To any of you parents whose children have had relentless ear problems, this is for you.
After countless ear infections, innumerable antibiotics, 4 sets of tubes (first set at 18 months old), adenoids removed and being poked and prodded more times than I can count, we discovered, about a year and a half ago, that my son had a permanent hole in his left eardrum. He also, at the age of 18, still had in his right eardrum, the tube which had been placed there when he was 8. Remarkable, I know.
It had begun to be an irritant to him, like an itch he couldn’t scratch way down in his ear canal. Very frustrating. The tube had clearly served its purpose and needed to go. And what’s more, once that tube was removed, there would be an even larger hole in that eardrum.
Let me state the obvious: Holes in eardrums are not good. Water can get in there creating a lovely little hot tub of a breeding ground for whatever bacteria might want to take a dip.
What? This doesn’t seem like a thankful post to you? Just hang on a minute. I’m getting there.
I am thankful that all those years ago, when he had functioning tubes in his ears, he would stay well. And, I am thankful that after the age of 8, he did not have any ear infections for the next 9 years—until last summer, when water got in his left ear at surfing camp and well, you can guess what happened. Not good times.
I am thankful that over the years, though we have had experiences with at least 5 ENT specialists in 4 different states, there was only one who was a complete butthole and clearly had no clue about how to deal with special needs kids—or probably just kids in general. Trust me, we only saw him once. I did not let that door hit me in the behind! Out of all of those docs, the most recent guy, Dr. “J”, has been my personal favorite.
During our first visit to see him back in early June, Jacob commented to Dr. J that he didn’t like the whole “digging around in the ears” business. Next thing you know, Dr. J opens a drawer, pulls out the most ginormous screwdriver I have ever seen and says with a straight up deadpan face, “Well, I guess you don’t want me using this, then?”
In an instant, Jacob was put completely at ease and burst out laughing. Can I tell you how grateful I am for a sense of humor in a person?? Humor is a soothing balm. This was definitely a gentleman who understood that and clearly had experience with stressed out kids. A GIFT, I tell you! Thank you, God, for Dr. J!!
Dr. J determined that Jacob would need to undergo outpatient surgery to remove the tube that remained in his right ear and to repair both eardrum holes using a paper patch procedure, which would take less than an hour. (Read about it here.) This would be the first attempt to close the holes and if this did not work, a more involved procedure (about 3 –4 hours duration) would be necessary. Yeah, wanted to avoid that.
I think it is important to note here, that over the years, we have had Jacob’s hearing tested several times and it has always tested perfectly, even though hearing loss is a common result of multiple ear infections and surgeries. All the procedures and scar tissue, and his hearing is perfect? Yes, sure is. I am SO thankful for that. Now, selective hearing…that is another story…
Surgery day came in late June. Before the sun came up, we were headed out to the surgery center. Jacob seemed relaxed. (Yay! Thank you, God, again and again!) He was ready to have it over; he was so tired of the aggravation of the remaining tube. I prayed that he would not be anxious…that I would not be anxious. That we would have good nursing staff. That the phlebotomist would be able to get the IV in on the first go. That things would go smoothly and that Dr. J would be able to successfully accomplish what needed to be done. I had a lot of requests and I prayed with expectation. I know it was not open heart surgery or cancer, but these ear problems had been chronic and that was my baby. My boy who struggles with anxiety more than most people. And I wanted him to be okay. I wanted this to be the fix that Jacob needed.
And I believed God would meet us—He did that and more. I have so much gratitude for how well things went that day, how God answered our prayers.
Once it was done, all we could do was wait. Wait and see if the patches would take, that new tympanic membrane would stitch together across the patch and close the holes in his eardrum. We got on with our summer and it was fabulous! I am so thankful to have had that behind us and have Jacob fitted with some custom molded earplugs so that he would attend and enjoy surfing camp like we had been planning for a year.
The weeks have passed—11 weeks—and we had our third post-op appointment this week. And we heard the word we had been waiting to hear. HEALED. Both ears. Holes completely closed. No further surgery would be needed. Music to my ears.
Thankful. Heart-bursting, thankful.
When we got in the car to leave the doctor’s office, I looked at Jacob and said, “So, how awesome is that? Your ears are completely healed!” (I wanted to shout it from the rooftops!)
He pursed his lips, nodded, and said, as only he can, “Pretty good. When is the last time I had whole eardrums?”
“You were a little baby,” I said.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Well, I’m glad I don’t have to have any more ear surgery.”
Me too, buddy.
And that is the biggest thank you of this week, this month, this year.