Thursday, November 30, 2006

Not what I wanted to hear, Parts 2 and 3

Part 2: Pediatrician agrees with fluid in the ear diagnosis. However, she is not sure tubes will be required, and she thinks it is ridiculous to "withhold treatment" (her words) for speech therapy on that basis. She said if that was the only problem he was having, then he would be talking more or less the way he should, just with bad pronunciation because he can't hear the nuances of the speech. But he's hardly talking at all. She said some kids just take longer to begin expressing themselves verbally, and that speech therapy can help them make that leap. The more she talked, the more I started thinking that this may be like potty training: he'll talk when he's ready to talk, so why are we getting so hyper about it at this point? I don't mind going to the ENT, and I don't mind getting his speech evaluated (she referred me to other therapists who do not require a "clean hearing exam" to evaluate speech; CHOA is apparently the only group she knows of with that requirement). But why is everyone in a tizzy? Yes, I'm concerned, and yes, he is behind, but he is making great improvements. His teacher even commented on his improved talking just yesterday. I don't know. I'm just conflicted over the whole thing right now, and I'm really tired of doctor visits. Speaking of....

Part 3: My father had another unexpected doctor visit today. I don't think I said anything here about his "episode" while we were home over Thanksgiving. It was Monday (just three days ago, sheesh), before we had left to come back home, and his school called the house to say he was feeling really bad and his blood pressure had spiked (about 160/100), and that we needed to come get him. Of course, everyone immediately assumes impending heart attack or stroke, but he wasn't showing any other symptoms. He did say that it was similar to what he felt not long before his neck surgery 4 years ago. Went to the doctor, BP down, ran some tests, come back for stress EKG in three weeks. (Uber-brief recap: Four years ago, he noticed he was going numb and having a tingling/pins and needles sensation in his hands and feet. Had an MRI that showed two bulging discs in his neck, but instead of bulging out and pinching the nerves (causing the classic pains), his blew inward and were compressing his spinal column. Had surgery over Thanksgiving 2002, where they removed both discs and a vertebra, and inserted a metal plate.)

Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, he started having increased episodes of tingling in his arms and legs, but they do come and go sometimes, so he didn't think much of it. Today, though, he started having the pins and needles sensation in places he had not felt it before, like his chest. He did say (this was new information to me) that his follow-up MRI after the surgery showed the discs above and below the plate starting to bulge, due to the increased stress on them from removing the vertebra. He has an appointment with the neurosurgeon tomorrow at 10 AM, almost certainly requiring another MRI. He did see another doctor today as a stop-gap measure until tomorrow, and he was put on steroids and given a neck collar, just in case. Joy.

Currently feeling:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not what I wanted to hear, but not so bad either

Real quick, because I know some of you are wondering: Thanksgiving went fine, grandfather is all moved and I am not nearly as stressed anymore having actually seen the facility myself, and no I did not get to see a movie. In fact, I hardly watched any television of any kind, much less went to the theater. But that isn't the point of today's post.

Luke had his hearing evaluation today. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta requires a hearting evaluation before any speech evaluation is allowed. I wasn't concerned. He can hear the television come on from a room away; his hearing is fine. Right? All we had to do was prove it to some silly machines. No problem. He'll pass the hearing exam, then we will proceed to his speech evaluation on Thursday (as in, the day after tomorrow), and we will finally get some answers.

The test itself mostly went well. He did fine with all of the inner ear testing (air puff and tonal imaging), which actually surprised me a little. He did NOT want to go into the quiet room for the rest of the test (noises of various tones and volumes coming from different directions). He fussed and squirmed, not wanting to sit in his own chair or in my lap. Once she actually started the test, he did pretty well for the first 2/3, but it was blue-blazing hot in there (at least 85 degrees, and we were both in jeans and long sleeves) and he was desperate to get down by the end.

