to wheedle and (as a last resort) to pull at him, to get him out of bed.

Charlie walked right into the hospital where, just two weeks ago, he had his blood drawn at the laboratory. He remembered the stack of videocassettes in the waiting room and insisted on going there and taking one. No one noticed (good) and Charlie, after a few 'no' 's, assented to go out and up the elevator (also good) to the outpatient surgery center. There were already people waiting on the mauve and blue and pale aqua-ish couches and chairs. Charlie, green worry beads wound tightly around his long fingers, stood and paced and then sat down by Jim. 

And there we waited for almost an hour. I signed some forms at the reception desk and Charlie clutched his beads and Jim read magazines. The waiting room was quite large and one side was all windows overlooking the main entrance to the hospital. We all sat and yawned and then Charlie's name was called. 

From here on in, I have to say: First, Charlie was a super trooper, willing (sometimes after a few no's) to follow ours or the nurse's directives (to get his vital signs checked, have cream rubbed onto the backs of his heads prior to an IV being inserted, taking off his shirt and donning a very unfamiliar garment—a hospital gown with ties down the back), and all while in the cramped space of small corner room full of equipment, a bed, and a computer console. Indeed, at one point there were five of us (the nurse, two doctors—Charlie's dentist and the anesthesiologist, Jim and me) plus Charlie in the room and we were all talking—just the sort of situation that usually really irks Charlie. And he handled it fine.

Second, the hospital staff—certainly Charlie's dentist—were incredible. The dentist and the anesthesiologist came to talk to Charlie and us and explain what was going on; indeed, another anesthesiologist also appeared and got Charlie to grin and laugh. The nurse who took Charlie's vitals and went over his medical history, medication, etc. knows, as we discovered, one of the nurse's at Charlie's schools; she also pointed out to me that LOTS of people get nervous about surgery and being 'put under' and that they were ready. One of us, we were told, could go into the operating room with Charlie and Jim elected too (as well, as the scrubs they gave him to put over his clothes and shoes would have been mega-sized on me). 

And then I went back to the waiting room.

Jim followed Charlie as he was wheeled into the OR. Charlie was given a mask to breathe into and (as Jim reported) he first got very giggly and then was out. Jim came back to the waiting room, told me how well Charlie had done, and then we waited. I distracted myself by writing about the 'death of tenure' at; Jim went for a walk. 

What we had particularly worried about was whether an IV needle would be put into Charlie's hand before or after he was out. On Tuesday, when I brought Charlie's paperwork to the dentist office, I had emphasized that it would be best for Charlie to be 'out' prior to having the needle inserted. We had had a successful experience at the same hospital two weeks earlier to have Charlie's blood drawn at the laboratory, with the lab staff going out of their way to prepare for Charlie. But last week I learned from the nurse at Charlie's neurologist's office that the hospital lab staff had told her can't draw Charlie's blood again. We weren't surprised (one of the lab staff had said to me after the blood draw that it must have been 'traumatic' for Jim and me; we sort of sensed that that word described how that staff member may  herself have felt—Jim and I have been through a lot with Charlie). Consequently, we were concerned about Charlie getting an IV needle put in at the hospital.

Those worries weren't to be worried about Thursday morning.

A little after 10am, the dentist appeared in the waiting room and told me that he had taken x-rays of Charlie's teeth, found two cavities and filled them, and applied a protective sealant and fluoride. He also noted that Charlie looked very peaceful and, indeed, had been lying back with his elbows tucked behind his head: This was once the position that Charlie often held his arms in when he was relaxing and while he slept, when he was a baby and into his toddler years. Jim and I thought of this as Charlie's default comfort position when he was younger; he was so long when he was born (21 1/2 inches) that he must have been completely curled up inside me (indeed, his left leg was twisted over his right like a pretzel for quite a while).

About twenty minutes later I went into the recovery room. A nurse was with Charlie; she'd been assigned to stay right by him and this was apparently meant very literally, as she did not move more than a foot or two from Charlie's bedside. He was groggy and calling out 'CDs' and 'iPod.' I was careful not to mention the car as Charlie needed to wake up some more before going. The nurse removed the IV needle and Charlie was wheeled back into one of the small rooms (whereupon he asked for his shoes). He had to wait some twenty more minutes to have his vital signs checked and for the nurse to review discharge instructions. A young man pushed Charlie out in a wheelchair which Charlie immediately stood up out of once we reached the front of the hospital (to the young man's consternation). Fortunately, Jim pulled up before too long.

And we went home and that was pretty much that. 

Charlie rested a little but didn't nap and was as game as ever to go for his neighborhood walks (it did help that the heat seems, at long last, to be finally dissipating–well, at least for a day or two; we actually felt an actual breeze). We made a trip to Target to pick up another electric shaver (we sent in the one Jim's been using so the OT at Charlie's school can work on using it with him). Charlie had a hard time falling asleep, even though he'd been up so early.

It is pretty exciting to have such a triumphant day, a day on which one of the nurses had said to me as we were walking out: 

'He was easy.'

