Administering ear drops into your child’s ear is simple. Communication is key. First, calmly tell your child what you are about to do; second, unscrew the cap; and lastly, quickly turn out the lights in the living room while your spouse wrestles your child to the floor and places her or him in a straitjacket.
At least that’s what the instructions on the back of ofloxacin should say.
The ENT doctor might as well have asked my wife and I to perform a root canal on our daughter without a local anesthetic in a dark, damp dungeon full of sharp toothed, scaly monsters that hiss than to have prescribed ear drops to place into our daughter’s ear twice daily at five drops a piece, for ten days.
Have you ever tried giving a toddler or small child ear drops that is suffering a painful, ridiculously goopy ear infection or ruptured ear drum, particularly one that has suffered chronic ear infections her entire life, who is on her second set of tubes (and has had her adenoids removed as well)? It’s fairly impossible. My daughter turns into The Incredible Hulk with the strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger circa Mr. Olympia steroid injections in the ahhhhssss phase.
When the Ear Infections Started
Here’s the thing. My daughter is three now. She has battled ear infections her entire life. Tubes work, don’t get me wrong. Life before tubes was hell for her. Restful sleep. Didn’t happen (for her or us). Eating when she had a bad ear infection. Not much at all. When an ear infection hit, she was fussy and irritable — and who wouldn’t be? Have you ever seen what comes out of the ear once it drains? Don’t YouTube it.
Or, you can do like I tend to do and YouTube it, then find yourself three hours later in a trance watching videos with absolutely no relation to why you got on in the first place. You ever seen those videos of bullies getting their asses handed to them? Cinematic greatness. Warning: language.
Oral Antibiotics Were No Match
Amoxicillin. Azithromycin. Cefdinir. Didn’t work. Didn’t work. Didn’t work. She was on one oral antibiotic after the next, which in turn did a number on her stomach as it stripped away necessary good bacteria in an attempt to get rid of bad bacteria, and that’s when we went through the chronic constipation stage. From a parent’s perspective, it saddens you to watch your child be in pain, whether it’s their ear hurting or their inability to use the bathroom fully. From a child’s perspective, it’s even worse because it is a firsthand experience.
Tubes to the Rescue
Fed up with the constant antibiotic prescriptions which seemed to do more harm than good, we scheduled an appointment with an ENT doctor and set up a surgery for ear tubes (myringotomy tubes), a total God send. My daughter was one year old at the time.
What to Expect On the Day of Ear Tube Surgery
It took place in an outpatient setting at the hospital and I volunteered to go back into the surgery room to take my daughter. The ENT doctor had warned that it can be difficult for some parents to see their child put under, so I offered because my wife didn’t know if she would do well; and well, I’m her dad. I’m her protector. It’s my job to make my children feel safe, particularly my daughter I feel.
And yes, it is a little scary (though it’s quick) to see your child go lights out right before your eyes. The reality is, bad things can happen. And while it does no good to think about it beforehand, in my opinion, the risk is there, which is why they make you sign a consent form prior to surgery. Complications do happen to somebody’s kid. You just weigh the risk and options (loss of hearing, chronic pain if she does not get the surgery) and pray to God that the bad thing that happens to somebody’s kid you see on the news is not your kid. You wish it didn’t happen to anyone’s kid. Just the thought makes my stomach raw.
We were in and out, and on our merry way in just a few hours. My daughter was a little out of it, for obvious reasons (general anesthesia), but did extremely well considering. The grogginess wore off a few hours later and she was eating popsicles and simply taking it easy the remainder of the day.
Ear Tubes In, Fluid Out
On day one, or I should say, night one, her ears started draining excess fluid and bacteria (and pus). Are you eating while reading this? The ENT doc gave us a heads up that seeing this and a little blood mixed in was perfectly normal (“a good thing actually”), so not to panic. Perfectly normal.
Days and Weeks Later
Her sleeping immediately changed for the better. Her eating habits, though she has always been a picky eater (and still is), drastically improved. Her hearing became noticeably better, as did her speech. It was like we had a new child. She was happier and healthier — which is what you want for your children ultimately.
Ear Tubes, Round Two
Then, roughly 16 months later, her tubes fell out, as tubes do. (My daughter’s tubes stayed in much longer than is the norm [6-12 months]). We crossed our fingers that her chronic ear infections would be a thing of the past. Sometimes kids simply outgrow them. Not my daughter.
