Monday, July 8, 2013

My sweetheart is back (an update on the ear tubes)

Ear tubes are in! We were at the hospital at six am on Friday and surgery happened around 7:30. By 8:00, E was sipping apple juice in the recovery room, and we were home by 9:30. (Unfortunately, the apple juice came back up all over her and her car seat about five minutes into the ride--not pleasant for any of us!) she was a little groggy until 11 or so, but then she perked up, started smiling nonstop, and seemed back to her usual self.

Well, her usual self except that the shrieking, demanding, whiny side of her is gone. Since Friday, she's been whiny and demanding at what I'd consider a normal level. Every toddler has moments like those and I didn't expect her to transcend toddlerhood. But now, we can redirect. Now, the whining stops pretty quickly after we remind her to use her words. Before tubes, the whining turned almost immediately into shrieking and demands to be picked up and carried around.

It's early,  but I guess what I'm saying is that these tubes have done something to relieve E from pain. And without the low-grade constant pain, she's able to cope much better and recover from little challenges far more quickly than pre-tubes. We should have done this months ago. Seriously. I don't feel too bad that we waited--it's actual surgery with general anesthesia--and I think we did the best we could to follow current advice to watch and wait and see if she'd grow out of it or if summer would be better. I'm glad we finally got to this point, though, and I certainly hope that I was right and that the pain was low-grade, not excruciating. The doctor said he didn't think she was in constant pain either, but he agreed she probably was bothered by ear pain from time to time between abx rounds.

I'm recording all this in case someone else is on the fence about ear tubes. I googled ear tube experiences over and over last week so that I felt prepared and am grateful that others wrote such reassuring things about it, too. So this is our story. If it changes or if the experience sours in so e way, I'll write about it again. In fact, today is her first day back to school, and I'll be curious to see if the stress of the long day brings back the clinging and the yelling tonight. I'm betting no, but I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ear infections and "quality of life"

We have an appointment on Friday to put tubes in E's ears, and I'm both excited and terrified. I've read up on them, I've talked to other moms (all of whom said: do it!), and my DH and I have debated it from all sides. I'm scared out of my mind about the anesthesia, but I know the risks are tiny. Still, when the doctor goes through the consent form and says there's a risk of stroke, heart problems, or even death, any parent is going to hesitate.

The reason we are finally doing it is that she's had eight infections (and thus eight rounds of antibiotics!) since November. I have a great pediatric practice in a crunchy area, by which I mean that they're very much a wait-and-watch conservative-about-antibiotics group of doctors. Unfortunately, E's infections never clear up and the fluid is always bulging out and causing her to be miserable. By extension, we are miserable. The most recent ear infection cycle started last week when she got a normal toddler virus, but because of the ear involvement, she became a clingy mess and would only sleep or be semi-peaceful in my arms. I wasn't able to sleep for three nights, and so I be ame a clingy mess.

The good news is that her hearing is fine. But this all leaves us medically in a gray area. Our ENT recommends the tubes more for "quality of life" than out of medical necessity. Ugh. Do we really take these minor risks with anesthesia and ear drum perforation because the infections make us all miserable every now and then.

It's also hard to sort out how much her personality will change for the better after this surgery. I'm hoping well see more of the sweet, or at least, the more even-tempered side of her. I haven't written much about how difficult she can be because I attribute it to this long string of infections. Much of the time, E is clingy, demanding, fussy, and she spends much of our time together shrieking at us. I occasionally cry with relief when she goes to bed at night because I am just worn out. Normal toddler behavior? Sure, I imagine some of it is. But I've often wondered if her fussiness is because she has low-grade pain in her ears. I know ear pain is bad. I've read online that some parents report similar behavior issues that ear tubes solve--they say they enjoyed their child more once the ear pain resolved.

I guess we'll find out after Friday. I don't mean to portray her in a negative light. She's one of the funniest, sweetest, and dearest people I've ever known. She's my wonderful baby girl and even with all the shrieking, I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world. I just hope that we're doing the right thing with this surgery and that maybe our collective quality of life improves.