Dennis the Menace

Since John first got his back teeth he has been a grinder….eeeeeiwwww it goes right through me. When I ask him to stop he just laughs, shows me his tongue and says Dennis.
Dennis is John speak for dentist, incidentally the current Dennis is called Andy and is fabulous. I have never met this particular Dennis as I need to be sedated and put in a straight jacket at the very mention of John needing any treatment. I put this down to severe post traumatic stress from John’s previous visits to the many Dennis’ over the years.

His first visit for a check up held no fear for either of us, oh how naive of me.
The result was that John had a meltdown, the waiting room was trashed and the receptionist spent a fortnight in the Priory. As for that particular Dennis, we didn’t get as far as actually meeting him although I am sure we heard him whimpering behind the door.

The second visit to see Dennis, with a newly refurbished waiting room and a rather spaced out receptionist was a little more successful. Well I say successful, the waiting room remained intact, the receptionist only shook occasionally, and we even got in to meet Dennis. However the only way John would let Dennis near him was if I sat in the chair while his dad pressed the pedal for me to go up and down several times before tipping me backwards so that my knees ended up by my ears. John lay on the floor laughing uproariously with Dennis lying next to him taking his chance to check John’s teeth with each belly laugh. I am not sure if he learnt this technique at The Liverpool School of Dentistry but by golly it worked.
John obviously felt comfortable with this method of examination as he got Dennis in a very firm headlock and licked his cheek with gusto before we left.
We later heard that Dennis had left the practice shortly afterwards.

As John got older we saw many Dennis’ come and go, mostly go it has to be said. We have always been very particular with John’s dental hygiene as the thought of him actually needing any treatment was too much to contemplate.
He was 23 years old before he needed a filling, it will be etched on my memory for ever.

John was to see the Dennis at our local hospital and he would be put under general anaesthetic for his treatment. ‘The hospity Dennis’ as John called him, had a separate clinic for patients with special needs, or as the delightful man called them ‘The handicaps’. I instantly knew we would not get on and inspite of my efforts to be understanding of his abject ignorance, I lost points for biting him on the arm. Ok so I didn’t actually bite him, but verbally I did bite his head off.

John’s appointment was the day before Christmas Eve, there were 5 patients in the day ward all with various dental problems and all of them terrified. John immediately freaked out at having to be in a ward with people he didn’t know, therefore they could be unpredictable and to John that is hell on earth. He was fighting us both to get out of the ward and to be allowed to get on with all things Christmassy. We were able to pacify him temporarily by pumping his bed up and down to the tune of Jingle Bells, which I sang with gusto. He was to be the second patient to go to theatre and we figured if we took it in turn with the pumping and the singing we might just stave off a disaster, not to mention cramp.
We had not planned for Dennis deciding to leave John until the last as in his words, and I kid you not…… ‘He needs calming down, nurse! do we have any restraints?’
We definitely did not get on, I will spare you the details my friends but it wasn’t pretty.

In order to keep John entertained for the next five hours we pumped up beds, pushed him around the corridors on the nurses ‘wheelie chair’ and took him up and down in the lifts to all floors, buying balloons every time we arrived at the ground floor.
We were exhausted, John shouted ‘More big, liffs, ba-ooons, now peas’ at everyone we passed. When we arrived back on the ward there were still two patients ahead of us so we commenced the pumping and the singing as if our lives depended on it. In fact by then mine actually did.
John’s dad who is always calm under pressure was losing patience with my short fuse and continuing insistence that Dennis the menace needed a good slap.

Finally it was John’s turn and to cut a long tooth short he was done in under the hour. However we learnt a lot in that hour, namely that that this nasty Dennis had the bedside manner of Dr Frankenstein. His nurses dished the dirt, they hated him and were terrified of him and most of his his patients were terrified of him. We weren’t too keen on him either, but as he brought John back to the ward it was clear that John loved him. You couldn’t make it up.
The nurses had never seen Dr Frankenstein smile before and this made them even more terrified.
It appeared that he had taken to John like never before and at one point he was so overcome with good cheer that I thought he was going to offer to buy him off us.
Fortunately for everyone in the ‘Hospity Dennis’ department he retired a couple of months later.

Twelve months later John’s check up showed he needed an extraction as he now had too many teeth. I developed IBS and St. Vitus Dance with the anxiety of what might happen. In the end it was decided that it would be best all round if I remained at home and John’s dad and Magic Kev from Wirral Autistic Society would take John.
Please can I come too I begged….’NO WAY’ they both shouted in unison. John’s dad had obviously given Magic Kev the heads up on our last visit.

I made sure that I telephoned in advance of John’s appointment and spoke to the new Dennis who was a lady, I explained that John being autistic could not be expected to wait for five hours and remain calm. She had heard tales of his last appointment and reassured me that John would be first down. She sounded lovely and very competent, what could possibly go wrong, you might well ask.