Shortly after the tubes fell out, the ear infections started back. We met with the ENT doc again, did a hearing test due to some concerns we were having (and found out she had 40-50% hearing loss because of fluid build-up and pressure) and set up a second surgery. My daughter was three years old by this point. The ENT also recommended her adenoids be removed as well since they, too, can pose problems with harboring bacteria.
Second Set of Tubes and Removal of Adenoids
The second surgery was to place a second set of tubes and also to remove her adenoids. I still had my fears going into the second surgery (adenoid removal presents its own unique circumstances in the operating room), but fears I kept at bay, because, like I said earlier, worrying doesn’t do any good. Considering how well the first surgery went, I was expecting mostly the same.
The surgery itself went great, and so did the recovery — kinda, sorta. We just weren’t in and out like during the first. Because she had her adenoids removed, she could not leave until she took her pain medication — and her throat hurt like hell. Consequently, she refused to take a pain pill or to swallow anything, including water.
So we sat there in the hospital room for about six hours following surgery. The nurse would come in and attempt to give my three year old water, ice, and medicine, and my daughter would clinch her mouth shut, jaw muscles flexed, and do all but curse out the poor nurse.
I haven’t seen someone three feet tall that angry and determined since Verne Troyer went after Mike Myers in that scene from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
I’ll Take My Medicine Once I Finish This Puzzle, and No Sooner
The good news is that I had just bought a smartphone (welcome to 2014) and so had my wife, so I sat in the room drinking free Coca-Colas while reading a novel on my Kindle app. My daughter sat upright in the bed with a sinister brow, playing a princess puzzle game on my wife’s phone.
We were at my daughter’s mercy.
Thankfully, my daughter did perk up eventually. When she was ready, she was ready. She took her medicine — and we were out. We thanked the nurses and apologized for each of their black eyes, busted lips, and grapple holds my daughter placed them in.
Even With Tubes, Ear Infections Can Still Happen
It’s been a good five months since my daughter’s second set of tubes were placed and her adenoids removed, and this is her first ear infection flare up. In context, before she had tubes, she averaged roughly 1-2 ear infections per two months, usually as a result of one antibiotic not working and on to the next.
So, all in all, a vast improvement.
It is sort of a misunderstanding that because a child has tubes, that if they do get another ear infection it means the tubes aren’t working. Wrong, and the ENT doctor will tell you just that before and after surgery. Sometimes the ear infection is just that big and bad. What’s important is if your child does get another ear infection, that the tube is draining properly. Sometimes, the infection is so bad, it can actually block (and clog) the tube so that fluid cannot drain.
I speak from experience with my own daughter. One of her tubes clogged up due to dried blood and pus, and so, in come the ear drops.
So what’s the trick? How do you actually administer ear drops into your small (yet very strong) child’s ear?
With the help of Jesus. Or Vishnu. Or Richard Dawkins. Whoever it is you believe in. I would say the trick is to wait until your child is sleeping to do it, but then you’ll just wind up waking your child and angering them to a point of no return, a point to which they will sleep with one eye open and never trust you when they go to sleep ever again, and then in seventeen or eighteen years, you’ll see their face on a glossy 24″ x 36″ poster in downtown Richmond with the name Starlight and the subheading “Lap dances for $50,” and you’ll realize then that you screwed up your child and are a horrible parent and it’s all your fault, it’s all the fault of those damn ear drops, and that damn ofloxacin prescription, and the fact that you didn’t handle administering ear drops in the proper way.
So, really, my advice, my trick, is to be patient and do your best to explain what you are about to do and why the drops will help them feel better, and be thankful if you can get at least two of the five drops in their ear before they kick you in the balls (or female region if you are a female reading this) and/or poke you in the eye.
Really, that’s all I’ve got. That’s my sage advice.
What’s your experience or advice? Share it in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.
Written by Jeffrey Pillow, author of the coming-of-age memoir in progress When the Lights Go Out at 10:16, which you can read on this blog as it’s being written. When the Lights Go Out at 10:16 is a story of growing up in small town America in the 1980’s in a teeny tiny town known as Phenix, in Charlotte County, Virginia. It is a story of life and friendship in the face of terminal cancer. Want to read more blog posts? Visit the blog archive. You can also subscribe to this blog to receive updates of new posts by email. Or, follow me on Twitter (I just re-joined).
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