Meet Austin: Ear tube surgery

2013-10-16 21:10:51 by Ashley Howard - Patient family, as posted on the blog.


This past Friday, Austin was admitted to Akron Children's Hospital for ear tube surgery.

Since starting preschool in June, Austin has had frequent colds and persistent fluid on his ear.  We tried several rounds of antibiotics/nose sprays but nothing cleared up the fluid.

I was skeptical of him needing ear tubes, but the doctor explained that fluid left behind the ear for too long can lead to a hardening of the fluid and permanent hearing loss.  So, obviously, tubes were the right choice.

We dropped his baby brother Wyatt off with my mom and headed to the hospital Friday morning at about 10 a.m.  We had been told to be in admitting by 11.

The only preparation we had really taken with Austin is that we explained the doctor would be "fixing" his ears on Friday and that afterward he could get a Happy Meal at McDonald's.  Obviously, happy meals aren't healthy, but it was special and rare occasion.

We also told him that he could take his stuffed "Iron Dog" with him and that Iron Dog could get tubes too.

My main concern about the procedure was that Austin couldn't eat or drink anything until afterward and the surgery wasn't scheduled until 1 o'clock.  I was concerned that he would get upset when we didn't allow him to drink milk especially.


To combat this, we didn't eat or drink anything ourselves in the morning, and we kept him distracted at home with playing.  Once we were at the hospital, the hospital itself was distraction enough.

From start to finish, our experience at Akron Children's was wonderful. In the admitting room, they had a toy table for the kids to play with and the woman in admitting started off the morning by giving Austin stickers for being a big boy and allowing her to put on his hospital bracelet.

Since the process was quicker than we expected, we spent time looking in the gift shop.  It was perfectly set up for little kids and even had a door just the right size for little ones to enter.  From the second floor, animal sculptures look down into the lobby which Austin really enjoyed.

We then headed up to surgery admitting where we waited for 20 minutes or so.  Once we were in the pre-operation space, Austin was put in Winnie the Pooh hospital pajamas.  In the surgery area, each room had a TV with kid channels a plenty.

They also had special ride-on cars so that parents could take kids on a ride around the loop of the pre-surgery area.  We made that trip several times.  The pre-op area also was stocked with a few toys.  Austin was so excited to see the new things, he didn't act nervous at all.


The doctor was running a bit behind so our wait in the pre-op area was longer than expected.  It did not seem long, however, because we had many different visitors.

First, a nurse came by to check Austin's vital signs.  She was very compassionate toward children and told him that the blood pressure cuff would check his muscles.  He weighed in at 37.5 lbs. and was measured at 39 inches tall. Big Boy! Everything checked out great.

After the nurse, the anesthiologist came by to explain the risks of the procedure and answer any questions.  She explained that he would only be "under" for a very short period of time.  She said the only main concern with anesthesia in this type of case would be nausea.

After the anesthiologist, we got a visit from a child life specialist who talked to Austin about his procedure.  She showed him a surgeon's hat and let him try on the mask that he would be wearing to get put under.  She explained that he needed to breathe in and out under the mask and try to blow up the balloon on the end of it.

She also showed Austin pictures of the surgery room and let him pick a "flavor" (smell) for his mask.  He chose pink lemonade, and he was allowed to color the inside of the mask with the chapstick.

The woman then did a practice run and wheeled him down to surgery in his toy car.  She explained to us that she felt Austin would do great since he was showing no signs of anxiety.

After she left, we were visited by the doctor and then it was Austin's time to go back.  Patrick had wanted to go back to surgery with him, and they said we could if we insisted (until he was put to sleep, of course), but I told him I thought that might make Austin more nervous.  We waited in the front area.

It was only about 15 minutes before we were told by the doctor that Austin was out of surgery.  He had fluid behind both ears, with more fluid being present on the right.  According to the doctor, Austin didn't "freak out at all."

We were told that we would be allowed to see him once he woke up from the anesthesia.  After about 20 more minutes, we were allowed back into recovery area one.

The nurse in this area said Austin was "very sweet" and woke up so nicely. She said a lot of kids wake up grumpy and scared but he was happy go lucky asking for the popsicle that they promised him.  He was drowsy of course and wasn't talking as much as usual, but he was able to keep the poscicle down well.

After a 10 minute wait there, we moved to recovery area 2 where he was allowed to watch TV, and the nurse did a final vital check.  Once he was cleared, we dressed him and were allowed to leave.

Instead of making the kids go out in a wheel chair, Akron Children's allows them to be pulled out on a little red wagon.  It was fun for Austin even though he probably won't remember it due to the drugs.

He was great on the car trip home and was able to eat juice, and then a happy meal at home.  By about 2 hours after the procedure, you could not tell he had anything done.

The only time he cried later, and in the subsequent few days, was when we put in the ear drops because they sting and burn a bit.

All in all, it was as wonderful of an experience as it could be.  You never want to see your child have surgery but from beginning to end, Akron Children's thought of everything and made it as pleasant as possible.

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