In the 9 months leading up to surgery, we found comfort in the answers to virtually every question we posed. Now we were about to hand Sam over for his procedure, so any unexpected bit of information would give us pause — even what the surgeon had for breakfast.
"Coffee and a danish?" Teresa asked, obviously thinking a heartier breakfast was in order. The surgeon, recognizing our somewhat irrational state, quickly added that he drank some orange juice, too.
People who do this kind of thing for a living say cochlear implant surgery is fairly straightforward. While we have no reason to doubt them, it's difficult to casually digest words like "mastoidectomy" in a description of what is in store for your child. From the moment we woke on the day of surgery, our excitement about Sam's life after surgery was tempered by anxiety about the risks, no matter how small.
Sam's day started at 4:00 a.m., when the window was closing on his last opportunity to drink clear liquids before surgery. He rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands and gave his mom a big smile, but showed no interest in an early-morning gulp of Pedialyte. Teresa put him back in his crib until we were ready to leave for the hospital a little more than an hour later.
Sam was awake for the entire ride and, despite limited sleep, no food, and no liquids, was in a good mood. Once we arrived at 6:30 a.m., we bounced from admissions to a waiting area to a room just outside the operating room, answering questions and signing papers at each stop along the way.
Sam watched a "Barney" video as nurses hustled in and out to change him into a gown, put an ID tag on his ankle, and check his vital signs. He was unfazed, but Teresa and I grew more emotional as the level of activity let us know Sam would be going into surgery soon.
That's when Sam's surgeon stopped in. We took advantage of our last opportunity to ask him questions, covering topics ranging from what he ate for breakfast to precautions they would take to prevent complications during surgery. The surgeon answered each question with calming confidence. The surgery is the easy part, he told us, no doubt noticing our concern.
Teresa said, "Please take care of Sam like he's one of your own." The doctor promised he would, encouraged us not to worry, and left the room.
Before long the anesthesia team came in. They gave Sam a mild sedative to prevent separation anxiety and let us say our goodbyes. Sam traded smiles with the anesthesiologist and reached for her surgical mask as she carried him away. Teresa and I leaned out the door to watch every step until the two of them crossed through a set of swinging doors.
From there we went out to sit among other anxious parents in a waiting area for what we were told could be a 4-hour stay. A nurse gave us our first update after an hour, then came back an hour later with unexpected news: Things went so well that the doctor was already closing Sam's incision. After meeting with the surgeons about 20 minutes later, we joined Sam in the post-anesthesia care unit.
Sam was lying on a gurney with a nurse by his side, his little head wrapped in a turban-like bandage. His face was a little puffy, but overall he looked better than we thought he would. Sam remained unconscious for a good 4 hours before he began to rub his eyes and cry out occasionally as the doctors transitioned his pain medication coming through the IV — from morphine to Tylenol with codeine.
As time passed, the crowd of children recovering from surgery grew and cries sporadically rang out from different directions. Parents entered the room with an air of purpose that peaked upon identifying their children and then turned gentle as they approached the bedside of their little ones. You couldn't help but count your blessings in that room.
Construction was going on at the hospital, limiting the number of available rooms. In the late afternoon we were moved to a second holding area, where we stayed until about 8:00 p.m. when Sam was admitted for the evening. Sam shared a room with another child who received an implant shortly after him, giving our families a common bond to discuss.
Sam took his first drink at midnight and drank even more at 4:00 a.m. By morning he was ready for breakfast and seemed to be acting like himself. It was a huge relief to see his smile again. A doctor on duty removed Sam's bandage, and the surgery site looked great. A small strip of surgical tape covered a thin C-shaped line that ran behind Sam's right ear. It appeared clean and tightly sutured, relieving concerns we had about the need for us to perform wound-care duties at home. We took turns feeling the quarter-sized bump made by the implant's internal component, located nearby but more toward the back of his head.
Our only nervous moment came when Sam woke from his morning nap with a significant dent in his head from the crib rail. The doctor assured us that it would go away as his swelling subsided, and he was right.
Surgery day was long and emotionally taxing at times, but in the end Sam's doctor delivered on his prediction of a smooth outcome — despite being fueled by little more than caffeine and pastry. We entrusted our child to skilled, compassionate professionals, and they treated him like he was one of their own.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: May 2011
|American Speech-Language-Hearing Association This group provides services for professionals in audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech and hearing science, and advocates for people with communication disabilities.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders This division of the National Institutes of Health is devoted to preventing, detecting, diagnosing, and treating hearing problems and other communication disorders.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|Helping Sam Hear: A Family's Journey (Video) When 3-month-old Sam was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, his parents found hope when they learned that a cochlear implant might help Sam gain the ability to hear. Learn about their journey.|
|Helping Sam Hear: A Family's Journey When 3-month-old Sam was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, his parents found comfort and hope when they learned that a cochlear implant could help Sam learn to hear. Follow the family's journey, from the diagnosis through surgery and beyond.|
|What's Hearing Loss? Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear or ears. Someone who has hearing loss may be able to hear some sounds or nothing at all. To learn more, read this article for kids.|
|Hearing Evaluation in Children Hearing problems can be treated if they're caught early, so it's important to get your child's hearing screened early and evaluated regularly.|
|Hearing Impairment Hearing impairment occurs when there's a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear. The degree of impairment can vary widely. Find out its causes and what can be done to help correct it.|
|Cochlear Implants Sometimes called a "bionic ear," the cochlear implant can restore hearing for many kinds of hearing loss.|
|Helping Sam Hear: A Family's Journey - Chapter Four: Breaking the Silence When 3-month-old Sam was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, his parents found hope when they learned that a cochlear implant might help Sam gain the ability to hear. Learn about their journey.|
|Helping Sam Hear: A Family's Journey - Chapter Five: New Beginnings When 3-month-old Sam was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, his parents found hope when they learned that a cochlear implant might help Sam gain the ability to hear. Learn about their journey.|
|Helping Sam Hear: A Family's Journey - Chapter One: The Diagnosis When 3-month-old Sam was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, his parents found hope when they learned that a cochlear implant might help Sam gain the ability to hear. Learn about their journey.|
|Helping Sam Hear: A Family's Journey - Chapter Two: Finding the Way When 3-month-old Sam was diagnosed with profound hearing loss, his parents found hope when they learned that a cochlear implant could help Sam learn to hear. Follow their journey.|
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