I know things could be so much worse, but having a Doctor of Audiology say "your child's hearing is below normal" just does not boost your spirits. (Full details in a minute, if you are still interested after reading this paragraph.) The good news: it is almost certainly cureable, and once cured, the speech issues will probably resolve themselves without intervention (though he will still be tested to be sure). The bad news: until the ear issues are resolved, there is no point in continuing with any evaluations or treatment. Thus our Thursday speech evaluation has been cancelled until further notice.

The details (warning, this is going to be long): She believes that his hearing is being decreased by fluid in the middle ear. When she puffed air at his eardrum, the machine sent back a curve representing the deflection of the eardrum. It should look like a steep hill (think Stone Mountain, for all you locals). His came back looking like a contact lense flipped upside down. This is most likely caused by an obstruction preventing the ear drum from moving as much as it should, and in most cases, that obstruction is fluid. This was confirmed by some brief tonal tests to try and get a picture of the inner ear. All of the information came back garbled, due to passing through the obstruction twice, on the way into and out of the ear. That is actually a good thing, since it essentially confirms the obstruction diagnosis. (If the deflection test had come back poor but the tonal test had come back clear, then it would have indicated a problem with the eardrum itself, which is much harder to correct.) This causes two separate problems. One: it prevents the eardrum from vibrating as dynamically as it could otherwise, thus it is transmitting less sound. Two: the fluid itself also prevents soundwaves from being properly received by the rest of the ear. She thinks he really can hear just fine, but it is the nuances of speech that he cannot distinguish with his muffled ears, which is why his own speech is not progressing.

Then we moved to the quiet room. I remember this room from when *I* was a kid! It is a soundproof room where they play different noises from speakers to the left and right. Something I did not know: it isn't really testing for a problem in the left ear versus the right (they do a headphone test for that), it is simply trying to determine what sounds can be heard, if one ear is stronger than the other, and if both ears are working together to help echo-locate the direction of the sound. She would play a sound at the same time she flipped on a video monitor; left monitor for left sound, right monitor for right sounds. This was to condition him that if he heard a sound and looked in the correct direction, he would get to see a brief movie clip (maybe 2-3 seconds, mostly Disney films that I could identify, how sad). Then she would repeat the sounds at different volumes without turning on the monitor to see if he would look at the monitor on the correct side. I was in the room, and he was sitting in my lap. But I had to look straight ahead so as not to influence him to turn in one direction or another. It was one of the most heart-breaking moments of my life to realize that I was hearing things that he clearly was not.

He is the least below normal (two steps down, out of about 12) in the upper middle range of tones, similar to a woman's voice. His very high tones and his lower middle range tones are three steps below normal, and his very low tones are 4 steps below normal. This explains why he behaves more and reacts more to my voice than to my husband's. I always assumed it was because I stayed home with him for two years and he saw me as the "mean mommy" he had to listen to, while "fun daddy" didn't necessarily have to be obeyed. The fact is, he can literally hear my voice better than my quite bass-voiced husband's, thus he is more likely to respond. I had to laugh when she said "I don't know how much you know about physics?" Um, I'm an engineer. "On, then this will make perfect sense to you!" (At least she got a smile out of me.) Higher pitch tones have more energy than lower pitched tones of similar volume. The fluid in his ear causes those tones to dissipate energy before reaching the inner ear. The higher the pitch, the more easily they pass through the fluid. Lower tones simply don't have the energy to make it through. But super high pitches need assistance from the eardrum to pass effectively, and with its vibrations being affected by the fluid, those are not passing well either. So, he can most likely hear fine, it's just muffled.

You know how you hear when you have a cold? Or when your ears are plugged with water from swimming? That's what it is like all the time for him. This causes a two-fold problem. First off, it is difficult to hear others and understand what they are saying. But as adults, we know what most words sound like and have years (and years and years) experience with language to draw on, so it is easier for us to guess at what is being said, even if we don't quite catch it all. Luke has only two years experience to draw from, and with no idea of how long this has been a problem, he has no way to really hear the nuances of what we are saying. Which explains why when we try to do the ABCs with him, he says A fine, but B C D and E all sound the same when he says them, even if he is repeating each letter after us. He simply cannot hear the difference. Second issue: your own voice sounds louder to you. Some kids like that; once they get the fluid problem fixed, some children start talking very loudly because that is what they are accustomed to hearing. Others who are sensitive to loud noises (like Luke) may not like how loud their own voice sounds to their own ears, so they simply don't talk as much.

