Monday, August 17, 2009

Silver Linings

Two weeks ago, we were driving in the car, when somehow we started talking about how tough life is for people with different disabilities. Then Erika pointed out that, although she would never want to be blind, it would be nice to be able to have a seeing-eye dog that you could take everywhere with you.

"That," Andy instructed from behind the wheel, "is what we call a 'silver lining.'" We then spent the rest of the trip explaining to Erika and Hilary about the bright spots that often accompany the most dismal situations.

That conversation seems so ironic to me, given that less than one week later, Erika knocked out her two front, permanent teeth when our boat, moving at a decent clip, hit a big swell none of us expected to encounter in the relatively placid waters of the bay.

I will never forget that moment when I picked myself and Aaron off the floor of the boat, and I yelled at Andy to stop, because I thought he was driving recklessly for the thrill of it (he wasn't), and I looked up and saw Erika in the bow of the boat, her face covered with blood. And then she was screaming, her mouth wide open, and I saw the huge gap where her teeth had been. We thought she lost three teeth, but it turns out one baby tooth was pushed back up into her gum by the force of the impact.

My friend Jodi and her three kids were on the boat with us, and the two of us hovered over Erika as Andy maneuvered back to the dock, trying to calm her down as she wailed that these teeth weren't supposed to come out, that she didn't care how much money she got from the tooth fairy. And Jodi and I both were on the verge of tears ourselves, because Erika was right, those teeth weren't supposed to come out, and they would never grow back, and how had it happened in an instant that my perfect daughter had, due to a completely preventable accident, been disfigured for life? I know that, on the scale of possible disfigurements, the loss of two front teeth barely registers - not compared to scars, burns, amputations, etc. I know that, if this is the worst thing that ever happens to Erika, she'll have lived a blessed life. But I couldn't stop thinking of her going through the painful self-consciousness of adolescence wearing a retainer with fake teeth on the front of it.

It turns out we may be able to avoid that retainer. Andy and Jodi's daughter, Jamie, found Erika's teeth, and, on the advice of my dentist, I pushed those teeth back into their gaping sockets (not easy to do when your hand is shaking like crazy and your well-meaning friend is standing right behind you yelling, "Don't touch the root! Don't touch the root!"). Erika saw three different dentists in the next four days, with many more visits to come. She may or may not need root canals in both teeth, and she'll need to have the baby tooth extracted. The most important question - whether or not the re-implanted teeth will last - is unknown. I get the feeling that it's unlikely they'll last forever, but the hope is that they last until Erika is old enough for permanent implants, 18 at the earliest. And sometimes they do last.

By the way, as if Erika wasn't miserable enough, she immediately had to stop sucking her finger - a habit she's been trying to kick for years - or risk pushing those very vulnerable teeth out of position. And she did it, with hardly any complaint. As I told her many times during the past week, I don't think I could have handled these events with nearly as much poise and patience and good cheer as she has.

And the silver lining? Andy felt so guilty he promised Erika the hermit crabs she's been wanting for the past three years. And, of course, as I heard her recount the story to a friend on the phone: "It hurt, but I'm getting a lot of attention."


Anonymous said...

How did you manage to push those teeth in - I almost fainted reading the blog entry. I've filed away this bit of random info into my mental I hope I never need to do this but just in case file. Lucky v. unlucky - it's so hard to tell. Erika was so unlucky to lose the teeth but maybe lucky enough to get to keep them until she is old enough for permanent replacements.

I'm glad you had a friend with you for help.

Gail C. (Keri's old camp friend)

Amy said...

Once I figured out which was the left tooth and which was the right (and I was petrified I would screw it up, and give Erika a patched-together, almost Frankensteinian appearance), the teeth pushed into their sockets rather easily, and the process didn't hurt Erika nearly as much as I anticipated. In fact, I've given Erika a grand total of one dose of advil since she knocked her teeth out. And it's doubly surprising given recent studies that show redheads are more sensitive to pain, and need more anesthesia during dental procedures than non-redheads!