Saturday, September 20, 2008

The MOST Expensive Tube

When Max was 14 mos. old he got tubes in his ears. This is how the whole process with Max's not speaking any words, not turning his head when I called his name got started. It seemed that he could hear, but he just wouldn't talk or turn when I called his name. I remember being scared it was something on the autism spectrum, not full out autism because he was sociable other than not talking and not responding to auditory commands or his name.
So we go to an ENT at a local hospital and he says "Yes, his ears are full of fluid, that is why he is not talking, it's as if he's hearing under water." So at 14 mos. Max gets tubes in his ears. I'm guessing that the surgery for the tubes cost me around $4,000-$5,000. I'd like to give you an actual figure and not a guesstimate, but a lot has happened since this time and honestly my brain cannot possibly keep up with it all. But I'm going to assume this is a fairly good guesstimate.
Of course, the tubes don't seem to be doing the trick, he still doesn't respond and still makes no attempt to say anything. The story from there is like a tricky twisty maze, you go in one direction only to run smack into a dead-in and have to turn around try another and hope you get out of the darn thing FAST, because you're tired, thirsty and it really isn't fun anymore. So I guess I don't have to tell you it wasn't the fluid in his ears since he now has a cochlear implant. You can pretty much guess that it was a full blown hearing loss that somehow happened either after he was born, OR the hospital messed up the newborn screening to begin with.

In the middle of August, Max's first week of school I noticed that he was digging in his left ear ALOT. Everytime I cleaned that left ear I noticed that the wax or the end of the q-tip looked a little bloody. Hmmmmmmmm, ever trying to make things less severe, I assumed that he had possibly gotten a bug bite or something just right in the ear canal and scratched it. After watching him in the observation room one day during school, he really was going after that left ear. Even his teacher looked in there. That night I again cleaned it with a q-tip and sure enough that was blood. So the next day while he was at school, I asked his audiologist if she could possibly go check his ear since he keeps sticking his finger in there. She told me that he definitely had something going on in there and needed to be seen before Monday when his ENT surgeon that put the implant in (Not to be confused with our local ENT idiot) could look at it. Still pretty sure that it was bug bite I called our "papaw/doctor" for a look on Friday. He looked and was pretty shocked to find that Max had a very bad infection in the outer part of the ear, basically in the canal. Max was put on antibiotics and antibiotic ear drops. This was probably at a cost to us of $115.00. He stated that he did want Max's ENT to look at it since it was really bad and with him being an expert and all with the ears. So on Monday I take Max over to his ENT and he exclaims that yes it is really infected but everything we are doing is good so bring him back over in two weeks. That appointment cost me $54.56 (insurance will break them down and pay a small portion). So we take all the meds, ear drops, and papaw looks at it again and says, "Geez, I think it's that tube that is infected. Looks like it might have scar tissue or skin on it." O.k. STOP. Let's do a little rewind here. Tubes were put in, right tube was removed during a good ear cleaning while sedated for an ABR. Left tube fell out whatever they put it in, ear drum, but never fell out of the ear. Now back to The MOST Expensive Tube. He suggests that I take him back to Max's ENT and have him take a lookey-loo. ENT looks and says, "yes, it looks like that is what is going on, still a little inflamed, we're going to have to schedule surgery to remove it." NOOOOOOOOO, this cannot be. I have had medical bills out the wazoo with his cochlear implant surgery, getting to that surgery, my daughter's seizures, EEG's, MRI's, our sawmill went bellyup dead and we filed bankruptcy in April of this year. I have no money, no way to get any money, we are living on the edge, my deductible is $3,000.00, the job Trent's been working at is going belly up as well, he's doing odd jobs which pays odd amounts. NOOOOOOOOOOO. So surgery is scheduled. During that time I pray, I pray hard. I pray for that tube to fall out, go away, disappear. Oh and I get another bill for $54.56. Surgery day: Thursday 9/18. We were supposed to see ENT on Monday but because of the hurricane winds that wiped out S. Indiana and KY, there is no electricity anywhere so no appointment with ENT(savings: $54.56). On Thursday we get to the hospital at 9:30 am. We go through all the rigamaro and with each person I say, I'm still holding out hope that it's fallen out or can be taken out without this surgery. They all look at me like "yeah right." Just as the nurse was bringing the "happy juice" to make Max happy to be going out, I ask if the ENT could just take one more look and make sure that he can't get it out without surgery. ENT comes in, looks, and says I think we can get it. It looks like a little ball of wax blocking it. So surgery is "off". Thank goodness. I'm so happy, I'm sure we'll have to pay something but probably not $3,000.00. ENT gets telescope from operating room and he and Trent and two nurses hold Max while he tries to get the tube, and I cower outside because I don't think I can bear this. After about 5 hours, no not really more like 5 minutes but dang it felt like forever, they come out with, can't get it. It's attached. Oh holy crap. Surgery is back on they give us the "happy juice" for Max. At about 1:00 - 1:30 they come and take Max to his tube removal surgery. I cry when they take him, as usual. I've been through him being sedated or surgery 6 times now, you think I could get over that, but I can't. We wait for him to get out, only 10 - 15 little minutes, it's just a little surgery you know. Max comes out and he is furiously mad, cries, tries to nap for a minute, remembers he was violated and cries some more. ENT says that it was attached to the ear drum still, tissue on it is being sent off to biopsy, hole should close on it's own in ear drum, and gave us antibiotic drops to start putting in on day 5. Max was fine that night, riding his bike like nothing happened. Happy as a lark. I'm happy that it's out, til I get the bill I'm sure. This tube, a little bitty green thing, is the MOST Expensive Tube. Probably around $8,000-$9,000 when it's all said and done. I wish I could have had it. I'd frame it.
Can you HEAR me?