She also said that the problem is difficult to diagnose without specialized equipment. You can't really *see* middle ear fluid. You hear most about it with ear infections, but not because doctors can (generally) really see it. It isn't the infection that causes the fluid; it is that fluid gets back there and then gets infected. It is the infection that is being seen when the poke the light in there. So it is not that the doctors missed it, it's just that it is a difficult problem to detect simply by looking, especially when he doesn't have the usual symptom of chronic ear infections.

Obviously, the solution is to get the obstruction (presumably fluid) out of the middle ear. She said they will probably try some medications first to just dry it up. After informing her that we tried two different medications to help that after his last ear infection, and neither of them worked, she said they may send me to an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist). Reading between the lines and hearing (loud and clear) what she did not say: surgery, as in ear tubes. That is not official from any doctor of any sort, but as I said, I heard what she didn't say as much as what she did, and I'd bet my house that she thinks that is where we are headed. They may try one or two more meds, but tubes is probably where we'll end up. And with as many times as I have spoken up to other frantic moms that ear tubes are no big deal, they are routine, and I myself had two sets as a kid, the thought of my baby having surgery still scares me. It doesn't terrify me like it does lots of people, but that's not to say that I won't be pacing every moment from the time I leave his side until the time he is back home safe and sound.

So, instead of a speech evaluation on Thursday, we have an appointment with his pediatrician to discuss the results. Because an ENT is a specialist, we have to get a referral from his primary care physician. The audiologist cannot do it for us. She is faxing her findings and her opinion of the matter to his pediatrician today, and hopefully it will be as simple as showing up, hearing "yes, he needs to see an ENT," and walking out with a referral. Trust me, you do NOT want to see me throw a fit about the medical care of my kid. I was raised by a nurse, and I know when you are treating me like a hysterical hyper-reactive mother (which I am generally just the opposite of). Don't push me! Shouldn't be an issue, though. I'll keep you posted.

But here is the other frustrating thing: none of this will happen quickly. Oh, we should get the referral quickly, and we will most likely be able to be seen by the ENT within a week or two of being referred. But they may try a round or two of meds to clear up the problem without surgery. Most likely two weeks per med. Now it is Christmas. Then the surgery, plus time for things to clear up. I'd say minimum of two weeks (likely longer); it is now mid-January. Now we can call for a repeat hearing test (required by Children's Healthcare). Last time I called, the earliest appointment I could get was 5 weeks out! Having been blessed to grow up in areas with very easy access to medical care, I think that is *outrageous*. (Yes, I know some of you have this problem on a routine basis, but I am admittedly spoiled and not used to it.) But there isn't much to be done about it, since I can't afford the tests out of my own pocket. We'll be generous and say it is now mid-February. And we'll be optimistic and say he passes with flying colors. Only now can I make a speech evaluation appointment, which will be another month away. We're talking St. Patrick's Day before we even find out if he has a speech problem!! I am NOT a patient person for this kind of thing. We have a diagnosis, we have a solution, FIX IT RIGHT NOW! Not four months from now before you can even tell me for sure if there is a problem; NOW. I hate all this waiting. It makes me crazy.

Who knows. Maybe by the time they *finally* get around to testing his speech, he'll be so recovered from fixing the fluid problem and finally being able to hear that his speech will have improved to the point that he sails through his speech evaluation with flying colors. One can hope, right?
Currently feeling: equally dismayed and relieved

Monday, November 20, 2006

A lament for my former life

Okay, so I lied. I thought that would be my only post this week. Then my husband came home with the following news:

"Doug [a coworker] was trying to give away free tickets to see Bobby tonight, and he couldn't find any takers."

