I am fairly convinced that if we had made one more visit to the Ochsner Pediatric ER, they would have greeted us by name. I told y’all about Jane’s proclivity to get repeat ear infections a few months back. Like most parents, we were hoping to avoid the “tubes talk” with our pediatrician, but after a sixth ear infection in as many months, it was clear that it could no longer be avoided.
Dun, Dun, Dun… the ENT Consult
Unfortunately, this decision came to a head during a particularly busy time for me at work, so I was unable to attend Jane’s visit with the ENT. I made sure that Mark went with my list of questions and brought back as many details as possible. The report back from the appointment was that Jane passed her hearing test (thank goodness there was no damage caused by the infections) but based on her ear shape, she would continue to get infections without intervention. The doctor explained that, for children getting tubes who are over twelve months of age, they recommend removing the adenoids as well. This eliminates the need to have the tubes replaced by almost 40%. He explained that the procedure would take between twenty-five and thirty minutes and that she’d be up and at ’em by the end of the day. Without much hesitation, we scheduled a surgery date and hoped that this would be the thing that helped our sweet Janey-bird stay healthy.
Preparing for Surgery Day… Hibi What?
The day before her procedure, the team at Ochsner called us to inform us of our scheduled arrival time and give us our instructions to prepare for the day. We were to give Jane a bath washing her body with hibiclens (an antiseptic skin cleanser we found at Walgreens) and ensuring that she was dried off with a fresh towel. We were also to encourage her to have a large meal for dinner since she would not be allowed to eat or drink after 6:00 am. With Jane, that is easier said than done! We prepared her favorite foods, turkey Italian sausage, chicken rice, and blueberries, gave her eight ounces of whole milk and crossed our fingers that she’d stay full.
We had to arrive at Ochsner at 8:15, so wake up time came quickly. With her bags packed up, we gave Jane a second hibiclens bath as requested by the hospital and dressed her in clothes that came right out of the dryer. Knowing she’d be asking for it, we even washed her lovey with her surgery day clothes (all on the “sanitize” cycle for extra measure).
Arriving… and Waiting…
We arrived at the surgery center with plenty of time to spare and were greeted by the sweetest and most comforting woman imaginable. She talked us through the morning’s proceedings and explained that the doctors had already started that mornings’ surgeries. She expected that Jane would wait for about forty minutes before being taken back to pre-op. We were escorted to the children’s waiting area that came complete with coloring sheets, stickers, books, puzzles, and a television. “Forty-five minutes. There are enough fun things in here to keep Jane distracted for an hour.” We would get to test that theory!
As forty-five minutes came and passed, we were told that they were running behind, and it would likely be about forty minutes before Jane would go back. Ok. That we could handle. Until Jane started mumbling “hun-gee, hun-gee.” She was pulling on my heart strings. She gets her “I’m cranky when I’m hungry” genes from me, and we were now three and a half hours into her day and she had nothing in her tummy. The only thing that makes a hungry person crankier is the sight of food. Well, imagine the tantrum that commenced when Jane discover peanut butter, applesauce, and a milk cup in her diaper bag. Poor baby. She was beside herself when I told her she couldn’t have anything in there. How do you explain that to a baby? Next time, I would keep all of the food and drink items in a separate bag far out of Baby Allen’s reach!
Pre-Op… Jane Meets Her Doctors and Nurses
At 9:45, we were brought back to the pre-op area. Jane was able to sit in a baby hospital bed and play with some fun toys which distracted her from her hunger pangs. The nursing team introduced themselves and told us about how the morning would go from this point forward. Jane would soon be getting some happy juice which would help her to relax and relieve her of any stress when she would be taken away from us and sent back to surgery. We met the anesthesiologist working on her case, and he reassured me that she would do fine. He did clarify that we should expect her to wake up very fussy and confused. He said that would be the worst part of our day.
Finally, the ENT came in and explained just what the procedure would be like and confirmed the benefits of performing it. If you recall, I had not met him before. While he was very professional and explained everything in a way that made sense to me, our visit was incredibly brief. I understood that his day had to keep moving, and that we were one of several families he was taking care of that morning, but I was slightly unprepared for the hastiness of his visit. I don’t say this to reflect negatively on him and the care he gave Jane in any way, but I want you to be prepared for a quick chat. No frills. No fuss.
The best part of Jane’s day was the moment the happy juice kicked in. She was hysterically funny! There were fatheads of Disney characters on the walls in her room. While she did not recognize them (not because of the happy juice, it’s not THAT strong! she just doesn’t watch Disney yet) she went on and on about Daisy’s shoe. She would try to touch my nose but would poke me on the eye or cheek. She played with her new friend (and the son of some of my grade school friends) Gus, and the two of them laughed and had the best loopy time ever!