19 Responses to “PostOp”
  1. Louise says:

    How will you handle getting used to having things be peaceful-easy most of the time? Charlie’s doing a tremendous amount of growing, and this school seems to be helping him handle it tremendously.

  2. Barbara says:

    Very happy to read the good outcome of surgery.
    If I wasn’t committed to not registering on any more sites, I’d comment on your tenure post. If I wasn’t so dang busy, I’d comment on your tenure article here. πŸ˜‰
    Louise’s comment prompted me to ask: does Charlie’s school ascribe to particular teaching philosophy?

  3. KWombles says:

    I’m glad it went so smoothly. It’s always a welcome surprise when our kids handle something well that we were sure would be a problem. Perhaps our care with prepping (and sometimes incentivizing) really pays off? It’s not likely that we’re going to test that theory by not prepping them and then seeing, that’s for sure. πŸ™‚

  4. farmwifetwo says:

    We were told they would not be putting in an IV until he was under last Fri.
    Charlie woke up much happier than my little one. Might have been b/c your initial wait was considerably shorter… we were 3hrs in total.. NOT IMPRESSED.
    All in all… sounds like you had a good experience as well. I’m so pls’d this time to go home without nausea and be able to get him his chicken nugget happy meal like I had promised when he was told he couldn’t have breakfast.

  5. autismvox says:

    Ah, ‘something’ always could happen, and does—!
    Charlie was in the OR for about 2 1/2 hours. He didn’t seem to have any nausea but a great deal of trouble sleeping Thursday night. He’s gonna be tired today.

  6. Judy T says:

    What a relief! From what you’ve been telling us, I expected things to go quite well, but one never knows. I’m so impressed that Charlie handled the hour long wait at the beginning so well – that would have been the hardest for my boy. Congratulations!

  7. Jill says:

    That’s wonderful! It seems like quite a procedure to go through to get two cavities filled, X-rays taken and sealant applied. I guess in Charlie’s case he couldn’t possibly sit still to have that done at the dentist’s office.
    It’s a shame how so many older kids and young adults who have autism have terrible-looking teeth. Charlie will have a beautiful smile thanks to you.

  8. Rozy says:

    I’ m glad to read that things went quite well and that Charlie was so easy.
    Bravo Charlie!
    Telos kalo ola kala!

  9. autismvox says:

    Thanks everyone!
    The dentist noted to me that he’s done surgery on kids on the spectrum who’ve had 10, 12, 15 cavities—2 was no big deal, I guess!
    Charlie’s school—like most (but not all) schools and programs for autistic children in New Jersey— uses Applied Behavior Analysis. Charlie’s been taught using ABA (and discrete trial teaching) since he was just around 2 years old.
    One difference is that Charlie’s school, being a public program with students from many counties, is _much_ larger (in terms of student population and its physical plant) than some of the private schools (which only have up to 30 students).

  10. autismvox says:

    Nai, telos kalo ola kala!

  11. Elise says:

    So glad everyhing went well. Strides for all I would say.:)

  12. Susan says:

    I think your ‘peaceful-easy’ companionship with Charlie must have a wonderful effect on him! I am so pleased that the hospital staff were so thoughtful too. After the story about the hecklers, this is a wonderful post. Great news.

  13. Leila says:

    I’m so glad it went smoothly! Kudos to Charlie for being brave.

  14. autismvox says:

    thank you! I was reassured reading what you noted about your experience too with sedation.
    Would appreciate knowing your thoughts about tenure but _only_ _only_ _only_ if you have ‘totally’ free time!

  15. JoyMama says:

    “Easy.” What a wonderful word.
    Congratulations, all around!

  16. autismvox says:

    It’s a word (‘easy’) that we rarely hear around here…..

  17. Barbara says:

    Your post influenced me to be less critical of the tenure process, Kristina. I have much less time on faculty than you, but I left higher ed with a bad taste in my mouth. If tenure is going by the way I am not sad and would be willing to watch its slow death in lieu of swift execution.
    The competition/requirements (foot kissing) is too much. Despite volumes of procedural requirements in faux attempt at fairness, decisions seemed to be based on other and nefarious factors.
    I venture to say that adjunct faculty can do as well as those working toward tenure. There are poor teachers in both categories.
    You impress me as someone who has earned your tenure, love your work, and teach well. I wonder what you would make of less capable ‘peers’ at a research university – ?
    Ah, my photos have downloaded…my time is up! πŸ˜‰

  18. Oh, my, that is HUGE! A blood draw for Jack would be traumatic – haven’t done one in a couple years. We had a terrible experience with IV for his stitches. It would have been GREAT to do it after he was out. And we have yet another dentist visit coming up – haven’t had a successful look at his teeth yet – this is a different dentist who has experience w/ kids with autism. Crossing my fingers that our experience will be as good as yours.

  19. autismvox says:

    We’ll be thinking of Jack and you at the dentist—hope it goes well or at least without too many ‘fireworks.’

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