A little girl lost her first tooth in the middle of a sleep study. Then magic happened at the lab.
When 6-year-old Lyric Thomas arrived at the Memorial Hermann Sleep Disorders Center at Westside one recent evening, she had a lot to talk about. She chatted nonstop with pediatric sleep technologist Kelli O’Leary about school, life and an exciting new development: an extremely loose front tooth.
“She was just a bubbly little girl, as cute as she could be, just wanting to chit-chat,” says O’Leary. “For a sleep study, I have to put 40 sensors on the kids, and it takes 30 to 40 minutes. We were chatting away the whole time. She was showing me her loose tooth and pushing it with her tongue. I said, ‘Oh my goodness, that looks like it’s ready to come out.’”
Right before bedtime, Lyric went to use the restroom. When she emerged, she was holding the tooth in her hand. It was the first tooth she’d ever lost, and she was delighted. She knew it would prompt a visit from the Tooth Fairy, although she was fuzzy on the details.
O’Leary faced a dilemma. Lyric’s mom, Carrie DesRochers, works in Clear Lake. She couldn’t get home early enough to drive Lyric to the sleep center in time for the study, which started promptly at 6 p.m. So she had her niece bring the girl instead. But the niece had a migraine, and after filling out the required paperwork, she lay down on the couch next to Lyric’s bed. She was asleep long before Lyric lost her tooth.
That meant the Tooth Fairy would have to improvise.
O’Leary gave Lyric a small paper medication cup to put her tooth in and leave by her bedside. “I think the Tooth Fairy can find you no matter where you are,” O’Leary explained.
“Oh yeah, I know. Just like Santa Claus,” Lyric said confidently. It was nearly 9 p.m., and despite the excitement — and all the sleep study equipment — she was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.
“Luckily, kids sleep really hard,” O’Leary says. “For the study, you have all these sensors, you have belts on your chest and your abdomen; you have a nasal cannula in your nose. It’s a lot. But you put this stuff on them and they go right to sleep. It’s amazing.”
That made it easier for the Tooth Fairy to slip a few bills under Lyric’s pillow. But first, the fairy had to calculate the going rate for lost teeth.
“We had a discussion in the lab,” O’Leary explains. “I said, ‘What do kids get these days?’ We used to get a quarter, maybe 50 cents. One of the techs said her kid lost a tooth the other day and got a $20 bill. I think that’s setting the bar pretty high. I thought $3 was good. Hopefully Lyric could get herself something little with that.”
O’Leary only had two dollar bills on hand, but another tech contributed one more. Then the Tooth Fairy slipped them under Lyric’s pillow without disturbing her. The girl slept soundly until O’Leary roused her at 5:45 the next morning.
“She was super groggy,” O’Leary said. “The first thing she noticed was that the cup was gone, and she gasped. She said, ‘Where did it go?’ I said, ‘The Tooth Fairy usually takes the tooth away and leaves a surprise under your pillow.’” Lyric dug her hand under the pillow and pulled it out again, clutching the $3. “I got money!” she said triumphantly.
Her older cousin woke up to discover that she’d missed a milestone. “I can’t believe I slept through this whole thing,” she lamented. While Lyric was distracted, O’Leary handed the cousin a small object in a plastic baggie. “Her mom might want this,” she said.
DesRochers did want it — and she was thrilled that O’Leary had helped guide the Tooth Fairy in her absence.
“They did exactly what needed to be done. I was so happy that they did,” DesRochers says. “My child still believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, and she’s SO excited about all that. I wouldn’t want to take that joy away from her.”
DesRochers had known beforehand that Lyric’s tooth was wiggly, but she thought it would take a couple more days to fall out. If the Tooth Fairy had been a no-show at the sleep lab, she would have done her best to make excuses — but she couldn’t be sure that Lyric would buy it.
“She’s a very bright child. And she asks a lot of questions,” DesRochers says.
O’Leary understood that implicitly. Although this was the first time in her 20-year career that a patient has lost a tooth on her watch, she knew just how to respond. “I’m a mom and a grandmother, and I treat all of these kids like my own. Every single one of them. I just enjoy them so much,” she says. “I was cleaning out drawers not that long ago and found my own kids’ baby teeth.”
For now, Lyric’s lost tooth is still in a baggie in her mom’s purse. “I don’t know what to do with it,” DesRochers says. “I might put it on a chain eventually. I want to hold off for a while, though, because she still thinks the Tooth Fairy came and got it. She doesn’t know we have it.”
Like her cousin, Lyric suffers from frequent, painful migraines. That was why she did the sleep study: her doctor wanted to find out whether sleep issues were contributing to her condition. She’s already undergone a number of other tests, including a CT scan, after which she told her mother, “They put me in a big donut.”
“She’s very creative,” DesRochers says.
She’s also very frugal. Whenever someone gives her money, the 6-year-old puts it in her piggy bank.
“She’s saving up. She doesn’t know for what, but she saves all her money,” DesRochers says.
Flush with her Tooth Fairy windfall, Lyric went home and stuffed the $3 in her bank.
Evangeline Hubbard-Davis says
Adorable story. She will never forget this experience. Another example of the awesome work done for our smallest of patients…