Let us examine that statement, shall we? One of the most-talked about films of the year, starring a bazillion people, that isn't even supposed to be in wide release until Thursday/Friday, with Oscar written all over it, and free tickets are available, and no one wants them?!?! Well, that's not true. DH wanted them, and he knew I would give anything for them, but there was nothing we could do. Too late to get a sitter, and too much to do tonight even if we could find one. Now, if it was packing just for us, we would have thrown stuff in a suitcase and made a night out of it at the theater. But packing for Luke is quite a bit more complicated, including burning his own custimized DVD of favorite shows (Blue's Clues, Sesame Street, Tom and Jerry, Bear in the Big Blue House, and (don't laugh) Good Eats; actually been working on it off and on all day). If only it were 3 years ago, if only we had a sitter, if only I didn't feel compelled not to abandon my husband and go anyway, if only I didn't feel the need to burn this DVD so that my son will have something to keep him on routine in the mornings and evenings (he doesn't watch each of those every day, BTW, just a selection of 1-2). If only....

But instead I am sitting here, folding size 3T clothes into a suitcase, collecting up some of his favorite toys, some for in the car and others for after we get there, watching some DVR'd poker while Blue's Clues is being burned to DVD. It's not that I regret my life as it is, but I sure do (occasionally) miss that "drop everything and go if you want" possibility that my "old life" held.

Currently feeling: wistful

My only post this week

Credit: Blinkies By Otto

Don't think I'll be posting much else this week. Too much going on with family and all. I hope you all enjoy your holiday (for the USA folks) or your weekend (for everyone else).

I'm making good progress on preparations, but not as much as I'd hoped. I have burned most of Luke's DVD today (his favorite shows, so we have them "on demand" while we're gone). I've done all of my Christmas cards that do not require photograph inserts (50+ cards, which is just under half). Boxed up one baby gift and two Christmas gifts for mailing, hopefully today. Most of the clothes are washed. Still need to swap out the baby monitor and clean out a bit more room on the DVR (which has to wait for tonight). And swing by somewhere for "the essentials," like Coke and milk! LOL (We underestimated with our grocery trip Friday.) Oh, and pack. Gee, it sure seemed like I had a lot more done before I started writing it all down!

Busy week coming up as well. Thursday is Thanksgiving, but what sort of meal we'll have is still up in the air (love you, Dad, but we are NOT doing sandwiches; I don't want Granny coming down from on high and chastising us for not properly caring for her husband on his first Thanksgiving without her). We will be moving my grandfather into assisted living that day as well, plus we have to squeeze in a trip to MIL's (lives in the same town as my grandfather), so it won't be the most relaxing day in the world, but it all has to be done. We're having family portraits done with my whole family Saturday. We'll also have someone take a snapshot for me to "fancy up" with a little digital scrapbooking for the rest of the cards. Hope to get those sent off for printing while I'm there. Saturday is also the day of the only football game I ever make it a point to watch: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech. Go Jackets!!

Need to go on and order my Amazon stuff, but I don't want it to come while we're away and just sit on our porch. Same goes for the prints I need to order. I'm hoping if I place both orders Friday, they'll arrive before December, which would be really nice. Those two should take care of about 1/3 of my Christmas shopping. If I really get on my pony, I might have everything decided and ordered before December. Wouldn't that be nice?

Currently feeling: gobbled

Thursday, November 16, 2006

All of you were right

And I just felt I should tell you so. Thank you all for your support over the last two months!

Created using the Newspaper Snippet Generator

Currently feeling: relieved

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wild animals

On the way to drop off Luke at daycare the other day, I saw something standing in the road. It looked kind-of like a large dog from a distance, but not really. Then it turned sideways, and I realized it was a deer! Now, I realize this does not sound like a big deal, but I live in the city! No forest anywhere near. There is, however, a "nature preserve" just up the road that I have never been to, always derriding it in my mind, thinking "yeah, right, how much nature can possibly be in there in the middle of the city?!" Guess they have deer! It was just so bizarre. In the 10+ years that I have lived in Atlanta, I have never ever seen a deer, unless I went significantly outside the perimeter. Squirrels and chipmunks, sure. Lots of birds. A raccoon or possom here and there, even the occasional rabbit. But never a deer. Sorry, it still just blows my mind!
Currently feeling: totally amazed

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pay It Forward

I have been reading about the Pay It Forward movement on various blogs, but every time I found one, they were full! Finally, Melanie had an open spot, so I signed up with her.

