Wednesday, November 2, 2011

natalie's tubes surgery

Yup, miss Natalie had tubes put in both ears yesterday morning.  After last winter's misery, we had braced ourselves for the possibility of her needing surgery, but had hoped that we could avoid it.  We had a healthy summer, but this fall has been like a trip back in time--three back-to-back ear infections for the budgie, which have not responded well to antibiotics.  Enter our third visit with the ENT specialist, and the final verdict that tubes were the best course of action.

Yesterday was the big day, and it was a tough one.  Natalie couldn't eat or drink anything from midnight until after her surgery, so we kept her up about 45 minutes later than her usual bedtime on Monday and gave her a big bowl of oatmeal with milk before tucking her in for the night.  We were up and at 'em a few minutes before 6, just long enough to warm up the car and get Natalie snuggled into her fleece snowsuit before heading off to the hospital.

 We started her pre-op check-in at 6:30, with a couple of friendly nurses who immediately put us at ease.  We got Natalie changed into some hospital issued jammies (they were the smallest they had, but still so big that we had to roll the legs up about 5 times), and they went over our paperwork and details of her surgery with us.  She got weighed in (which she loved), and the nurses showed her how they would be checking her heart and oxygen levels and getting her into a surgical hat by doing each thing on her Elmo doll first. 

Mike and I did our part to talk about what a special day this was, and how excited we were that Natalie would be seeing a doctor to fix her ears.  She picked up on the excitement, and was shouting "Doctor!  Ears!" all morning while she walked around the unit before surgery, waving hello to other patients.  She was completely cooperative and sweet with all the nurses and doctors who checked in with us throughout the morning, and didn't make a peep when it was time for them to wheel her off into the operating room without us.  That was at about 7:30, and it was a half an hour of anxious waiting before Mike and I could see her again.

We had received numerous warnings that Natalie would be agitated and confused when she  woke up from the anesthesia, but there was really no preparing for seeing her like that.  We had about 15 minutes of chaotic misery with her--her eyes were all glazed over and unfocused, and her body was floppy in our arms.  She thrashed and arched and screamed and we couldn't do anything to make it better.  I felt so helpless trying to comfort her, and wished there was some way to explain to her that it would all get better soon.

With the help of another fantastic nurse, we managed to get Natalie focused on eating a snack, which calmed her almost completely.  She munched on graham crackers and a fruit cup while she was monitored for about another half hour, and while we got the lowdown on how the surgery went.  It was a success, the only hiccup along the way was that her right ear was filled with thick fluid (the doctor described it as like egg whites, ew) that they had to suction before putting the tube in that ear.

By the time we were discharged, the worst was over and we had a mostly-happy kid on our hands.  We picked up takeout from our favorite breakfast place (blueberry pancakes! bacon! home fries!) and stuffed our faces while we cuddled on the living room floor and watched Finding Nemo. 

Natalie and I both went down for a mid-morning nap, which lasted over 3 hours for both of us.  By the time we woke up, she was completely back to her normal, cheerful self.  In fact, she seemed better than she had in days.  We went for a long walk as a family, played in the backyard, read books, and ordered pizza for dinner.  It was just the afternoon we needed after such a hard morning, and was definitely our sign that we had made the right decision to go ahead with the surgery.

This morning has been like waking up with a different child in some ways--she has been so much more easy-going and happy than she has been over the past few weeks.  I think that finally having all that gooey fluid suctioned out of her right ear has made a huge difference in her comfort level, and she is just so much less irritable today.  We're crossing our fingers that the tubes will do the trick in helping to continue to keep her ears drained and healthy for the next few months.  We'd love a healthy winter as a family!

Did any of you have tubes as children?  Have your kids needed them?  Any advice or warnings?


  1. Im soooo glad she is doing great!! We were all soo worried here and happy when we got Sharons phone call saying everything was a-ok!!! I think you guys did the right thing, I never had tubes or any ear problems, but TJ who like Natalie got soo many ear infections when he was little. His parents never did much about it and now he's half deaf in both ears, and is suppose to wear a hearing aid, which he never does. If it was Carly I would have made the same decision as you two!!!

  2. Glad she is recovering well! Sending my love!

  3. Soooo happy to hear that this has made such a difference for her already!!!! Tubes made a WORLD of difference for me - and if it makes you feel any better, I was a few months older than Natalie (about 2) when mine were placed and I have NO recollection of the surgery. So, I would say it's a safe bet that she will never remember that uncomfortable and confusing wake-up from surgery, but instead, will remember a childhood with happy, pain-free ears :) Miss you all so much!!!!

  4. Sounds like Natalie was a champ for her first and hopefully last surgery. My brother had tubes put in the summer at 6 months old because he had ear infections since birth. I didn't have any ear infections after that, but he does have some slight hearing loss from the 6 months of infections. The only thing I remember him having to do as a kid is wear wax ear plugs while swimming to prevent water entering the ear. I don't know how long he had to do that and I don't think he still does now. I healthier Natalie with only the consequence of ear plugs I think would be worth it. I'm glad she is already doing better and seems like you guys made the right choice.

  5. thanks for the kind words, guys! it was a tough decision, but i absolutely think we did the right thing by our girl. i'm always so glad to hear about other people who went through the procedure, it makes the whole thing seem so much more normal.

    @erin, we have to be super careful about not letting water in her ears during the bath or when she goes swimming, so we'll be picking up some ear plugs to give a go. hopefully she doesn't mind them!

  6. Isabelle had this same surgery when she was 18 months old after fighting so many infections. I will tell you that it has made a world of difference in her and she has only been sick a handful of times since (knocking on wood now). I'm so glad Natalie got through it okay, kids are so resilient!! Definitely invest in some good earplugs for swimming and just be careful when washing her hair. You will be soooo glad you did this, Mama, as hard as it is to watch them post-op. Praying for a super speedy recovery!