Can you hear me now?
In March of last year, I took Hannah to see an ENT. They tested her hearing. She failed. They wanted to place tubes that week. We decided to hold off and wait to place the tubes in late April, when we did Hannah's lip repair to spare her the trauma of additional surgeries. It was a whirlwind at the time. We saw a doctor outside the University hospital where Hannah has received all of her care. That doctor couldn't place the tubes for us at UK during her other surgeries, so in a flurry of activity, our cranio-facial surgeon lined up an ENT for us who would be willing to do it at UK. We'd never met the person who did that portion of the surgery and we never saw them again after that day. It was just something that needed to be done and the lesser of things that we were concerned about at the time. So we did it. We were told to follow up in six weeks at the ENT clinic at UK, which we did.
So we went in June and met with a pediatric doctor there. On his last day at the University. And it was clearly his last day. He spent all of 30 seconds in the room with us. Checked her ears, sad no worries about the fresh blood we'd seen drain just that week, and told us they wouldn't test her hearing again until it had been six months. We tried to schedule the six month follow up and were told we couldn't schedule that far in advance and to call in October. I was less than impressed.
Fast forward to November. My concerns over Hannah's hearing were mounting. She was still so loud. So...very....loud. And perhaps loud is just her personality, but I was starting to get a lot of loud, followed by, "WHAT?!" after a lot of what I would say to her. Add this to the lack of progress in speech therapy and I realized that despite my lackluster experience with the ENT at UK to date, I needed to get her back in to see someone....either the doctor we'd seen in March outside the University or back at UK. I mentioned my concerns to the speech therapist, who did a very basic test in her office and it confirmed my concerns. She failed in the left ear and barely passed the right.
I opted to give UK one more try since they were the ones who'd placed the tubes in the first place and see if perhaps another doctor would give us a better experience. I am thankful I decided to do this. The new doctor was great with Hannah and seems on top of getting her hearing and hearing soon. Hannah had her hearing tested again. She failed, miserably, on the hearing test. The ENT wanted to know all sorts of things that I was unable to answer. No, China never tested her hearing, no, I am not certain that ear infections were caught or treated (ever or at all), no she'd never passed a hearing test while in my care. What we discovered was that she has waxy ears. No joke. This is very common in Asian kiddos and every....single....doctor we've seen that has poked around in her ears has remarked about the wax. There's nothing we can do about it, but it does make exams difficult. No, there is not enough wax in there to obstruct her ears or her hearing. What we were able to somehow deduce is that one tube is apparently gone (already?!?! how long do these things last??), and one is completely blocked with....you guessed it, fluid! Tons of fluid behind both ears. No wonder she can't hear.
So what is the plan? Sadly, it means there will be another surgery for Hannah to kick off 2016. I'm bummed. I'd hoped we'd be surgery free for at least 2-3 years. God has other plans. We were prepared for hearing issues to be a possibility, but prepared or not, we trust God's plan for all of us is sovereign. We saw how we were able to impact the nurses during our hospital stays in the past. We are willing to be used by Him wherever He chooses and if that includes the hospital, then so be it. We just wish she could be spared all these procedures. In late February, Hannah will have another operation to replace the current tubes, drain all the fluid in her ears, and also conduct a sedated ABR hearing test. This will be a much more accurate hearing test and will hopefully shed some light on what we're dealing with. It is possible Hannah's current hearing impairment is merely caused by the fluid in her ears and the simple set of tubes will correct it. We will just have to stay more on top of the tubes and their effectiveness so we don't end up where we are again in six months. Or, it is also possible that Hannah was exposed to multiple, prolonged, and untreated ear infections during her life in China. Ear infections alone are not a big deal, but leaving them untreated and having many can cause permanent hearing loss or damage. This ABR test should tell us what type of impairment she has and what we can do to help her hear to the best of her ability.
There are things that we know to be true. We know she hears because she responds. We know she hears because she speaks English now. We know she is struggling to hear because she often needs us to repeat things and English is no longer the culprit. We know she came home from China with a massive ear infection that we knew nothing about and she had no other symptoms with it--we happened to catch it at a routine checkup. This tells us she is rather used to living with the pain of ear infections and just took it as part of normal life. Nothing to fuss over. Most of all, we know God placed her in our family for a reason and we know His plans for her are perfect. We know He loves her far more than we ever possibly could. We know that whatever mountain He places in front of her, He fully intends to equip her (and us) to climb it. Was it what we wanted for her? No.......but we see this as opportunity to yet again increase our faith and trust His will. We know He works all things together for our good and for His glory.
We also know that our progress in speech therapy has been slow. Very slow. Things have been mentioned in speech that have made me cringe, but all I can do is sigh and say, "I trust you, Lord." Our insurance limits the number of visits we can have with a speech therapist and the limit is far from enough for what Hannah requires. Together with the speech therapist, Chris and I have decided to take an extended break from speech therapy and resume once we know Hannah is hearing correctly. We'll start back a week or so before her surgery, just to get into the swing of it again, and then proceed from there.
We know Hannah has the ability to function in a speaking world. She can hear and understand and comprehend, but her hearing is definitely impacting her ability to make progress with her speech. Please join us in praying for a quick procedure, clear answers to the reason for her current hearing impairment, and clear direction from the Lord as to what the next steps need to be. We long for her to hear us clearly and grasp the sounds we are making so she can one day reproduce them herself. We want her to fully hear the gospel and also fully be able to proclaim it herself one day.
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good..."
May He continue to weave her story. May He work this together for her good. And may we glorify Him through it.