The Procedure… Where’s Mommy’s Happy Juice
I had to fight back tears as they rolled Jane away from us. I knew in my heart that she would be fine, but I couldn’t help feeling anxious and a bit scared. Secretly, I hoped that the coffee they provided guests waiting in the waiting area had been turned over to happy juice. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a little of that action to calm your nerves?!
We were able to follow Jane’s progress while she was back in the surgery wing. There are two television screens in the waiting area that show you the patients designated number and a code referencing the step they are in (pre-op, in room, in procedure, in recovery). The second Jane’s code turned to in procedure, I started watching the clock. It had never moved so slowly. Finally, after what seemed like forever but was actually only 35 minutes, it changed to “in recovery.”
Recovery Room… From Happy Juice to Apple Juice
As we entered the recovery room, I saw a nurse holding a sleeping Jane. She was rocking her and cooing to her softly. My heart almost exploded. It was the thing I had been most worried about. How would Jane feel if she woke up, and we weren’t there. Seeing the love that amazing nurse showed her was so incredible. She soon transferred Jane into my arms so that I could be the first person she saw as her little eyes began to open slightly. The next thirty minutes were really hard. Jane cried and thrashed as she came out of the anesthesia. She did so mostly with her eyes closed so it was hard to feel like I was connecting to her to give her comfort. Slowly but surely, she began to settle down and respond to our whispered voices and soft kisses.
Knowing she was hungry, but being worried that she could react negatively to the anesthesia, we gave her apple juice. She went through two cups of it within thrity minutes and did not vomit, indicating that it was time for us to go home.
Before leaving, the nurse handed over Jane’s prescriptions. She’d be on antibiotics for several days and would also require ear drops. She could not swim for three weeks, at which time she would visit with the ENT again for a checkup to make sure the tubes were placed correctly. The nurse advised us that she might have a sore throat since she had the adenoids removed, but that there were no dietary restrictions. She also warned us that Jane would likely have bad breath for about seven days. Feeling equipped with all the knowledge we needed to head home, we ended our visit to Ochsner.
The Truth about the Recovery
As we settled into the house, Jane started mentioning that she was hungry. I tried to give her bland foods like mashed sweet potatoes and pureed bananas, but all she wanted was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She ate that, some yogurt, and some veggies straws without taking a breath. Poor thing wasn’t hungry; she was starved! And she was groggy and ready for a nap.
When the doctor said Jane would be ready to go back to school the next day, I simply couldn’t believe it. How could the drowsy child I sat rocking in my arms possibly be ready for that?
After about a three hour nap, we discovered he was right. Jane woke up happy and refreshed. She wanted to watch Elmo and play outside. By the looks of her, you would have never known she had had surgery just a few hours ago.
That evening, we joined some friends on a walk to the Taceaux Loceaux truck at its Tuesday night spot in front of Dos Jefes. We brought all of our strollers and diaper bags and kids to the back patio where they proceeded to run and play and dance for an hour. I continued to be amazed at how adaptable Jane was being. My friend said that her son was the exact same way. So it really is true, I thought! Jane was ready to get back to life while I was just getting over the fact that she was under anesthesia.
Don’t Worry: It’s a Simple Procedure!
I can’t tell you how many times I heard that in reference to Jane getting tubes. I could have heard it a million times, and I still would have worried. But, to any of those moms out there trying to decide if it’s really true that you don’t need to worry. From our experience, it is. The risks are minute, and the rewards are immeasurable. Jane has not had an ear infection since then. She had a terrible virus not long after that made its way through her without turning into an ear infection. She has not had an antibiotic in her body since the procedure!! And, her second hearing test turned out perfectly. That is all we could ask for.
Ironically, I will also advise you to worry. Worry because that is your baby you’re talking about. It is your baby’s health. It is your baby they are taking back there. You wouldn’t be a mom if you didn’t worry. And don’t feel guilty about the fact that you are worried about “a simple procedure.” Just let this worry turn itself into relief and empathy and appreciation for all of the mommies who are worried about more significant medical issues facing their children.
And PS – Jane’s breath was awful! More than once, I checked her diaper for poop only to realize she had just been breathing on me. Eesh!
My daughter had tubes as well. She was young, 9 months when she got them because she had ear infections so frequently. It was the best thing for us! In addition to no more ear infections there were so many additional benefits. She started “talking” better after and her attempts at walking were way better. I think constantly having ear infections were holding her back in those areas. We are now huge supporters of ear tubes. They were so great for our family!
I totally feel your pain, Jennifer. Nathaniel didn’t have tubes in, but he had to go under general anesthesia to get an MRI of his head/brain due to concern over his head size. The biggest relief was when he opened his eyes and came out of the anesthesia! Glad the infections are over and Jane is doing so much better 🙂