As many of you know, Alex has had some hearing difficulties of late. The hearing loss he has had from the chemo is stable, only a specific frequency band is affected and his hearing aids compensate for that by boosting only the affected frequency. However, around 18 months ago he started having trouble hearing, we went through the hospital’s ENT department and was diagnosed as having fluid behind his eardrums which was muffling sounds. The solution is grommets, a tiny piece of plastic tubing which is inserted into the eardrum to allow the fluid to drain out. Unfortunately this also allows bacteria and other nasties in. For whatever reason Alex was particularly susceptible to this and has spent around 90% of the time since the initial grommets were inserted with an ear infection. It has reached a point where his hearing is so bad you have to be right next to his ear for him to hear you. In an effort to lessen the impact of poor hearing on Alex’s learning his school has been using an FM set, Alex wears headphones and his teacher speaks into a microphone, a good solution but not perfect unfortunately.
Every time we had an ENT appointment he had an infection and we were given drops to fix it and another appointment in 3 months. Things had got to a point however where Phil and I felt that something more needed to happen. We ended up speaking to Alex’s oncologist after his last MRI and he spoke to the head of the ENT department for us. Long story short we had an appointment 3 days later with Dr Michael (the head of ENT). I laid everything out and he decided the grommets should come out. We booked a date for the surgery – December 13th and settled down to wait.
Tuesday rolled around and Alex and I headed into hospital for an 11am DOSA admission. Unfortunately for Alex he was the oldest child on the list that day and was consequently in last place. The nurses said that would probably make it a 2.30pm surgery which was fine. The worst thing about being last on the list isn’t the waiting, it’s the fact that all the day’s delays end up being applied to you. 2.30pm came and went and Alex really really wanted to smell the colours. He had become very disbelieving of my statement ‘just a few more minutes’! We ended up being called to theater at 3.45pm and Alex went under at 4pm, happy to finally smell the colours! He had his grommets removed, his ears cleaned, his nose and cheek sinus flushed and some blood taken to perform allergy testing on.
Dr Michael wasn’t sure if Alex’s adenoids would need removing, as they can be a ‘sink’ for bacteria to lurk in. There was a question mark hanging over us therefore, if they were removed Alex would need to stay in hospital overnight.
The surgery went well but they discovered during the procedure that, probably due to the repeated infections, he had a hole in both of his ear drums. This goes a long way to explaining why he’s had trouble hearing! They did what they could to help the holes to heal, and since his adenoids didn’t need removing we were able to head home after the hour wait in recovery at 7pm.
A long day but worth it as Alex’s clarity of speech immediately post surgery was significant, even straight out of anaesthetic he showed that he was hearing himself much more clearly, and I didn’t have to get right in his ear to talk either! While it has improved though, he’s not back up to ‘normal’ and still has an infection in his right ear to contend with. Hopefully the holes will heal quickly, school for the year ends today so he has the Christmas holidays to recuperate in.
We are fortunate that this relatively minor issue is all we have to deal with at the moment, as last year Christmas day was spent in hospital! We wish all of you a very merry Christmas and happy and healthy new year