...taking giant steps...

Dental procedure, St George Private Hospital, 29 Feb 2008

Christopher

Just to walk into the operating theatre, let alone readily laying down on a bed and accepting the situation was a triumph of spirit; a statement of courage into another unknown for Chris. To be greeted by people wearing assorted headscarves, light-blue gowns, and protective-glasses amongst the paraphernalia of an operating theatre was in itself a challenge; it was a strange world, filled with people with an aura of purpose and dressed-up for a perplexing occasion.

"What were those people doing?" Chris thought as he walked into the theatre with his Dad.

"This is Christopher," said his Dad.

Chris was welcomed with smiles and knowing looks. Without hesitation Chris climbed onto the narrow bed face down ready to go to sleep.

"No mate, you have to be on your back."

With help, Chris turned onto his back and was ready.

Thoughts passed through his mind as he lay there; he remembered visiting the St George Hospital last week; he was told that this was the place where Dr Cecilia So was going to fix his teeth. During the visit he spoke to a nice lady at the front desk who showed him where he will be going and that the people here were looking forward to meeting him.

"Now I know," Chris thought.

Chris had liked Cecilia from the word go; he continually reminded his Dad, "Teeth, Cecilia," which was his shorthand for "My teeth need to be fixed by Cecilia." Chris had drawn comfort from a trusting relationship; he was confident that if she were going to be involved, then all would be well. He met Cecilia at her dental practice a month earlier and was taken by her warm nature and caring attitude. Chris was smitten, apart from "Teeth, Cecilia" he added "Cup of tea, Cecilia," translated...he would like to invite Cecilia to visit him over for a cup of tea; she really had won his confidence.

"Are you ready Chris?" Dr Matthew Griffith interrupted his thoughts.

"Yeh."

Chris held out his right arm; needle injected; catheter in place; anaesthetic slowly dripping away.

"Chris, breathe into this," someone said. A mask was placed over his nose and mouth; Chris dutifully held the mask.

"I don''t want to see you naked," Chris joked into the mask as he gradually went under the anesthetic.

Always wanting to have the last say, his words, "I ... don''t ... want ... to" fading as he drifted off, unconscious to this world. There he was lying on the operating table; trusting those about him; his vulnerability heightened and visible to those who understood his fragility, particularly his Dad. Chris has an intellectual disability, epilepsy and right-sided hemiplegia.

As his Dad left the theatre, he took a backward glance at his son; an overwhelming rush of feelings gushed in that moment; he recalled the time when Chris was a three-month old baby; another time when he felt the same mixed feelings; uncertainty, hope, trepidation and optimism. This time, all could be done was done; his experience had ensured that everyone was familiar with Chris’ vulnerability and how things worked best for him. 

Chris had grown through the experience; he had been patient and understanding with the events leading up to this time, procedures that would test the resilience of most people. He waited flipping through magazines, chatting to Nurses and watching a portable DVD that took an age to load. A couple of times, he quipped, "Had enough," but after being told that it won''t be long, he kept on waiting.

"Chris are you ready?" asked a Nurse.

"Yeh."

And with that he confidently strode down a corridor holding the arm of the Nurse; joking about a Doctor's looks; his Dad claiming Chris was much better looking; passing other patients without a glance, into another corridor and then… taking those giant steps into the operating theatre.