I was just as stressed by not being there as I would have been if I had been.
I had instructed John’s dad to text me every 15 minutes with updates.
First txt said John wasn’t going to be first down after all as another young man was very distressed and John was less so.
I had a feeling of impending doom so rang the hospital and spoke to the receptionist in the Dennis dept to tell her that she had to ensure John was second to go down. She told me she would pass on the message and that I should calm down and not worry. Yeah right, like that was going to happen!

Second text said that John was fine, had been as good as gold and didn’t even flinch when the needle went into his arm. I sobbed with relief, phoned the receptionist, sobbed a bit more and thanked her for her part in making sure John was second down.
She said the theatre list was nothing to do with her, asked me if there was anyone with me and suggested I make myself a cup of sweet tea to calm my nerves.

There was no third text. I waited another 15 minutes, still no text. I phoned John’s dad, it went straight to answer phone. It was clear to me in that instant that John had not survived the anaesthetic. I went hysterical and phoned the receptionist demanding that she go and get John’s dad, Magic Kev and Dennis immediately. She put me on hold and went for her lunch.

My phone rang, it was Magic Kev to say there had been a problem but John was ok-ish. Magic Kev was so stressed he was near to tears, he told me John’s dad would ring me as soon as he was able.

I was besides myself with worry. John’s dad eventually phoned and was clearly shaken. Apparently Dennis lady had decided that as well as John having a general anaesthetic she would freeze his gum incase he had any pain from the extraction. We had already informed her that John grinds his teeth but she had either forgotten or just dismissed this information as not relevant.
Anyway as John came round from the anaesthetic he couldn’t feel his mouth, ground his teeth and bit his tongue in half from the back to the front. There was blood everywhere and his tongue was only held on by two small pieces of membrane. Dennis and her team panicked and called John’s dad and Magic Kev into the recovery room where they were all immediately covered in blood and tongue. They couldn’t decide whether to sew it back together or to leave it, apparently tongues have a good blood flow and heal quickly.
John thankfully realised something wasn’t quite right so just stayed very still allowing his serpent like tongue to flap about like Kaa out of the Jungle Book.

I telephoned the receptionist, obviously, and vented my spleen, she put me through to Dennis lady and I vented a bit more. She was very apologetic and clearly upset. I had no sympathy for her whatsoever, I think she got my point rather quickly.

John arrived home with a very swollen forked tongue, a massive course of antibiotics and demanded ‘Thake, thuice theas ‘ I burst into tears, here he was in a proper mess and yet desperate for everything to be normal, so typical of an autistic person, so he was asking for cake and juice even though he couldn’t possible eat it. He did manage to drink but it wasn’t a pretty sight as his tongue did very strange things, waggling about in two sections independently of eachother. Ugh! It makes me shudder just to think of it.
It took about two weeks for his tongue to heal enough for him to eat anything more than sloppy Weetabix, which he hated.
John being John soon recovered completely and we stopped with all the hissing and snake jokes.

I can be forgiven then for having a massive panic attack when I was told John needed a wisdom tooth out a couple of weeks ago. Oh dear god no!

As I mentioned in the beginning John’s new regular Dennis, who looks after a lot of the clients teeth at WAS is called Andy and I was assured he was nothing short of a saint. He knew John well, John liked him and willingly participated in his check ups; even agreeing to sit in the chair rather than getting Andy to lie on the floor with him. St Dennis even had his own ‘Hospity St Dennis’ clinic and there were only two patients booked in on that day.

John was accompanied by his favourite team leader from WAS, his dad met them there while I waited at home fretting and having flash backs. Naturally I had my phone in hand ready to contact the receptionist if necessary.
John on the other hand was not at all fazed. He was promised a balloon when it was all over and was busy confirming with his team leader, two security guard and a gaggle of cleaners that he would definitely be getting a balloon.

John’s dad text to say that phase one went to plan and John had remained chilled throughout. Apparently he climbed onto the trolley, stuck his tongue and his arm out and said ‘Dennis, seep, OK, ‘

When it was all over he skipped back to the car with a balloon that said ‘Congratulations on the birth of your new baby girl’

I love you my gorgeous brave boy.

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5 thoughts on “Dennis the Menace

  1. Julie your posts get better and better! Not only should you be commissioned for a book – I can see a film coming on! We’ll done.

  2. You are totally amazing – thank you for helping us to remember we are not alone. My Harry landed a top right hook on the dentist and fought the sedation like a lion. Thank the lord we found our own ‘Dennis’ who totally empathised. Xxxx

    • We can only imagine how frightened our children must be when a stranger wants them sat in a chair while he invades their space and their bodies. Thank goodness for all the St. Dennis’ out there, I am glad you found yours.
      Thank you for your kind words regarding the blog. Xx

      • I hope your hilarious but sensitive slant on our autism filled lives is shared far and wide! All I want from people is a bit of kindness but sadly it is still too much to ask from some. I was gutted to miss your talk at Stanley School as I wanted to shake your hand!! Keep the blogs coming! Xx

      • Ah what a lovely words, thank you. I hope we get to meet up another time. Hopefully as awareness of autism grows, people’s understanding will grow too.
        You can always have a moan at me if you need to. Xx

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