The first five people who leave a comment on my blog, with their e-mail address, will receive a hand-crafted gift from me in the next 12 months, probably either a cross-stitched bookmark or a temari, your choice. (If you do not wish to leave your email address in the comments, please email me at erinmarie AT rocketmail DOT com, but please be sure that you also leave a comment!) In return for signing up to receive a gift from me, your obligation is to make the same offer on your blog. If you don't have a blog, then you can still participate but you'll have to find a way to make the same offer to your friends :)

Currently feeling: giving

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Alphabet Soup

Here's the game. Comment to this message and I will assign you a letter of the alphabet. (Since Blogger does not provide me with your email address, please check back at the bottom of this post for your letter assignment.) Then go to your journal and post a list of 10 words that begin with this letter and what they mean to you.

I received the letter T from Ann. Unfortunately for you, I do not have her t-t-talent for brevity, but that's not why you read my blog, right? LOL I actually came up with 17 T-words without t-t-trying very hard and had to whittle it down. Here they are:

1. Tech, as in the Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly referred to as Georgia Tech. I'm a second-generation graduate, married to a fellow graduate. I've visited the campus since I was a child. "I'm a ramblin' wreck from Georgia Tech and a helluvan engineer...." And if the fact that I willingly sing that *entire* song with gusto, while changing only one single word (daddy to mommy), doesn't tell you something about how proud I am to be an alum, then you clearly know nothing about me.

2. Trek, as in Star Trek. Seems as though this one would be obvious from #1 up there, but I had to list it. It is one of my favorite franchises ever, and while I am a TNG fan more than the rest, I still watched and (generally) enjoyed them all. I think it is part of the reason that I have a healthy love for sci-fi, exploration, discovery, technology, engineering, and diversity as an adult.

3. Treble, as in music. Actually, I'm more of a bass fan myself, but this will work! LOL Music has always been a huge part of my life, though it has been missing recently. My life and my memories have soundtracks. I am a child of the 80s; what better soundtrack is there? I was in choir, handbells, and band during my entire childhood. A capella musing makes my heart flutter. Josh Groban's voice can move me to tears. John Williams is one of the most brilliant composers ever to walk the planet. Music rocks!

4. Thankful, for most everything in my life. I really do have so very much to be thankful for in this world, and I try to remember that specifically each day. I have an awesome family, from my parents to my sibling to my husband to my son, right on back up the family tree and out among the branches. They are an amazing group of folks, and it is my honor and privilege to be amongst them. I have friends who truly care about me, from all over the world and right across town, and I know I can call on them at any moment for anything. I have a job I enjoy that is bringing in some much needed extra money that we hope to put to very good use on things like braces and college and retirement. I am in generally good health, in spite of my weight, and I generally wake up quite content each day, if still a little sleepy (I am not a morning person, LOL).

5. Table, a place to gather, eat, and enjoy the company of others. Some of my fondest memories of my family and friends, particularly my grandmother who recently passed away, took place at a table of some sort. Great holiday meals, long long talks, fun and games. Dominoes, Scrabble, Uno, Canasta, Texas Hold 'Em, Double Solitaire. Lots of great discussions, and tons of laughter. Just a great place to spend time....

6. Together, with those I love. The only measure on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test that is hugely tipped in one direction or the other for me is the first one, Introvert/Extrovert. And I'm an E all the way! That's not to say that I don't want to be alone every now and then, but I enjoy being with people, especially family and friends. There's no place I'd rather be than together with my loved ones.

