Thursday, January 5, 2012

The tube saga goes on (and on)


My daughter failed her hearing test at school. Again. I received a letter from the health department in early December advising me that a nurse had tested her in October and again in November. She failed both times (well, that sort of makes it sound like she didn't study or something - obviously it's not her fault). The problem is, and always has been, with her right ear. The left is fine. As you may recall, this has been an ongoing issue - recurring ear infections and then surgery last February to have tubes inserted. We also opted to have her adenoids removed at that time, leaving the tonsils in place. We did everything we could to maximize the amount of time the tubes stayed lodged in her eardrums. We spent a small fortune on ear plugs and she's worn them for every bath, every shower, every swim (except one, when she lost the neoprene headband that held the earplugs in place - then we replaced that, too). I was hoping the tubes would remain firmly in position for at least a year. No such luck.

I took A to see her pediatrician on Tuesday. He confirmed that both tubes have fallen out. Gah! Furthermore, the right ear is filled with fluid again. He did a test that involved blowing air into the ear to observe the movement of the ear drum. If the ear drum doesn't move the way it is supposed to, the conclusion is that there is fluid behind the ear drum. He also ran a hearing test. She did okay, but missed two beeps on the right ear (at the lowest decibel). 

I told the doctor that we are not keen on doing tubes again this soon. It scares the bejeebers out of me to have my child under anesthesia. The whole situation is pretty frustrating, for lots of reasons. It is scary to have to make so many decisions about another person's body, but that is the requirement of parenthood, I suppose. My daughter is actually quite a bit older than most kids who need tubes - the vast majority are toddlers. As kids grow and get older, the Eustachian tube in each ear becomes longer and can do its job better. It also becomes less level than it is in small children, allowing fluid to drain more easily. A's doctor says that, for whatever reason, her right ear is following an "abnormal path."

The doctor wants us to come back in three months to see if the ear is looking any better. I guess we'll have to make a decision at that time. She does not have an infection and isn't in any pain; she just can't hear as well out of her right ear. As parents, we are left to make "lesser of two evils" decisions. Surgery and anesthesia? Or possible hearing loss?  We don't really want either one.

So, I started asking around about other options. I find it hard to believe that medical science can only offer ONE solution, which is to anesthetize my daughter and jab a tube through her ear drum. It just doesn't seem right to me. Part of me is concerned that we are going to have to go through this annually until she is an adult (or at least until her right ear gets its act together). A couple of my friends mentioned chiropractic, so I started looking into it. I figure it can't hurt to take her in and see if an alternative treatment might help. We have an appointment on Tuesday. The only catch here is that I will need concrete evidence (such as a successful hearing test) that it is working, because my husband gave me the "what are you, some kind of looney-tune?" look when I mentioned it to him.

I'm open to suggestions for other possible solutions, so feel free to throw them my way! And don't worry - we won't allow her to suffer with hearing loss. We'll get it figured out one way or the other.

Despite this ongoing issue, I am so incredibly grateful to have a healthy child. This sense of gratitude is never far from my mind. Last week I stumbled onto this blog. It's a heart breaker - a child lost at just eight months of age to a brain tumor. A parent should never have to know (or to articulate) that kind of grief. I will hug my kid and her defective ear just a little tighter, I think.

2 comments:

Cassi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cassi said...

I work in the medical field and I deal with medications & anesthesia on a regular basis. These days, it is actually very safe and the chances of any problems are very small. I'm sure there are people out there that will tell you that they've had problems with it and yes, the side effects can be nasty (as you witnessed last year when A woke up from surgery) but the benefits out weigh the problems. I personally have never been a fan of chiropracters but I think that is because the ones I've been in contact with feel that anything & everything can be fixed with their work. I'm sorry but abdominal pain due to an enlarged appendix can not be fixed with a back adjustment....it just can't. It needs surgery.
I'm not sure if there are other options regarding getting tubes placed without a general anesthesia. I would research that option and see if it's possible to do something like that without completely putting her to sleep. Maybe some medications that put her into lala land but allow her short term memory to be erased (for instance, Versed, the medication they use when doing a colonoscopy).
I'm sure whatever you decide for my mini BFF will be the right answer even if other people don't feel that way.