Daddy’s Gonna Get It (ear updates)

Tyler’s ear surgery was yesterday at 6:45a. I won’t detail the conversation Sarah and I had regarding the audacity of an outpatient surgery center being open before eight in the morning, but we sure weren’t saying nice things about needing to get up and around WITH A BABY so early. 

We got there just a few minutes early. The receptionist had to keep her distance because she was pregnant and the smell of coffee makes her puke. To reward ourselves for getting up and around so early, Sarah and I treated ourselves to some Starbucks (read: insanely overpriced normal coffee with a million calories). With the coffee cups sitting on the counter, the receptionist took off like she owed us money. Very shortly after, we were called into the pre-op area. I wish I had brought my camera, because Tyler looked freakin’ adorable in his hospital gown. Without an ounce of shyness (or respect for other people’s space) Tyler crawled into the room next to ours – where there was another couple with a baby waiting for the same procedure – and started playing with toys that were not his.

We met the anesthesiologist (my WPM dropped to around 2 while trying to type that word), who explained to us that they would be putting a mask on Tyler so that he would breathe in some type of gas mixture. He would quickly fall asleep and would not need any IVs. A very nice nurse came to take Tyler away at 7:30. We went back to the waiting room and tried to pass the time by reading a book (Sarah) and getting caught up on work emails (me). Sarah read two pages and I sent 3 emails when the doctor came out to tell us that they were done and that Tyler was in recovery, in the process of waking up.

”Done? Already?”

”Yes,” the doctor said. He continued to tell us that his left ear looked good and that his right ear had a lot of “goop” in it. They cleaned both ears out before putting the tubes in. He also told us that Tyler took to the anesthesia very well. I can’t say I fully understand what that means or why he told us, but I couldn’t help but to be proud. Tyler, if you ever read this, good job on your gas induced loss of consciousness; we couldn’t be prouder of the fact that the gas did exactly what it was supposed to do to you. In the doctor’s defense, he did clarify a bit by saying that he was just looking around (i.e. not being a hell-spawn child who thrashes around and fights off the gas mask) and then closed his eyes when they put the mask over his mouth.

A few minutes later, we were called back to see Tyler in the recovery room. Sarah didn’t even have to ask which room it was because she could hear his cries. It took me a couple extra seconds to single his cry out from the other – very few – noises in the hall. Sarah cuddled him up and breastfed him. Poor Tyler had little muscle control and couldn’t lift his head up. I’ve read online that babies tend to be fussy and grumpy after coming out of anesthesia, and Tyler was no exception. I suspect that it has less to do with pain and confusion, and more to do with being really upset that his brain couldn’t make his muscles operate correctly. The little guy’s head just kept flopping backwards and Sarah had to use her hands to pick it back up.

By 8:15, we were on our way home. Tyler stopped crying as soon as the car started moving. He cried for just a bit longer when we got home. I had to get into the office to start work (I decided to work from home this day). Sarah fed Tyler breakfast and very shortly thereafter he was in a fantastic mood. He was a little wobbly on his feet for a bit, but quickly got that under control. Here’s a video of him later that afternoon.

Everything I read says that it’ll be "like having a brand new baby" and, while I can’t completely agree with that statement, there certainly is a level of truth to it. Today, Tyler is walking exponentially better than he was just yesterday. He’s walking in circles, room to room, and even trying to make an attempt at running. He has been in a great mood as well. He’s generally a very happy baby, so it’s hard for me to gauge if there’s a difference.

Tiny holes for tiny straws

Tyler has surgery tomorrow, June 10th, 2009.

I know I lied about this once before*, but I’m serious this time. Tyler needs real surgery.

After three courses of antibiotic treatments, some chiropractic visits, probiotic supplements and crossed fingers, Tyler’s ear digging continues.

At his last appointment, our doctor grimaced when she looked into his ears. She referred us (I say "us", but I was working, so it was Sarah and Tyler) to an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist) who got us in for a same-day consultation. After reviewing Tyler’s history with Sarah, he took a peek into Tyler’s ears and the decision was made.

