Miss Sunshine and I are headed out to Chicago this afternoon again. Back to Shriner's for another surgery. It's a "minor" surgery (is any surgery really minor, though?) - she's having her ear tubes replaced. I may have mentioned that she lost the right ear tube back in May. Well, the left one came out a few weeks ago. This will be her third tube in the right ear - she had the one originally placed last August, and they replaced that one in January during her cleft repair - and the second tube in her left ear. We will likely be dealing with this at least yearly for another five or so years. Our ENT here in Wichita told us at the time of her initial ear tube placement that studies have shown that it can take 7-8 years for the muscles of a cleft palate to learn how to correctly do their job and keep fluid out of the ears. In that time, a cleft affected child will need ear tubes to reduce fluid in the ear and reduce the chances of hearing loss. When Miss Sunshine's first set were placed, we were told that there was some minor scar tissue buildup from excessive fluid in her right ear that the doctor was able to remove, and we remain hopeful that this has not affected her hearing, although there is that possibility. We really won't have an accurate idea of the hearing in each individual ear until she is much older and can be more easily tested. What we do know for now is that, even with fluid in her ears (which she definitely had at her last hearing test) her overall hearing (hearing combined with both ears) falls within normal range. So she is not considered to have any hearing loss, which is a real possibility with cleft affected children due to the excessive fluid buildup. And also why we are trying to stay right on top of those ear tubes - to keep it from becoming a reality.
I am also hopeful that once this newest set of tubes is placed, her pronunciation in her speech will become more clear. Right now, she can hear, but everything sounds like it is underwater because of all the fluid. So she is hearing, but not clearly. Hopefully once the tubes are placed she will be hearing clearly and will start refining her speech. For instance - she has started saying "yes" but it comes out "yesh" - and I believe that is in large part due to the fluid build up in her ears. We know she can make the S sound correctly, because she says "SSSSSS" when you ask her what sound a snake makes. So I believe she simply is not HEARING it correctly at the end of words - and therefore the incorrect pronunciation.
I do know that the improvement was immediate and astounding when her first set of tubes was replaced, and since she has had fluid build up for several months in both ears at this point, I think we will see the same kind of reaction. Unfortunately, I also remember that she became a much lighter sleeper after the first set of tubes - and I have a feeling it will be a similar experience this time around - which I am not so much looking forward to. But we know that it is in her best interest - so she and I will be making a flight to Chicago today, having surgery in the morning, and flying back tomorrow afternoon. So if you all could say some prayers (or,you know, whatever it is that you do!) that things go well on our trip and during her surgery, and that mommy retains what little sanity she has left, I would greatly appreciate it!