I write this post today because I want to share with you the risks of General Anesthesia in children. Yes, there are millions of surgeries that go well… but you have to know that there are risks too. I was already nervous when my daughter needed to go under. This is her story.
General Anesthesia for toddler dental work
My Toddler’s difficult time recovering from Anesthesia
My daughter went under general anesthesia once prior to this story below.I wondered if general anesthesia was safe for a 2 year old (she was almost 2.). She was under for 20 minutes for an ear grommets surgery. Unfortunately the first op had failed and her grommets immediately got blocked up again. Her recovery during this first surgery was good. This next op came 4 weeks later.
My 22 month old had to have an extensive dental procedure at 22 months old. Some of her teeth needed to be pulled while others needed to have cavities fixed.
A little history… maybe this is the reason for her weak enamel.
You may be wondering why my toddler needed to have dental work. You can read a bit of history on her weak dental enamel here as well as how I plan to strengthen and remineralise her teeth.
The Day of the procedure and General Anesthesia
On Friday we went at 6 am to check in at the hospital. It was supposed to be a relatively easy and quick procedure where they had to do some fillings and would need to pull out one tooth.
Here she was… all ready to go and get her teeth fixed up not knowing what was to come. She wasn’t scared or nervous. I could feel her tiny warm hands hugging my neck while I held her longingly knowing that my child would be going through a procedure without me in the room to hold her hand.
Putting my 1 year old under general anesthesia
They allowed me to wait with her while they put her under general anesthesia. I held her hand while she screamed and cried about the gas mask. That sound will stay with me forever. Hearing your child’s muffled cry under a gas mask as you know they are being put to sleep and worrying what could happen. That cry and that moment was incredibly hard to bare.
I remember counting out loud , “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…” to mask the sound she was making and to give myself some courage to stick through this. I was told that kids normally are sleeping within 10 seconds of the gas mask.
60 seconds later her screams were quiet. She appeared to be sleeping. I spoke to the dentist for about a minute and I noticed that while she was sleeping her hands were moving softly and slowly towards her face like she was trying to remove the mask… That really scared me!
I asked the dentist if that is normal and he said yes and that it takes about 10 minutes to have her fully under the anesthesia. To resist the urge to demand that you will stay in the room and watch over your child’s limp body is a very difficult task for a mother. I didn’t want to seem like a crazy Mom though so I stepped out knowing that they do this day in and day out. It is a routine procedure.
Passing time while my toddler is under general anesthesia…
My husband was right there waiting outside the surgery room for me. I told him that if we ever have to put her under general anesthesia again, he would be the one to take her in because I felt completely broken. Some people are tough enough to handle those situation’s. I was not.
We went to the coffee shop for some breakfast in hopes that it would make the time pass quicker. I couldn’t eat anything though.
Then, I saw this monkey balloon and knew we had to buy it for Aalz since she loves monkeys and is my little monkey.
Within 30 minutes I was back upstairs outside the theater area in the waiting section.
30 minutes passed…
1 hour passed…
Then after about an hour and 10 minutes the dentist came out and said that everything went well but that her teeth are very decayed internally and he could not figure out why since she does not drink a bottle. (She is breastfed.) It looked a lot like Baby Bottle Syndrome.
He said we should be seeing her within ten minutes.
Something was wrong…
Ten minutes passed… then twenty…
I started to panic. I walked around in circles in the hallway wondering where my baby was!?
I told my hubby that something is wrong… she’s not waking up! I listened for her cry… NOTHING. I looked through the surgery recovery section everytime a nurse would walk in and out. I could not see her.
After 25 minutes someone called me in. I ran in and saw my angel being carried by a nurse. Aalz looked at me oddly then put her hands out softly, laid her head on my chest, and immediately fell asleep.
I found this really odd since the last time we did the op for her grommets she was screaming and crying for me the second she woke up and the minute she had seen me she said “MAMA!! I NEED MILTY!” This time, she was quiet.
I asked the recovery nurse how Aalz was the moment when she woke up, “Did she cry for her Mama?”
She said nope and that she just didn’t wanna wake up. Every time they would try to wake her up she would close her eyes again. As I was leaving recovery I heard the recovery nurse tell the nurse who was taking me to the ward that they needed to watch her *pointing at my daughter* because she is too sleepy.
On our way to the pediatric ward I tried speaking to Aalz:
“Aalz my angel, wake up … Are you still so tired?“
*She opened her eyes but looked across the room as she spoke to me (as if I too were across the room).*
She whispered, “Ya.”
This freaked me out… Why couldn’t she make eye contact with me? What was wrong with my child? At this stage I knew something was really wrong. She could not be this tired!
I put her down on the bed, she kept her eyes closed and they put the monitor on. Immediately the Sp02 sign started to beep and FLASH “LOW”.
The nurse was not telling me anything, just observing. I saw the SPO2 say DESAT once or twice… I asked her if everything is ok she said ya everything is fine. I googled “SPo2” and it stood for Oxygen Saturation. Normal levels are 97% and bad levels are 87%. Aalz levels were between 79–85. My husband asked the nurse what is wrong with her saturation so the nurse said she is not testing saturation and she is only testing beats per minute.(umm because you know that makes sense, right?)