I can’t say I’m surprised, because Sarah had multiple ear surgeries as a child, and her dad also had ear problems as a youngster. So, deep down, I had a feeling fear that we would end up down this road.

The surgery itself isn’t a very big deal. The surgeon will cut a tiny, tiny hole in each eardrum, then place a tiny, tiny straw into each hole. This will then allow air into his ears so that the goop in there can dry up and/or drain out. Going under the knife before he’s even a year old is unfortunate, but necessary. The "knife" part isn’t what concerns me; it’s the "going under" part. The very day that the ENT tells us Tyler needs surgery, I see this article online. If you don’t want to read the article, here’s a snippet:

Now a new study from the Mayo Clinic, published on March 24 in the journal Anesthesiology, finds a link between exposure to anesthesia during surgery in infancy and learning disabilities later in life — the first such study to do so in humans — making the decision to operate even more fraught for both parents and doctors.

The article goes on to say that this is very preliminary data, and that they aren’t sure if there is a definitive link or if there’s just an association. Essentially, the takeaway from the article is "don’t worry… yet."

There’s nothing I can do about it, and I know it seems trivial to worry over something as simple as getting ear tubes, but I suspect that’s all part of being a parent.

I wonder if I can talk the surgeon into injecting some type of superhuman powers into Tyler… just a thought.

* I’m happy to report that Tyler looks like a tiny me again. Viva la Joe’s genetic sequence!

I Think the Window was Fogged Up

After Tyler’s nine month checkup last week, Sarah called me and filled me in on how it went down. I then proceeded to do some research over at Google on otoscopes, otitis media, and ear infections. After reading for around two hours, I wrote a post about the appointment and the concerns that came from it. I usually proofread my posts twice before I unleash them to public scrutiny. Unfortunately, even after that, I’ve still found spelling and grammar mistakes after pressing the deceptively plain "publish" button. I frantically start clicking and editing, praying all the while that I get it fixed before anyone visits and before the readers that many of you use pick it up. Once that is done, I give the post one final reading. The point is, I’ve read that post a minimum of four times – probably closer to six or so – and never saw what most of you did. And I feel horrible for it; like I took you for a ride.

Am I concerned for Tyler? Of course. I’m his parent, his protector; I’ll be concerned for him every day of my life. Am I worried about it? Not really. I know he’ll be just fine. Am I worried that you hate it when people ask themselves questions like this and then answer themselves? Absolutely! It annoys me as well sometimes, so I try to keep it to a minimum.

The post only had a few comments from my readers, but I received quite a few emails about it, along with some comments on Facebook, a couple tweets, and a live conversation or two about it. It appears that many of you finished the post thinking that Tyler couldn’t hear. Maybe it had something to do with the post being titled, "Great, so he can’t hear, then?" Oops.

To clarify, the Doc said that he still has fluid in his ears, and it could create some hearing difficulties. Tyler responds to many sounds, so I’m not worried that he can’t hear. I just don’t know how clearly he is hearing. I compounded that with the fact that he had a double ear infection two months ago and has never stopped tugging on his ears, and took it to extremes. Gee, I wonder why my blog is called Irrational Dad.

After many – MANY – suggestions, I told Sarah that we’d be silly to not at least try taking Tyler to a chiropractor. Sarah made an appointment and took Tyler in yesterday while I was at work (actually, I was driving home from work and only missed the appointment by twenty minutes).

Since I wasn’t there, I won’t be able to do justice to exactly what transpired. Sarah said that Dr. Nagel used a tool that she compared to an air gun. Google has failed me in trying to get a proper name for the instrument, so we’ll just have to call it an adjustment gun. After checking Tyler’s back and neck, Lee (Dr. Nagel) shot him a couple times. This gun does not puncture the skin nor inject weird voodoo medicine into the body. From the little I have been able to gleam from the internet, I believe that the tool is basically a spring loaded actuator that gives a speedy, yet painless adjustment to whichever vertebrae has been targeted. Using an otoscope, Lee saw the fluid in Tyler’s ears, so when he goes back in for his second of three adjustments in a few days, we’ll know if things are improving. Personally, I won’t need a fancy otoscope to know if Tyler’s getting better. I just need to see Sarah wake up in the morning feeling rested because Tyler didn’t wake up crying four times in the night.

