IT all sounded so straightforward. Come to the hospital at 7am. Ensure his last meal is at 7pm the night before, and no food after that except for a bit of water. Well, the reality is that it’s quite another thing to prepare your child for it, regardless of age.

First, they have to fast. This means that they have to stop eating 12 hours before surgery. Easy for someone who understands what’s required, but torture for those who don’t and who live by routine. My son Omar is one such person. His autistic tendencies have programmed his behaviour like clockwork.

Next, the patient has to be given oral painkillers, either tablet or syrup, with just water, before the procedure.

Omar needs to take his medicine with food, which is a big no-no before going under general anesthesia. It’s okay if that’s not possible, said the surgeon. There are other medications and methods to administer painkillers. In the meantime, he had to be wiped down for the syrupy medications that he spat out.


So off to the operating theatre we went. As his mother, I was allowed in to hold his hand and keep him calm while they attempted to sedate him by placing the mask. It’s not an easy task when you have to grapple with someone who doesn’t want anything on his face.

You have to mind where you stand or you’d get a good kick or punch from flailing limbs. As we finally managed to sedate him, I watched his eyes close, his last expression one of confusion and fear.

The anesthetist told me to leave the theatre as they prepared for the operation. I was told that it would take some time. To while the hours away, I went to Omar’s other clinics to sort out his medical appointments for the year. I didn’t want to wait at his bed in the daycare ward. Then I decided to sit at the waiting room outside the operating rooms.

Just at the two-hour mark, I was called into the recovery room where they would observe him as he emerged out of general anesthesia. Omar was drowsy, confused and restless. We had to look out for vomiting too.

When I looked at my son, I saw that they had removed his half-broken front tooth. I was livid. I freaked out and demanded why they had removed that precious front tooth when I had specifically and categorically requested that they didn’t touch it. We had done everything we could since it broke 14 years ago when his face slammed against a marble table during a grand mal seizure, the first after 10 years of being seizure-free.

I couldn’t bear the fact that my son now had one front tooth surgically removed. He was already physically and mentally handicapped. He didn’t need to look the part! The surgeon quickly explained to me why it had to be done, showing some photos she’d taken in the operating theatre.


The half-broken tooth was in a very bad shape. The gums around it were inflamed, and there was a sizeable boil that threatened to leak pus and abscess. The tooth was already cracked. If it broke, Omar would have been in a lot of pain. Keeping it would be detrimental to him in the long run, causing the infection to possibly spread, affecting his face, ears, nose and throat.

Only then did I calm down as I processed the information and the gravity of the situation. The other problem addressed was his compacted wisdom tooth. They removed a piece of the flesh above the tooth and left stitches that would dissolve in due time.

Omar’s gum issues arose as a side-effect of the long-term use of anti-seizure medications. The standard scaling, polishing and filling were also done in what was referred to as a “major overhaul”. Omar had only one cavity.

As I sat there to ensure that Omar recovered well from his sedatives, I went through again what the doctor told me. In my hand was the extracted front tooth, still bloodied, in a small jar. I think I was more devastated by the loss of that tooth than my son who didn’t have a clue about it.

The more I recall this incident, the more I see blessings in disguise from so many points. For example, Omar wasn’t due for that slot. His appointment was only the next month but because the patient wasn’t up to surgery, Omar was given his slot. After the surgeon explained the situation, it was just as well that Omar went in early. The abscess could have gotten worse and caused other complications.

Suddenly, that missing front tooth has become the least of my worries. The events of that day keeps replaying in my mind. As I watch Omar recover, easing back into his routines without any major hiccup, I believe things happen for a reason. I have a lot to be grateful for.

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