As parents, we hope that our children grow up without having to go through the trauma of a visit to A & E or a major operation. In Thomas’ nine years he has had various trips to the hospital, some routine appointments. Others for emergency treatments often involving him hitting his head or because of his epilepsy.

But about a year ago, a routine dentist appointment resulted in Thomas being referred to a specialist NHS dentist, one who helps with complex needs or people who perhaps find visiting the dentist causes them a great deal of anxiety.

Now if you have a child with special needs you will understand the complexity of visiting the dentist. Thomas has in most cases been extremely understanding of someone sticking varying instruments into his mouth, we are also talking about the child who dislikes the feel of a toothbrush. Luckily we only had one incident involving him biting a dentist, just a little, they were very understanding.

So, you can imagine my anxiety when I’m told that Thomas needs a filling, sounds simple but no, he needs to have a general anaesthetic in a hospital so they can take a tooth out! I’ve been there myself, had to be sedated to have an infected wisdom tooth out but this isn’t about me. It’s about my nine-year, a non-verbal child who struggles to understand the world around him.

The waiting begins

In what feels like the longest year of my life, three visits to the specialist dentist are booked starting on Monday 17 February, in a hospital that is out of area and Thomas is unfamiliar with.

We prepare ourselves as best we can, but the paperwork is scary with lots of advice and details about last meals. I think I must have read the information cover to cover three or four times. I even called the contact number to double-check it was the right date.

Preparing Thomas

We told Thomas he was going to see the lady dentist and as a treat, we took him to McDonald’s for porridge and a hash brown. He had an afternoon appointment which was actually easier with timings. We packed his little bag with toys and made sure we had everything they suggested and readied ourselves for an afternoon of hell.

Thomas was second on the list, so we waited two hours for his appointment, he wouldn’t allow them to put a cannula in so I had the torture of holding him down while he was put to sleep with gas (it’s not pretty). Then began the 45 minutes of pacing the ward before I was called when he was coming around.

As a parent, I just want to take their pain away whether it be emotional or physical and his lack of understanding really showed as he was coming around and he threw his body around the bed in utter confusion. I thought I was prepared but I really struggled to keep my own emotions in check, I just wanted to hold him tight but that was the last thing he wanted.

What did I learn?

Preparation really helped. Toys, books, blankets; I think for a child with a short attention span it’s about as good as it gets while attempting to keep them calm but at the same time no amount of preparation can prepare you for how your child will react.

Stay calm, take a few deep breaths and if need be take a little walk down the corridor. The nursing staff were amazing, they completely understood and didn’t expect us to wait the full hour before discharge.

It’s the usual, though. Thomas has recovered, pretty much forgotten about his torment however the rest of us will be haunted for months to come. He’s happy but cleaning his teeth his still a battle we are yet to win.

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