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ARTICLES / General / A Trip to the Dentist

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A Trip to the Dentist

By Micki LaVres

(Page 1 of 3)

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 lovely weather.

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 front door.

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.


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