Hannah’s Ear Tube Surgery

It’s been a little over two weeks since Hannah’s ear tube surgery and I feel pretty bad for not writing about it yet.

We knew from the sedated echo that Hannah would handle the “nothing after midnight” fast pretty well. I gave her a late bottle the night before and she had no problem skipping her morning one. We were told to check in by 7:10 but arrived about fifteen minutes early and re-lived the morning of her heart surgery. We went up to the same suite to check in, answered the same questions, signed the same forms, and were escorted to the same pre-op area.

At this point I was trying not to let my nerves get to me but it’s so damn hard when you’re waiting for nearly two hours and are asked the same questions by a dozen different people. Of course everyone there is extra nice but the rotation of nurses, residents, and doctors was tiresome and created a long build-up to the main event. Finally we talked to the anesthesiologist, who said she saw Hannah’s latest cardiology report and didn’t expect there to be any heart related issues while Hannah was out. We were given a mask for Hannah to play with so she’d be more comfortable with it. I understand they meant well but thirty minutes of make believe with a gas mask doesn’t do much for an 18 month old.

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Once everyone was ready for us the next step happened in a blink of an eye. I put on a paper robe and gloves, carried her into the operating, and plopped her on the bed. We were swarmed by people, hands all over Hannah, then the gas mask held to her head. I wish someone would have warned me that I would be watching someone suffocate my child. There was a nurse standing behind me explaining that the eye rolling was “normal,” the desperately trying to pull away was “normal,” and the stranger holding the mask tighter was “normal.” I was escorted from the OR before Hannah’s eyes close but was assured she was asleep. That moment was only slightly less terrifying then when Hannah woke up after her OHS and was still intubated.

The nurse walked Pete and I to the waiting room, where we snacked on free graham crackers and texted the grandparents. Just as I was making a cup of coffee the ENT came out and brought us to one of the little rooms across the hall to update us on the surgery. It was quite a production for good news. Pete and I are fairly certain we were given updates on Hannah during her OHS in the middle of the full waiting room. Anyway, they were able to get the tubes in her teensy ears and suck out the fluid. Audiology was already conducting the hearing test and the anesthesia was weaned back just enough to keep Hannah in a deep sleep.

An hour or so later the audiologist came out, brought us to the same meeting room, and said Hannah’s test was very good but still missing the lowest sound on one side. The results were much better than her last behavioral hearing test, very slightly worse than her last BAER test, but still nothing to be concerned about.

We were finally reunited with a very sad little girl who had to be bounced or patted to stay calm. Once she started to wake up we offered her a bottle of watered down apple juice and were astonished that she chugged a few ounces. Thank goodness because the sleeping gas gave her the foulest breath and the juice helped wash it away. I was surprised how quickly we were discharged but it was clearly a sign that Hannah was recovering well. Pete and I celebrated with lunch at Qdoba while Hannah continued napping. Her recovery at home was similar to that of the sedated echo – small meals, a long nap, and a very late bedtime.

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I haven’t noticed much of a difference in her hearing. She still hates the rare occasions that Gamy barks and cried when I used the hand vacuum. We always knew she could hear soft or distance noises but the issue was more about how muffled the sounds were. Hopefully the world sounds clear to her now…except for my awful singing voice.

12 Weeks after Surgery

This past Friday marked 12 weeks since Hannah’s AV canal repair surgery. It’s amazing how time flies when you’re not looking for signs of heart failure.

The week before the surgery we traveled to Virginia Beach for my sister’s wedding. We had the cardiologist’s approval for the long road trip and the wedding festivities were a welcomed distraction. It was the first time Hannah met my two brothers and most of my extended family. We were there to celebrate the union of two people in love but I was also celebrating the beginning of Hannah’s new life.

The rehearsal dinner was in a private room at a local restaurant. I didn’t know most of the people in the room, only the bridal party and some familiar faces from the bridal shower., but everyone knew of Hannah.

Hannah was a perfect dinner guest. She was quiet and there was an empty corner for her to play on a blanket. She loved to stare at her hands. There was nothing more marvelous than the back of her own hands. I had to interrupt play time to give Hannah her meds. Three times a day we fought with Hannah’s tiny mouth, tricking her into opening it, navigating around her tongue, trying different techniques to get her to swallow the sugary liquid.

I fished through the diaper bag for the two bottles and a syringe. I always started with the easy one, the one that made her smack her lips for more. The second one had an artificial banana flavor that even made me cringe. I wiggled the syringe to the corner of Hannah’s mouth and released a drop or two. Rest and repeat. Rest and repeat. Rest and repeat.

I suddenly became very self-conscious and wondered how many people were watching us. Sitting in a room of normal people with their normal lives I was giving my baby medication to delay heart failure. How did this become my normal? Counting grams of gained weight and milliliters of milk consumed. Listening for labored breathing and checking to make sure she was still breathing. EKGs, echocardiograms, and pulse oximetry. Waiting in exam rooms and waiting for a surgery date. Four long months of normal.

One week after surgery we had a different baby and our normal changed. 

Hannah loves to eat and hates to nap. She refuses to snooze the day away when there’s so much playing to do. A few thirty-forty minute power naps are all she needs to feel refreshed and energized. Hannah would spend all day in the activity gym if she could. She rocks and rolls and flips and spins. She whacks and kicks her toys with force and pulls them into her mouth. Anything that goes near her mouth must be tasted. On Saturday while I was changing her diaper, my left hand holding her feet up, she pulled her feet towards her face, guided my forearm to her mouth, and gnawed on it like the world’s cutest zombie baby. When it is time to eat, at prompt three hour intervals, seven ounce bottles are guzzled faster than she used to laboriously drink three ounces. The hearty burps and belches are music to my ears.

Her cries are loud and long-lasting now. Hannah’s first ever baby meltdown only lasted ten minutes because she didn’t have the energy to keep crying. It happened in the early evening and knocked her out until morning. The new Hannah can wail and, of course, the first time she showed us we were hanging out with friends. Forty-five minutes of shushing, bouncing, rocking, rejecting bottles and pacifiers, and sweating (me and her) for no apart reason. Four nights in a row. Poor Gamy was ready to move out. We’re fortunate she doesn’t demonstrate her new skills that often.

Normal is easier now and much more fun. A heck of a lot chubbier too.

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