He looked at me with the, “See! Don’t Google everything it’s not always right” look.
I noticed that while Aalz appeared to be sleeping she was moving her hands a little bit.
I asked her, “Aalz, are you awake?“
She lightly nodded her head.
“Do you want milk sweet heart?“
She lightly nodded again.
I picked her up and latched her on. Her suck was so weak. She again appeared to fall asleep. I whispered the words to Sandra Boyntons Moo Baa La La book.. (one of the best books for toddlers EVER.)
“A cow says…”
She whispered back so softly with her eyes closed, “Moo.“
“A sheep says…“
“Baa.” she said, even more softly.
“Three singing pigs say…”
“La La La”
She didn’t answer, she dozed back off to sleep. Something was VERY wrong!
I put her down then and planned to go stalk the nurse when the head nurse came quickly towards us and screams, “She needs oxygen!“
The Panic ….
I said, “SEE!!! I TOLD YOU!!!” Referring to who? I don’t even know… to my husband… to the nurses… to myself?
We gave her oxygen and immediately her saturation went to 97%. Every time we took the mask off her saturation would go down to 84 or somewhere around there.
The dentist walked in smiling as he finished his last patient when all of a sudden he saw her with the oxygen mask. Immediately, you could see the concern on his face. (We have the most AMAZING dentist.)
He asked us why she is on oxygen?! We told him what happened and he was very upset that nobody had called him. He said the nurses should have called him immediately when something was wrong. I explained to him how they let her oxygen saturation stay so low for an hour before giving her oxygen. He was fuming.
Aalz just lay there… She was there… but so very weak. She would whisper three words to me and then mid sentence her eyes would close and she would dose off.
We called in a pediatrician who said that because Aalz was still fighting and screaming with so much of force and power she seemed to be ok. Aalz was a fighter. She didn’t want any doctor near her. She said we have to nebulize her because her throat and chest sounded hoarse. We put the nebulizer on her and she wasn’t having any of it. Because of her kicking and screaming the nurses had to hold her down while they told me to move away from Aalz sight so she would allow them to nebulize her. After an eternity (20 minutes) of listening to my child scream and cry with all her might she was done nebulizing. Her oxygen saturation went up to 95% now… Then again, ten minutes later it started to drop again. We put oxygen on her.
Nobody knew what was causing this. The anesthetist had left the building to go do an operation at another hospital. He was called back and as soon as he saw her he said, “She is sensitive to morphine. She just needs an injection to counteract the morphine and she will be fine.“
He told me it was a small needle… when he took it out the needle was HUGE! He put it into her thigh while she cried but after 3 minutes her oxygen saturation went up to normal levels without the oxygen mask.
Back to normal…
She was back to normal!!! It seems that she has a morphine sensitivity.
After 30 minutes the nurse who had been observing her told me she was VERY worried and scared for Aalz as her situation was VERY bad. I asked her why she hadn’t told me when I asked if something was wrong?! She said hospital protocol is that she alerts the head nurse and the head nurse is to make a decision and to inform family.
We were cleared to go home an hour later… and after a few more hours of sleeping Aaliya and worried and stressed Mama my baby girl became normal again. She started to speak.. to run… and best of all smile while showing off her fixed up teeth.
The dentist did a great job with her teeth and was with us every step of the way (after he was done with the 2 other procedures he had booked for the day). I feel that the Anesthetist should have checked on her before he left the hospital. I feel that Aalz should have been moved to the ICU or another area where the nurses were better prepared to deal with a situation like this. I feel that the nurses allowed her oxygen saturation to stay low for far too long. I also feel that morphine should never have been given to my child for post op pain. It was not needed.
This is one situation that could have turned out very badly but by prayers, God saved her.
I was told it was an easy routine procedure but unfortunately it did not turn out as easy and routine as expected.
For parents that need to put their child under general anesthesia for the first time:
Please make sure to ask the anesthetist what medication they will be using if any for post op pain. Also please try and space out the anesthesia’s a bit more (if they need multiple procedures) to allow the child’s body time to heal. Unless of course the child is in pain (like Aalz was)… but then.. just be aware. Don’t use morphine unless it is really really needed. (I was not told she would be given morphine.) Follow your gut! And while Google is not a Doctor… Google is your friend. If you don’t understand something, Google it!
I’m writing this story in hopes to get it off my chest so that I can forget what happened. I need to heal from this thing called Mom Guilt as well as from the trauma. What happened on this day will always be with me. I’m trying to understand what happened. To accept that it happened to us and to find the strength to move on taking with it valuable lessons learned.
She is ok and that is the most important thing…
I love you my little Princess Aalz. I am sorry that you had to go through this and I am sorry that Mama could not have kept you through the pain but know that for every tear that fell from your eyes, two fell from mine.
I don’t know if we would have been able to prevent this whole experience but I do know it is something we don’t want to experience again. Check out how I plan to remineralize my child’s teeth naturally.