7. Travel to see new people and places. Okay, so I don't like the actual journey part so much (how can sitting on a plane or in a car possibly be so tiring?!), but I adore the destinations. It's something I wish we could do more of, but limited vacation time and a child really puts a dent in both our time and finances for gallivanting across the globe. I've been to three countries (USA, Germany, and Canada) but hope to do several more, and I have visited 21 states plus Washington, DC, with several others on the agenda in the moderately near future. And there are still so many other places to go!

8. Thespian, as in movies! Well, I know *many* people who would argue that today's actors and actresses are not thespians in the least, but it was the only word I could come up with to figure out how to wrangle movies in here! LOL I love watching them, I can't get enough of them. I had no idea how difficult it would be to go from seeing an average of one a week to one every 6-8 weeks. I feel like I've amputated a part of myself. Watching them at home just isn't the same! (Hmm, maybe I should have made "theater" one of my words.) The fun, the thrills, the action, the drama, the emotion, the effects, the explosions, the music, the stories. What's not to love?

9. Technology, that keeps me sane. It helps me keep in touch, it helps me do my job, it helps me meet new people, it helps me be creative, it helps me stay informed. It touches almost every part of my life, and I find it fascinating. I distinctly recall saying one day to my husband, "what, does *every* company have a website they have to flash during their commercials now?" For some reason, it irked me. I also have an equally distinct memory, just a few brief years later, of being rather annoyed and saying to my husband, "what kind of company doesn't show a website address during commercials?" My, how times have changed.

10. Two, as in the age of Luke! Some days, I simply cannot believe it has been two years. Other days, it has been the *longest* two years of my entire life! LOL Two years since he came into our lives, two years since I said the words "my son" for the first time (and it still feels strange to say it sometimes), two years since we wondered if his eyes would stay blue (yep), two years of watching him grow and change and become his own little person, with more laughter and tears along the way than I ever would have dreamed possible. Here's to many more!

* Shalini: M
* Kelli: B
* Kirsten: E

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lightbulb conspiracy

Apparently, the lightbulbs at our house had a meeting recently and declared last week to be "Lightbulb Burnout Week." We seemed to have one failing right after the other. Three in the computer room (out of 5; one of those candelabra looking things), two in the living room, one in our bathroom, and one in the hall. So, what did I do last weekend? I made a note of all the bulbs that were out (all different kinds and wattages, of course) and bought replacements. Came home, spent over an hour installing them (opening packages, moving the stepstool, etc), and once again, we have light!

And what happened in our bedroom just now? One of the bulbs blew! Is that one of the kinds I bought? No, of course not. Did I remember to check current inventory to make sure we had replacements for all house bulb types before I went on my shopping spree? NO! So now, we have a light out in our bedroom, and no replacement bulb. Guess I'll pick some up this weekend.
Currently feeling: not so bright (pun intended)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Will someone please tell me...

... what exactly I did to anger whatever higher power it is that you believe in? Admittedly, nothing truly serious or life-affecting has happened, even when there was potential (like the wreck last weekend), and I really am grateful, but I am tired of all of the small to medium things that keep going wrong. Every 1-2 days it is something else to be fixed or handled or that gets messed up, and I am TIRED of it!!

Currently feeling: aaarrrggghhh!!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

10,000 Hits!

Woo-hoo! I am very excited to announce that I have finally recorded 10,000 hits on my blog. Actually, it is more than that (close to 17,000, IIRC), but it is 10,000 since I switched to StatCounter. The hit was registered Oct 31 at 11:49PM (no idea if that is local time or GMT, but I would imagine local) by someone from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I have a pretty good hunch who that is, actually! I hope she enjoyed her visit. I realize that may not seem like a lot of hits to some of my readers, but I've been watching the number steadily climb the last few days, and I think it's pretty cool (like watching a car flip 100,000 miles on the odometer, which mine should be doing not too long from now).

And no, I haven't forgotten the CSNF recap. I was just a little busier this weekend than I expected. Soon, I hope.

Currently feeling: popular and loved