Our Ear Infection Story

I have 4 children. Only one was plagued with ear infections. She is now 11, but by the time she was 9, she had two new eardrums rebuilt using a piece of fascia from her scalp. The mere mention of something happening with her ears, makes her anxiety rise and the tears flow. This is our ear infection story…

At 6 weeks old, she had her first ear infection.

She had RSV, 101 fever, and an ear infection. If I had brought her into the doctor two days before, she would have had to be admitted to the hospital with a spinal tap on order due to her age. That was a scary week of checking oxygen levels daily and watching a baby breathe all night. That first ear infection wasn’t a one time deal though. She continued to get ear infections, every 6 weeks or so. Sometimes double ear infections. Our pediatrician at the time had just been diagnosed with cancer so we would see whatever pediatrician could take her, on the given day.

My husband was in medical school during this time and rarely home. Every year, he had to go to Monroe to live and work, 3 months out of the year. So it never failed that I would travel home to my parents’ house, a few hours away with the girls, that Annie would start running a fever and off to the pediatrician in another town we would go … ear infection, of course. The girls and I also traveled to Monroe every other weekend to see their dad and what would we have to do there? Find a random pediatrician, open on a Saturday, to check out my girl with fever … ear infection, again. By the time she was 15 months old, she had had 10 ear infections between the 2 ears and had been on antibiotics 12 times. We were seeing so many different doctors in 3 different towns that it wasn’t all being recorded in the same place. As a young mom, with no ear infection experience until now, I had no idea the medical rules on when enough was enough. Finally, on a (another) Saturday morning visit to the doctor, the pediatrician on call asked if we had ever been referred to an ENT. I was SO thankful for someone to notice her chart, listen to her history, and tell me that it was time for something to be done! 

At 15 months, she had tubes … No problems. Not a single ear infection with tubes in.

At 3 years old, they fell out, like they are supposed to and within a month, she had another ear infection. She got antibiotics, it went away, all was well. We waited and waited with each ENT visit to see if the holes from the tubes in her eardrums would close up. That’s what they are supposed to do after tubes are out. Well, one did, the other never did. 

At her 4 year old checkup, he said it may never close and when she gets older, we may consider getting it patched up. It was just a tiny, pin-hole size. For 2 years, we just lived with the fact that she had a tiny hole in her eardrum; we’ll worry about it later in life if we need to.

Age 5, she got a fever and woke one morning looking like snot had exploded all on one side of her hair and pillow … it was matted in goo. I realized what it could be. Her “good” eardrum had ruptured and the hole wasn’t tiny, it was wide open. We made regular doctor visits to check the progress of it closing up, like it should. The report was always that it had a thin film over it and it was trying.

Age 6, she was swimming in a pool and did a front flip under the water and came up screaming about ear pain. We immediately went to the ENT and found out that her eardrum ruptured again and the one with the pin size hole was now wide open also. Two ears – both wide open eardrums and now she had a hearing deficit.

This was now a big problem.

We were referred to an Otolaryngology Specialist at Ochsner in New Orleans. Patching the holes was out of the question. There was nothing for a mesh patch to hold onto. She had no eardrums! She needed a tympanoplasty – an operation performed for the reconstruction of the eardrum. The doctor told us he would only perform the operation on one ear at a time. Having them both done at the same time would be too much for her. So we picked the worst one. My husband and I loaded up our little 1st grader and drove to New Orleans for the surgery. The surgery involved making an incision on her scalp, behind her ear, lifting her ear up and using a piece of fascia (fibrous tissue) from her scalp to rebuild the eardrum.

Recovery for the next few months was not fun.

Her ear was packed with a gel that had to be vacuumed out (the mention of a vacuum now and she’s out of there! It terrifies her!), shaved hair on one side, stitches in the scalp and no physical activity for 5 weeks, no swimming for months, and back and forth drives to New Orleans all year. Two years later, as a 3rd grader, we had the other ear done. We had a regular checkup in April, where he told us it needed to be done as soon as possible, to prevent skin from the outer ear from growing through the hole and into her inner ear. That would present a whole new set of problems. Surgery was scheduled quickly for May. She knew exactly what to expect, which I think made it harder on her. 

She is now a 5th grader and her hearing is great! Any ear pain or cold she might get certainly keeps us on our toes, always worried about keeping those eardrums healthy! Whenever she has to fill something out at school that says, “What makes you different from someone else?” Her response is always, “Well, I have two new eardrums!”

The moral to this story is: Don’t ignore ear infections and don’t be afraid to get those tubes if needed!

 

Betsy is a stay at home (but never at home) mom, to her four children, Maggie, Annie, Jack Henry, and Bear. She grew up in Hammond, La., but moved to Lafayette at the age of 18 to attend USL (now ULL!) After graduating with a degree in Interior Design, she married her high school sweetheart, Matt, and they moved to Shreveport, La., when he got accepted into LSU Medical School. During their 10 years in Shreveport, they had four children while Matt completed Medical School, Surgery Residency and a fellowship in Colorectal Surgery. As Matt worked long hours and Betsy was often raising the children by herself, she learned to "expect the unexpected", "go with the flow" and praise the Lord that they were all alive at the end of the day! After their 10 years there, they packed the family up and moved back to Lafayette, where they always knew they wanted to raise their family. They've been back in the area since 2011 and their lives are full of chaos, homework, studying for tests, after school sports, traveling for gymnastics competitions, and children that are growing up way to fast! Betsy spends many hours volunteering at the children's school, serving on the PTO board and driving the Boudreaux Bus! She truly enjoys every minute of it!