HOLEY EARBALLS (pt 1)
February 13, 2017
[for those who have asked, this is the scoop on hutt’s earballs. If you are not family and/or care nothing about an oddly specific, obnoxiously detailed medical history of my middle son’s middle ear, feel free to pass this post on by.]
About 18 months ago, at the beginning of the Winter Virus Season, our middle boy got an ear infection.
And then another one.
And then another one.
And on and on.
The infections clustered enough in a short enough amount of time that we were referred to a pediatric ENT to talk about putting in ear tubes.
Super simple procedure; very common in small kids.
So we did it.
The surgery was so fast, I was still arranging my purse and coat into the seat next to me in the waiting room when they called us back.
“Parents of Hutton? He’s ready for you.”
“…really? Because I literally just sat down. And I was about to have an intimate moment with that vending machine Reese’s cup. So…”
“He did great!” the doctor said. “We’ll see you back 6 weeks post-op to make sure everything is healing; otherwise, he’s good to go.”
We saw him less than 2 weeks later, because Hutton’s ears were already goopy and disgusting again. Diagnosis: ear infection #6.
And then 4 weeks later, at the originally scheduled follow up visit. Diagnosis: ear infection #7.
It seems like most kids see their ENT’s exactly 3 times: once at the consultation, once at the surgery center, and once at the post-op visit.
Tubes go in, infections stop. Or so I hear.
Hutton’s continued. On and on and on.
We finally got him through last winter, had a 2-3 month infection reprieve, and then summer happened.
And over the summer, he got The Mega Infection.
The one that couldn’t be cleared after 4 rounds of antibiotics. The one where sewer slime oozed out of his ear for an entire month. The one where our pediatrician conferred with an infectious disease doctor about “what type of infection this could possibly be to be resisting all the medication”.
We ran cultures, we switched meds, we sighed heavily.
Finally, at some point, the infection was cleared.
Clearing it was a big enough deal, we threw an Ear Party to celebrate.
No more infection? EAR PANCAKES FOR ALL!
But then we went to the ENT for a follow up to the follow up of the follow-up Follow Up.
We learned that during the course of The Mega Infection, the tubes and fallen out.
“The tubes have come out, and one ear looks great,” our ENT said. “The other eardrum, however, was ruptured. The perforation is slightly bigger than the tube was, so we’ll just monitor that until it closes up. In the meantime, keep that ear completely dry. (oh, and here’s an earplug. Trying to keep this in your 2 year old’s ear is a complete joke that will make you want to bang your head against a wall.) Good luck!”
Our next follow up appointment was 6 months later. By some miracle, we made it all 6 months without another infection.
We did, however, notice a change in hearing and language during those months.
And by “change”, I mean every other word that came out of Hutton’s mouth was “WHAT?” or “TALK YOUDER” or “TURN IT UP”.
Sure enough, the audiologist confirmed hearing loss at his follow up in December. Not severe, but certainly noticeable.
When the ENT examined him, he said, “Well, we have a few things going on. The first being that the hole in his ear drum has grown a little bit, which explains his hearing loss.”
me: “Grown? Is it supposed to do that?”
him: “Not really. It used to be maybe 40% of his eardrum; now it’s more like 50+%.”
me: “Haha! For a second I thought you said FIFTY percent. 5-0. Like, half his ear drum.”
him: “I did.”
me: “Oh. Um. And we aren’t sure why it’s grown? That seems like a large hole. Is that a large hole?”
him: “It is sizable.”
me: “Like how sizable?”
him: “Well, for reference, ear tubes are 2% of the ear drum.”
me: “And now he’s at 50+%? So…from 2%, to 40%, to 50%.”
him: “That is correct.”
me: “This seems like an issue.”
him: “Yes, it will have to be repaired at some point. Probably when he’s around 6. We’ll just keep it completely dry until then.”
me: “Mmmm. Yes. 3 more years of those cool, super effective ear plugs. No problem at all.”
So not only did the perforation grow substantially (?!), his left ear has significant amount of fluid on it – again – which explains why he can’t hear a dang thing.
Our ENT wanted to immediately jump back into another tube.
I, on the other hand, wanted to find the root cause of all the fluid so we didn’t…I don’t know….end up with, like, 2 broken eardrums that needed to stay dry.
He was uninterested in my hesitation.
I was uninterested in him and found a different ENT.
First things out of new guy’s mouth: “Wow, that’s a big hole. And his hearing is pretty terrible from the combination of the hole and the fluid build up, but before we jump to another tube, let’s try to address the underlying issue.”
s l o w c l a p for our new ENT. I love him s’much.
He thinks Hutton might still have reflux – an odd but reasonable assumption, seeing as Hutton has no other glaring food or environmental allergies and we’ve explored every other option – and even suggested we visit a pediatric gastroenterologist. (We did; it was unhelpful.)
To drain the fluid on Left Ear, we’ve tried:
- a chiropractor who, as precious as she is, adjusted him a few times before saying, “I think the fluid is gone!” (It wasn’t. At all.)
- allergy meds
- reflux meds
- snake oils
- wishful thinking
…to no avail. Not only is the fluid not draining, it is perpetually infected.
So, tube #2 it is.
One tube and one adenoid(s?) removal.
Long, long, long story summarized: the holey eardrum will have to be completely reconstructed in the future, and the other ear will have to stay clear and fluid-free if he has any hope of hearing and speaking clearly and at a normal volume for the next few years. (Which, currently, DOES NOT HAPPEN EVERYTHING HE SAYS IS DISTORTED AND/OR AT AN ELEVATED VOLUME.)
(The excessive volume is kind of a funny trait until you go to the public library. Librarian #2 was wholly unimpressed with our presence the last Monday.)
When I tell this whole saga from the perspective of a year and a half in, it’s doesn’t feel like a big deal. Probably because it’s not, really. It’s kid stuff that we won’t even have to think about in a few short years.
Before now, though, it’s been exhausting.
We’d think we were in the clear, only to find a new complication. In the clear again, new complication. Repeat.
One infection, one appointment at a time.
Even though we know his overall health is fantastic, and even though we know he could be dealing with actual life-threatening issues, and even though we know this is a blip on the radar, the middle portion has been wearisome.
We’re very ready for Thursday. We’re praying his hearing improves dramatically, and we’re praying taking the adenoid tissue out will keep his ears free of infection.
We’re hoping Left Ear pulls its crap together so Right Ear can be the only high maintenance one.
Feel free to pray with us.
We’ll keep you posted.
And, to thank you in advance for your prayers, here is our main man reading the title of this blog.