General / A Trip to the Dentist
By Micki LaVres
For 18 years I tried – unsuccessfully – to get
Frank to the dentist for a cleaning. He felt that
cleaning his teeth was a paltry undertaking when you
considered the significance of his bigger problem,
being paralyzed from the chest down.
Only after suffering for several days with
a tooth ache did he finally allow me to make an
appointment, but under one condition. The dentist
would have to treat him in his wheelchair without
being transferred to the exam chair. The Yellow Book
saved the day and led us to Dr. Bob who was ready
and willing to accommodate the special needs of my
somewhat stubborn husband.
The big day arrived and we packed up for our trip to
the dentist. I say packed up because any excursion
with Frank is a major undertaking; but that’s
another story. It was a beautiful sunny day in the
middle of June and our spirits were high. The office
was easy to locate, but parking very limited. The
only public parking had an underground entrance with
a clearance too low for our van.
We decided to take a chance and parked in a lot
across the street, despite signs warning that
violators would be towed. Once parked and unloaded,
we walked two blocks to the office, thankful for the
The building was completely accessible and, as Dr.
Bob promised, Frank did not have to leave his
wheelchair. The culprit tooth was painlessly removed
after several shots of novocaine. We made a follow
up appointment and prepared to leave. Little did we
know the fun was about to begin.
Frank uses an electric wheelchair with a sip-n-puff
control system. He sips or puffs into an air tube
straw that essentially “drives” the chair; hard sip
to go in reverse, hard puff to go forward, soft sip
to go left, soft puff to go right. (You can imagine
the result with a bout of hiccups!)Well, the
novocaine had done its job. His mouth – so numb you
could painlessly pull a tooth – was also too numb to
feel the air tube straw that controls the chair.
Not a problem. I could drive for him. I flipped on
the attendant control and carefully navigated him
through the exam room, down the hallway, and out the
Once outside, I noticed a glitch. The chair was not
responding properly. I had to push and steer with
both hands on the handlebars. At the same time, I
had to keep pressure on the attendant toggle switch
located eight inches away. In theory this would work
fine, if I had been born with fingers like ET.