Ear Tubes Changed Our Lives: An Otitis Media Story

At only 9 months old, our oldest child, McKinley, had been diagnosed with her sixth ear infection. 

The antibiotics were having no effect and she had an allergic reaction to just about every type.  One allergic reaction caused her to break out in hives that covered her entire body.  Another reaction caused so much stomach trouble, she didn’t eat for a week and was nearly dehydrated from the diarrhea the antibiotic was causing.  

The antibiotics also caused a yeast infection each time.  A yeast infection on the toosh is very painful.  It turns the skin a bright red, and itches and burns like crazy.  We had no idea McKinley was experiencing this.  We thought it was a terrible rash and kept treating it with Desitin, which was better than nothing but not helping the symptoms much.  

The antibiotic was killing off the bad bacteria, as well as the good.  

By our fourth ear infection our pediatrician recommended we see an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist for ear tubes.  He was confident that if McKinley didn't get tubes she would continue to have problems with her ears.  

At the end of one of our visits he said, “See you in a week!”.  That was the average amount of time it took for McKinley to develop another ear infection.  We knew everyone at the doctors office very well.  They were some of McKinley’s first friends! 
It took about a month to get into the specialist.  By that time we had added two more ear infections to the total.  We were fairly certain it was one continuous infection that wouldn't go away.  

The specialist examined McKinley and found massive fluid build up in her ear canal.  He reviewed her history and concluded ear tubes were the best solution.  If McKinley kept having chronic infections it could damage her hearing.  

He explained that in order to put the tubes in, McKinley would need a small outpatient operation that he performed at the children’s hospital.  He assured us this was a routine operation he did often and it would make a huge difference in McKinley’s health.  

He also informed us that the tubes would naturally fall out between the ages of 3 - 5.  If she had more ear problems after they fell out another set of tubes may be needed.  Luckily it never came to that.

Two weeks later we received the call with all of the pre-op instructions.  

McKinley could not have any food or drink after midnight, and we had to be at the hospital at 7:00am for check in.  What???  I wondered if we could function that early, let alone be alert enough to answer imperative questions regarding my 11-month-old daughters health.

McKinley likes her breakfast, so when we left the house the next morning without eating she was one unhappy baby.  I can’t imagine what her little baby mind was thinking.  I felt so guilty! 

When we arrived for check in we sat down with a nurse who asked us all sorts of questions.  We must have passed the test because shortly after we were escorted back to a small pre - op room.  

We were told to dress her in the tiny hospital pajamas just for babies.  We probably should have put the pajamas on after the nurse gave her the Tylenol because she spit it out all over the nurse, herself, and the table.  We were given another set of pajamas, only after the medicine was in McKinley’s system!
The nurse then put a tag on McKinley’s ankle to assure she would be returned to her rightful owners after the operation.  

We were then led to the waiting room.  The specialist and a nurse came out to let us know they would be putting her out with gas.  He told us he would make a small incision in her ear drum so he could insert the tube.  The purpose of the tube is to help the fluid drain since it wasn’t doing so on its own.  He took her to the operating room and Travis, my husband, and I went back to wait.  

After about 7-10 minutes the nurse told us McKinley was done and she was being wheeled back to recovery.  It was so quick I didn’t even get to take a bite of my muffin.  I should have decided sooner which one I wanted… live and learn.

As we were guided back to recovery we could hear McKinley crying and wailing.  The anesthesia wore off pretty quick.  We would later learn that McKinley metabolizes anesthesia at a rapid rate and always needs double the amount.  

McKinley was so cranky and confused.  She just wailed and cried for about an hour.  Once she calmed down we were discharged with instructions for ear drops.
After the operation the specialist told us he had drained a massive amount of fluid from her ears.  He confirmed what we thought about her having one infection that never cleared. 

On the way home from the hospital McKinley threw up once, (we also learned that anesthesia makes her very nauseous), but was back to her normal self that evening.

From that day forward we never went back for an ear infection.  The tubes literally changed our lives.  No more antibiotics, allergic reactions, or yeast infections.  


Our second daughter, Taytum, arrived.  She suffered the same fate as her older sister with ear problems.  Taytum’s first ear infection occurred when she was 2 months old.  She was also allergic to some of the antibiotics, but did not get the yeast infections.  

By the time she was 7 months old and on her fifth ear infection we were back in the specialists office.  It was basically an identical experience to the first.  We scheduled the procedure and repeated the process again.

The only difference was that Taytum did not have fluid stuck in her ear and was calm after she woke up from the sedation.  She just cuddled with Travis, until we were ready to be discharged.  She didn't throw up on the ride home and we had no more problems with her ears. 

However, a few months ago, Taytum had a cough that would not give up.  She had been coughing for almost two months with no other symptoms.  No fever, runny nose, etc.  We took her to the doctor wondering if it might be asthma.  He assured us it was not asthma, but the yucky winter air could be causing it so he gave us an inhaler.  

Taytum had her six month follow up with our ENT and he discovered one of her ear tubes was out of her ear drum, and stuck in her ear canal.  He removed it with tweezers and the cough stopped instantly.  It turns out that tiny tube was causing an irritation which caused her cough!  What are the odds right? 
Two years later, Evelyn arrived.  Evelyn went six months with no ear infections.  We were starting to think our third child would be spared!  However, she got her first ear infection at 6.5 months. She had another at 7 months and two more by the time she was 8 months.

Luckily, Evelyn was not allergic to the antibiotics, but, she was much harder to get medicine in.  By the time she was 9 months old we were right back at the ENT's office.  By now he has put several of his kids through college thanks to our ear problems!  He was pretty happy to see us since his last child was approaching college age. 

Evelyn’s experience was much like McKinley’s.  The operation went very well, and the specialist had to drain trapped fluid from her ear.  She was also hysterical after the operation, but did not throw up on the ride home.  And once again since the ear tube surgery we have never had a problem. 

Having ear tubes has been a lifesaver for our girls.  We have heard theories that because our girls have such small heads, usually in the 70th percentile, their ear canals are small which makes it hard to drain any fluid.  I don’t have any medical evidence to back this though.

For us, ear tubes mean visits to the specialist every six months until the tubes fall out.  

It means ear plugs in the pool and extra care to keep water out of the ears in the tub.  
These are small concerns compared to life before tubes.  Totally, and completely doable.  

Ear tubes changed our lives!  

Today's guest poster is Tiffany Flanders. She is happily married and the mother of three beautiful girls. 

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