Nearly every day for almost four years I’ve had episodes that I call ‘ticcing fits’ when my usual tics suddenly intensify and I completely lose control of my body and speech.
Although they look seizure-like and need similar management, they’re a feature of my Tourettes, not of epilepsy. I remain fully conscious throughout so I know exactly what’s happening around me even though I usually can’t speak or control my movements.
Today though I had a fit, and despite it lasting for over 40 minutes, I can hardly remember it at all. This isn’t a cause for concern though, because there’s a clear explanation why my memory was so hazy – I was very heavily sedated at the time.
In fact I was at the dentist, being supported by Will. Whenever I have any work done it has to be under sedation to stop my tics turning an ordinary procedure into ‘extreme danger dentistry’. I see the special care dentistry team at Kings College Hospital who are wonderful and very familiar with my tics.
For the rest of this post I’ll be relying almost entirely on Will’s recollection of events rather than my own because I can’t remember a thing after the sedative went in.
Will said it was strange watching my body shut down and my tics slowly reduce. He said my legs still ticced a bit, particularly when something stimulating was happening – like drilling! He’d been wondering about what a fit would look like with my body offline and whether he’d be able to spot it happening.
This was put to the test just as the dentist was finishing up. Apparently they tried to rouse me but were getting no response, Will then noticed that my leg looked twisted and tight and he realised I was having a fit. As he came to help he heard a tiny ‘howing’ noise – a classic sign that I’m having a fit.
The dental team were apparently fantastic, staying calm and following Will’s lead. They moved the dentist’s chair until it was in the perfect position for managing the fit.
My body was very locked up and because of this, and because the fit was a long one, Will gave me some emergency medication. I remember none of this, although I have a vague recollection of a strange twisting sensation in my face and a numb mouth. Eventually the fit ended and I gradually came round.
One of the dental nurses, who’d been on a clinical holding training course just yesterday, said she learnt more about providing physical support through the experience of helping me than she had on her course.
I’ve got vivid memories of many surreal fitting experiences, including dream-muddled fits in the middle of the night, fitting to a reggae soundtrack at a festival, and watching thousands of legs thunder past on the floor of a tube station. But I’m finding my first ‘lost fit’ more weird than any other.
The whole thing – from my treatment to my fit was managed incredibly well. At a time when NHS staff are under huge pressure from sweeping cuts, creeping privatisation and politically motivated press scrutiny, it’s important to say the special care team were knowledgeable, thoughtful and unflappable – without them I wouldn’t be able to access dental treatment at all. They’re unlikely to be the first department you think of when you think of the NHS but the breadth and specialist knowledge that exists within our health system is one of the things I find astonishing and encouraging. It’s also very fragile and if lost it will be near impossible to replace.
There’s work left to do on my teeth so I’ll be back for more next month, but thanks to how smoothly today was managed I have no worries about this at all. My worries are reserved for whether this amazing team and the countless others across the country providing specialist care will be able to survive the latest savage attacks on the NHS.
Find out more about the campaign to protect the NHS here. My teeth, and yours, are counting on it.