The Ear Tubes Are In, My Talker is Here

After 11 ear infections, two doctors (the ENT and the pediatrician) who initially opted against ear tubes, and much more worry than was necessary...Olivia has tubes in her ears.

The ear saga has been quite a long one. Olivia got her first ear infection Thanksgiving 2008. She was three months old. Since then she's had 10 more...5 of them just since September 2009. There was more than one occasion when she'd finish a 10 day anti-biotic only to wake up the next day with another snotty nose or cough and the ear infection would always follow within days. There was more than one occasion when I took her to the doctor for a well-visit only to be told she had a bad ear infection. I had no idea. She never complained. Never woke at night. Never pulled her ears.

The pediatrician would ask me questions like "How is her speech." Compared to other kids I know her age, very good. She says "mommy, daddy, bye-bye, baby" clear as day. She says countless other words that only me and my husband (sometimes just me) can comprehend. She says "dooo for dog....nuuu for noodle...beee for binkie." I thought he was just asking me about her speech. What I didn't realize is he was trying to figure out how much the non-stop ear infections and the gunk in her ear were delaying and/or affecting her speech. 

No one wanted Olivia to have tubes. At ear infection #10 the pediatrician told me to finally see an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat specialist). I'd been asking about this since #7 or 8. When we saw the ENT he said: she has no hearing loss, she has no damage to her ears, she's tolerating the medications (all 4 she'd been on) fine...let's hold off on the tubes.  A few days later, I took Olivia back to the pediatrician for her 15 month vaccines (she was 16 months, but was so behind on shots b/c we could never fit them in between all the illnesses and anti-biotics) she had another ear infection. Her doctor looked at me and said he was running out of medical options; she was becoming immune to the anti-biotics. He said he was calling the ENT - tubes were a requirement for Olivia. That was a Friday, 10 days later I woke Olivia up at 5:30 am, we were on our way to the hospital.

Surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am, we had to arrive at 6:15am. (I must say, this is cruel for both the patient and parents). Not only are you waking your child up, you are then required to withhold anything to eat or drink. They called us back around 6:40 and I was excited that the surgery was going to happen earlier than the allotted time. Nope, they just changed her into a hospital gown and put us in a 'room' (really just an area separated from the next patient's room by a curtain). We were within feet of the nurses' station and all that equipment. Starving, thirsty, tired, squirmy, and generally miserable Olivia had to be confined to one of our laps for the next 45 minutes. It was brutal and by far the worse part of the 'surgery.'

Around 7:25 Olivia's ENT came out to see her. She had her hand raised over her head and was opening and closing her fist frantically. The doctor, thinking Olivia was waving 'hi' to him said "Oh, hi Olivia." That's when I informed him that she wasn't saying hi at all, she was signing desperately for milk. The higher the arm, the more desperation!

About five minutes later my husband went back to the OR with Olivia, two nurses, the doc, and the anesthesiologist. He held her as they put a mask over her face and she was put under. I was warned by several people that I would not want to see this...my daughter's eyes might roll back, she would go limp...it was not a memory I would want. But there was no way she was going back by herself...so I elected Daddy.

In the meantime, I went to sit down in a special waiting room. Not five minutes later my husband joined me and said Olivia was heading into surgery. I walked down the hall to the bathroom. When I got back Bob went and got a coffee and a bagel. He returned. I took one bite of my bagel and the doctor came into the waiting room. Just like that, the surgery was over.

The second most difficult part was now waiting for us. Waking up from anesthesia, I was warned Olivia would be erratic, screaming, thrashing, kicking, crying. She was all of the above. For a good 20 minutes she cried hysterically and we couldn't console her.  Not even Elmo or her milk could console her. About 20 minutes after getting out of surgery the nurses said she was good to go. Still crying slightly we packed up and headed out to the car. As soon as she got into her car seat we put on her Raffi music. When the first song finished she said "a-dain." At the same time, Bob and I both looked at each other and said "she's back." She always asks for "again."

That was the end of it. No pain, no drainage, no crying, a little more sleep that day than normal, and since then no more ear infections.  Knock on wood.

In the week and a half since the surgery, I have noticed a dramatic difference in her speech.  She has tried to repeat nearly everything we say, she attempts far more words, and the words she said before are now becoming even clearer.  I was told before the surgery Olivia was probably hearing like she was underwater. Meaning, she could hear, but it was very muffled. Now she's hearing as she should and we've got the talker to prove it.

Has your child/children had tubes? What was you experience like? Leave a comment and share your concerns, the differences you noticed in speech after surgery, or if they've had post-op ear infections.


MICHELE said...

Thanks for the update! I have been wondering and praying since you mentioned it awhile back!
I had TONS of ear infections as a child and ended w/ tubes TWICE! I was old enough to remember and what you describe sounds like what I went through. Glad she is feeling better and talking more that must be nice?!?!! Although the sign language is cute. I have been doing it more w/ my daughter and she is starting to pick up on it...it is amazing!

Melissa said...

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. Olivia is doing great!
As far as sign language I feel like once Olivia hit about 14 months she started picking signs up almost immediately. Sometimes I'd show her a sign and she'd do it right then. Other times I'd show her a sign and I know she'd be processing it and then a week later she'd pull it out of no where! I love the signing because she can really communicate with me. Even as she's starting to talk she's still signing, although I still wonder if she'll drop them once she can stay the word.
I like the "Signing Time" DVDs...check for them at your library. Although I do let her watch it on her own, I usually try to sit with her and make it more interactive. I think she picks up the signs faster that way. Good luck!

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