Thursday, December 18, 2014

Adeline's NEW EARS

My sweet baby girl got ear tubes on December 18th.   To back up - For quite awhile, people have told me how hard it is to understand Adeline when she talks.  As her mom, I understand everything she says so I never really stopped to think it was an issue.  If she spoke incorrectly, I just chalked it up to development and how she was learning to speak.  I figured it would all come together over time.  

Adeline talks ALL the time.  She talked from a very young age and was always ahead of the curve on language and words she knew at various stages of childhood.  In fact, it was one of her "strengths" as a baby and several pediatricians mentioned to me how impressed they were with her vocabulary.  She never misses a beat in conversation or instructions and she understands all that is spoken to her. But, over the last 3 years the words haven't completely formed perfectly out of her mouth.  And I guess there were even times in the past when I might have called her name and she didn't turn around.....but I don't remember it being all the time and I have never seen her struggle to keep up.  Ever.

What it's boiled down too for speech is articulation.  When her preschool offered free speech evaluations (standardized tests from the state), I jumped at the chance to have her tested.  Her results were not surprising to me given the fact that I knew people don't always understand her.

The Speech Therapist noted that her articulation is below average.  She doesn't pronounce "th" "sh" "j" "st" "ea" etc.  meaning she doesn't enunciate the end or middle of some words.

After receiving the report, I took Adeline to The Scholl Center for hearing.  They did a series of hearing tests and noted that Adeline can hear, but she hears well below average.   They flagged her for mild hearing loss and explained to me that she has blockage in her ears and needed tubes.

So then I took Adeline to see our friend, Dr. Mowry, who is a ENT.  After a brief evaluation, he confirmed that Adeline couldn't hear at the normal level and for the last 3.5 years she has formed words based on a low frequency.  So her words are all coming from the quiet noise she can hear. 

I was stunned.  I had no idea.  At first I was made because I didn't understand why NO doctor every saw anything wrong with her ears.  She had one ear infection in her life and I just didn't understand how this would go unrecognized.  Dr.  Mowry told me that her issue is behind the ear drum where a quick ear check (routine by the pediatrician) would not pick up on any issue.  He told me Adeline needed tubes in order to get her hearing back up to normal range and thus make the speech therapy worthwhile.

So 4 days later, I scooped up my sweet baby girl at 5:30am and took her to St. Johns for her "new ears."  Adeline was so nervous.  BLESS HER HEART.  Scared to death.  Surgery at 3.5 years old is totally different than surgery as baby.  Adeline was fully aware of her surroundings and she knew EXACTLY what was going on.  She didn't want to wear the gown and she panicked when the nurse told me to put her in the crib that looked like a cage.  I will say the bedside manor was terrible. 

I didn't put Adeline in the gown and I didn't put her in that scary crib.  I held her for 45 minutes in our little hospital room and I tried to reassure her that everything was going to be just fine.  She held on to her bunny in a death grip and clung to me like glue.  I felt so helpless.  It was one of the hardest mom moments for me.  But I held on to the light at the end of the tunnel knowing that Adeline would hear so much more when it was all over. 

Then when I least expected it, a fantastic older man walked in the room and bent down at Adeline's level and knew EXACTLY what to say to her.  "Hello Adeline!  My name is Mr. Mike.  I have two little girls just like you and they love princesses.  I love the princess on your nightgown.  Is this one Cinderella? No, wait.....this one is Belle!"  Adeline took to Mr. Mike right away and she was more at ease with him in the room than anyone else.   He continued, "Adeline you can keep wearing your beautiful princess nightgown today.  I am your friend and I am going to take you for a walk in a few minutes.  Can I carry you?"  Adeline was crying and told him she didn't want to take any medicine.  Mr. Mike said, "Adeline that is ok.  But I need you to help me blow up a purple balloon in a few minutes."  Adeline thought that sounded ok (still very nervous and crying) and I knew that the balloon was going to be medicine to help her sleep during the procedure.  After awhile, Mr. Mike came back in the room and told me it was time to go.  Then he reached in his pocket and turned on a tiny speaker.  It started playing "Let It Go" from Frozen.  Adeline's most favorite song.  Then Mr. Mike showed Adeline his phone and he had the movie playing on it.  "Adeline do you like Frozen?  Can I carry you and we'll sing the song on our walk?"  Adeline climbed into his arms and smiled. 

I don't think I will ever forget the moment when I watched Mr. Mike carry my scared to death baby girl down that long hallway to the OR.  They had Let It Go blasting as loud as possible and the two of them were singing the song together. All the nurses were watching and some even sang along too.  In that moment, a huge wave of relief washed over me.  Mr.  Mike was our assigned anesthesiologist for the surgery, but he will always be an Angel to me.  There are Angels among us and he was ours that day.

I went to the waiting room and about 10 minutes later, Dr. Mowry came to get me.  He said Adeline did a great job.  He said there was so much blockage behind her ear drums that he has NO IDEA how she even could hear anything at all and do as well developmentally as she has done the last 3.5 years.  He was really amazed and told me she was probably really good at reading lips or watching actions.  Again, I was stunned.

I immediately got to hold her as she woke up from her surgery.  We stayed in recovery for 45 minutes and then we were discharged to go home.  When we got in the car, Adeline asked me for pancakes.  Then she looked me in the eyes and said, "Mom, your voice is funny."  In that moment I realized she had never ever heard my voice in it's real tone.  I was bewildered but SO THRILLED she could already tell a difference.

We spent the rest of the day playing at home.  She didn't skip a beat all day and I didn't harp on asking her "so does this sound different?  is this louder?"  I just wanted her to slowly understand the newness around her. 

It's been almost 2 months since the tubes.  Adeline is doing fantastic.  I don't notice anything THAT different about her speech.  She has mentioned that the blender is "really loud" and covers her ears now when I turn it on.  She sings really loud (I think she likes to hear her voice) now where as before the tubes she wouldn't shout as much .  Her teacher says she covers her ears every now and then when the classroom is loud with laughter or music.  But she really hasn't mentioned anything being really different other than that first day when she told me my voice sounded funny.  Personally, I see a little pep in her step that I didn't notice before.  Perhaps she doesn't have to work as hard to understand us, or perhaps the world is a little easier for her to navigate now?  I don't know......but there is a little extra sparkle inside her now. 

Love you Adeline!  I am so glad you got your new ears!


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