Yawning away the last of the anesthesia after abdominal surgery, 6-year-old Sophia’s eyes focus on a small tooth-shaped container dangling from a bright pink necklace. Inside she finds the once-wobbly front tooth that she, her daddy and grandmother had been trying unsuccessfully to wiggle out for days.
“Look Sophia, the tooth fairy was here,” announces her mom, Paola, holding up a certificate in the recovery room signed by the elusive pixey. But instead Sophia’s awakening eyes target the clear plastic bag attached to the document. Inside are six $1 bills, coincidentally the same number of members on Sophia’s surgery team.
Surgeons and anesthesiologists warn that swallowing a baby tooth while sedated isn’t safe. “While unconscious during surgery, we can’t have a child aspirate a tooth into their lungs,” says Jenny Dolan, M.D., an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital who adds, “We have the tooth fairy on speed dial. I’m a big fan.”
Sophia’s tongue checks the spot where the incisor has resided for years. “I can’t wait to show Daddy,” she says. The almost first-grader has had three previous encounters with the tooth fairy, but she’s still not sure how her tooth got inside the keepsake ornament or why the fairy left her tooth behind this time.
Maureen Doyle, R.N., clinical team leader for general surgery, is clandestine about her 16-year relationship with the secretive sprite known for generosity throughout the world. Sophia’s surgeon, Christopher Snyder, M.D., and the other clinicians in the operating room are equally mum.
Fueled from sips of apple juice and the tooth fairy’s benevolence, it’s clear Sophia is not the least bit sleepy anymore. “Can we stop and buy a toy on the way home?” she asks her mom. “Or wait, maybe I’ll get Daddy a laptop for his birthday.”