The Redster has just had four adult molars extracted at University College Hospital under general anaesthetic. I write this sitting next to her trolley/bed while she plays Minecraft on my laptop, with remarkable concentration for someone who was unconscious less than 30 minutes ago.
The nurses are brilliant. The Redster (11) is not the most chilled customer, and when they talked to her beforehand they were careful to ask whether she wanted lots of information, or no information, about what was going to happen (the latter, definitely). (Is this one of those things that divides the world into two categories? I’m in the former.) They were also up to scratch with Minecraft, Clash of Clans, Plunder Pirates and SIMS Freeplay, which must be part of a nursing qualification nowadays. Or maybe it’s just that they’re all closer to her age than mine…
When the dreaded hour arrived I got to go with her into the anaesthetist’s room. Her hands had been numbed with cream so she didn’t feel them putting the cannula tube to administer the meds into one of them, while the rest of us distracted her with a game on a hospital iPad.
‘Here comes the sleepy medicine,’ said the anaesthetist, attaching a comedy giant syringe of white stuff to the tube in her hand. Exactly one second later (or maybe two) the Redster closed her eyes and put her head down.
‘She’s asleep,’ said a nurse.
‘What, already?’ I said. She was lying there, eyes shut, totally still. I felt a bit shocked.
‘Yup. That’s it. You can give her a kiss.’
When I kissed her on the forehead and she didn’t object, I knew she MUST be unconscious. Then I was gently bustled out of the room and told to get myself a cup of tea.
It’s not something I’d like to watch again – my own child suddenly losing consciousness just like that, as if consciousness is something you can switch off. Watching her fall asleep as a baby was a delight but this was not. To be honest, it felt like I’d just seen her die. Anaesthetic is wonderful and terrifying stuff.
The next half hour was oddly spiritual. God’s presence felt close and at times I couldn’t not pray. I felt as if the Redster was in this weird in-between place of alive but not alive, her soul in God’s hands, like I used to feel when I was pregnant with her. Not a bad place to be, in a way.
A couple of other children were wheeled back into the ward, groggy and tearful. I was warned that the Redster might be upset, or angry, or sick, but when I was called in to meet her waking up in the recovery room she was just dazed, with a bit of dried blood around her mouth like a cute trainee vampire. She tried to talk and when I told her she sounded drunk she even smiled.
‘Here’s her teeth,’ said a nurse (from a different team, one with a lot less empathy), putting a jar into my hand.
I wrapped it up in some hand towels straight away so we didn’t have to see them. In the split second I looked at them the impression they gave me was not dead bone but living tissue. Which I guess they had been a few minutes before. And of course with the roots and all, they are huge. How had they fitted so neatly inside her dainty little mouth?
So, home time now, after a little setback – watching the cannula being taken out of her hand made her feel more dizzy and sick then the anaesthetic. (She actually went green.) And some entertainment from the nurse, who tried to sing her discharge instructions to the tune of Let it Go (‘You can go, You can go, and you don’t have to brush your teeth tonight…’). Problem solved, and she’s discharged back to the family dentist. God bless the NHS and all who sail in her.