A Little Understanding Makes A Big Difference

A few weeks ago, Jake had a dentist appointment.

Getting my son into and out of a car is no easy feat since we do not have a wheelchair accessible van. What I do is wheel him from the house to the car, lift his 54 pound body out of his wheelchair, carefully supporting his head with one hand and using my other arm to support his legs (easy when he was a small baby, not so simple when he is 11-years-long and my arms are spread wide apart!) and transfer him to the car seat in our van. After getting his arms through the safety harness and buckling up the 5-point clasp (harder than it sounds because his limbs are very stiff and he offers zero help), I wheel the chair to the back of the van, remove a large piece of plywood from the back and place it as a makeshift ramp from the back bumper to the ground. Then I carefully position the chair at the foot of the ramp, count to three, hold my breath and shove the umpteen pound wheelchair up the ramp, hoping that the wheels are positioned properly – a few inches off to one side will cause the chair and ramp to tumble to the ground. Once safely in the van, I place the plywood back in the van, close the trunk and hope I remembered to secure the brake on the chair so it won’t roll around the back.

One morning, a few weeks ago, we were off to the dentist. But this time it wasn’t just Jake and me – on the suggestion of Randi, Jake’s dentist, we brought Felix, Jacob’s Skilled Companion dog, with us to see if Felix’s presence would help make Jacob feel more comfortable while his teeth were cleaned. With a slight amount of trepidation, I wheeled Jake with Felix beside him into the medical building, into the elevator, down the hall and into Randi’s office.

This was the first time I brought Felix along to any appointment so it was understandable that I was a bit hesitant and unsure of what to expect. It was worth the gamble though, Felix was a great help to Jake, it helped distract my son and the office staff were wonderful in accepting Felix’s presence in the tiny examination room.

Buoyed by the successful appointment, once Jake was returned to the van, I called the pediatrician’s office to inquire as to whether I could bring my son for a flu shot. The answer was yes.

As discussed over the phone a few minutes earlier, and to make things easier for me (they are aware of the steps involved in getting Jake in and out of the car), I called the office to let them know we had arrived in front of the office because ┬áthe nurse agreed to administer the shot in the ‘relative comfort’ of Jake’s car seat. Within a minute or two, Cathy was standing next to Jake’s car seat, the needle ready to meet its target and Felix decided this was a perfect time to lick Jacob’s left cheek to distract him from the shot aimed at my son’s right upper arm. Jacob did not feel a thing, other than the warm, moist slobber of Felix’s enormous tongue!

Three firsts in one morning: Randi let us bring Felix to the dental appointment, Cathy at the pediatrician’s office came to Jake instead of the other way around (as an aside, the doctor came out to the car too so he could take a quick peek at my son’s g-tube site) and Felix proved that he is truly a Skilled Companion dog. All the medical professionals we encountered that morning showed true empathy and tried to make the situation a bit easier for us.

Thank you!