Lee is very optimistic that we’re on the right road. He is the husband of a woman that Sarah and I adore (our Bradley Instructor), and we assume that she has a pretty decent taste in men, plus our super-awesome Nurse Midwife takes her children to him as well, and I’d be inclined to believe anything she says, even if she told me that the Earth is flat. And to be perfectly honest, with the alternative being the possibility of putting Tyler under anesthesia to get surgery, this treatment will be worth every penny, whether it ends up being necessary or not.

Tyler is nine months old and has had his first chiropractic adjustment. I’m 31 years old (41.3 times older than Tyler) and have been to the chiropractor fewer times than my own son. Just thinking about that makes my T4 hurt. Seriously. If Lee saw an x-ray of my spine, I think he would drink a bottle of Gatorade (you know, to get his electrolytes up), tell his receptionist to clear his schedule, crack his knuckles (ha), and take me right to the gates of heaven a few times.

Great, so he can’t hear then?

When Sarah was pregnant, we would tell people that she was due "sometime in the middle of June," because we understood that a due date is just a guess. We tend to take the same approach on the subject of milestones. Babies will roll over, crawl, walk, talk and steal their first car on their own schedule. The only time we really look at any of the myriad milestones charts online is before Tyler’s next wellness checkup.

Tyler had his nine month appointment today. Unfortunately, I had to miss it due to an urgent issue at work. Last night, I pulled up an assessment checklist to go over, so that we (*cough*Sarah*cough*) would be prepared for the appointment. Does he grab objects with his forefinger and thumb? Does he look for hidden objects? Does he reach out to familiar people? Yes, yes and yes. Excellent, we’re off to a great start. I was slightly frustrated that all the questions referred to baby as "she" or "her", instead of "he" or "him". This made reading the questions aloud difficult when it came time to substitute the female connotation with the male.

Does he make consonant sounds (like ba, ma, ka, ga, da, pa)? Well, no, not really. He says ba a lot, and da maybe twice. Does he associate waving with the word "bye"? Umm, no. We practice "hi". Much more than "bye", but he waves when we wave, not because of me saying the actual word "hi". Does he say ma-ma or da-da? No. Does he try to imitate sounds that you make? No, I didn’t know he should be.

Tyler’s results for each section were either "above average" or "doing well", so I moved on to finding out what order baby teeth typically grow in. I wasn’t particularly concerned with any of it. Mostly because he is my baby boy, and he is absolutely perfect in my eyes.

"Well," Sarah started, "he’s never stopped pulling on his ears since his infection."

Ear infection. The only phrase more vulgar – to parents, at least – than the mother of all curse words. Sarah and I were subjected to a fair share of lost sleep, lost patience and gained frustration from Tyler’s double ear infection. His first round of antibiotics did nothing. We had to switch to a different too-long-to-pronounce drug which he did respond to. But now that Sarah mentioned it, he has been tugging on his ears still. I just assumed he had discovered his ears and was playing with them. When he discovers something else and plays with that for the next sixteen to eighty-three years, I’m not going to rush him to the doctor screaming of his urinary tract infection.

"Doc, he won’t stop tugging on that thing. It’s got to be infected. Or broke. Or something."

"Well, sir, what your son is doing is perfectly nor-"

Tyler yells, "I hate you, dad! I’m seventeen years old! Why won’t you leave me alone?!"

"Oh God, doc. The infection has spread to his brain. I’ll sign all the waivers, we need to get him in an O.R., stat."

The point is, I thought the ear infection was gone. And technically, it’s true. His ears are not infected. But…

Sarah explained the ear situation to the doc and told her that when she (Sarah) was a baby (and into childhood), she had to have multiple surgeries to get tubes put in her ears because she was plagued with ear infections and hearing problems.

Shocked by this, the doctor told Sarah that she was the exception to the rule, and – when tubes are necessary – only one surgery is typically needed. She looked into his ears and said that, even though the infection is gone, he does still have fluid in there.

Aside from the possibility of another ear infection, the concern is that Tyler may not be hearing much more than muddled sounds. Stick your head in a bucket of water if you’re curious.

She wants to see Tyler again in four weeks for a follow-up. If there’s no improvement, we need to see an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat doctor) to have his ears checked so that they can gauge how much Tyler can hear and advise us from there.

So, what can Sarah and I do about it? We can cross our fingers and hope for the best. The Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics has done studies on the prevention of ear infections through regular minor adjustments. Unfortunately, health insurance classifies chiropractors as specialists. What that means to me is a copay that is almost comical, but teeters on absurd. I doubt it would do much good to lie Tyler on the floor and walk across his back myself, as my only chiropractic training involves giving someone a bear-hug and lifting them off the floor to get their back to crack. And I suspect even that would be frowned upon by the professionals in the field.

Anyway, I’ll be over here, crossing my fingers for the next four weeks. I’m also going to fashion a harness that will hold Tyler in a fully upright position 24 hours a day. Fluid cannot possibly defy the laws of gravity.

Tyler needs surgery :-(

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I come to you on this dreary pre-Autumn day to tell you that our little Tyler needs to go “under the knife”. Everything’s been kind of a blur on this situation, so I really couldn’t pinpoint when things had started changing.

I would like to explain some of my fears, but there are simply too many to list. Anesthesia comes to mind first. He’s such a small little baby (even though he’s a big baby). The anesthesiologist (who I would prefer to call “the sleep doctor”, because you can say that without thinking too hard about how to pronounce anesthesiologist) could make one tiny miscalculation and… it’s just too scary to think about. Or what about the actual surgeon? He’s going to have one of the sharpest instruments that I know of, and he’ll be taking it to my son. What if his coffee was too strong that morning, and he’s all jittery and shaky? These are legitimate fears.

I would like to take the “wait and see” approach on this. I really would. Maybe it’ll clear up on its own. The dilemma that I’m faced with is that it may not clear up on its own. Wouldn’t it be better to just take care of this now, while he’s a baby and unlikely to remember the trauma of surgery, and the pain, afterward, of healing? I know I’m jumping all over the place, and I apologize. I’m quite scatterbrained over it all.

So here’s the story. Tyler is now 10 weeks old. These 10 weeks have been some of the most rewarding weeks of my life. Recently, a friend was looking through some of the photos I’ve put online of Tyler, and said something that set my head spinning. Of course, the minute I got home I started shuffling through the photos of Tyler. One after another… seeing the gradual changes. There is now no question in my mind. He needs the surgery.

While Sarah was pregnant, she said. and I quote, “I hope he doesn’t get my looks, because I wouldn’t make a handsome boy”. We were quite pleased when Tyler was pulled from Sarah’s belly and he looked just like me. He did have Sarah’s ears and cheeks, though, and they looked adorable on him.

10 weeks later and he’s starting to really look like Sarah. WTF? So now we come to the point of all my rambling. I’m going to have to foot the bill for facial reconstructive surgery. It ain’t cheap either! They don’t throw you discounts even though the patient is between 1/10th and 1/15th the weight of 99% of the rest of the patients they work on. The sleep doctor would need to do nothing more than just rub a little bit of Crown Royale on his gums to make him pass out. Would that stop him from charging me $1,409 and some change? Nope. No breaks for me. Oh! And guess what else… my insurance doesn’t cover it. They say it’s an “elective” surgery and, therefore, not covered under their policy. What the crap kind of cheap healthcare is my employer using?

Don’t get me wrong. I think Sarah’s a BEAUTIFUL woman. Picturing her as a guy though… that just sends a strange feeling through me. I’m pretty sure that Sarah’s biggest fear is of Tyler inheriting her height – or lack thereof. But she brings up a valid point. It does seem somewhat unnatural to see her features on my son. But like I said, he’s friggin’ adorable.

Anyway, I kinda got used to the thought of Tyler looking just like I did when I was a baby, and I don’t plan on allowing his genetic code to tell me otherwise. I spit in the face of DNA sequences! If I have to rely on science, technology, and medicine to fulfill my wishes, then so be it.