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Patient Testimonials

Patient Testimonials - Emma

Pediatric Patient - 12 years old

Did You Hear That?

Throughout my life, my ears have been a continuous problem. As an infant, I was so fussy and unhappy that my parents knew something was wrong. I screamed and cried night after night. Sleep was something my parents treasured after I was born. As young as three months old, I had a cold that never went away and I was on antibiotics for four months. During that time, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing, I also developed an ear infection. My mother knew a baby shouldn't be on antibiotics for over a month and decided I needed to see another specialist and most likely get a set of ear tubes.

I received my first of five sets of ear tubes when I was only seven months old. It wasn't until I was four, that my parents realized I needed special attention. I was seeing an ear, nose, and throat doctor at the time. He would give me ear tubes that were meant to eventually pop out of my ears. Unfortunately, every few months I needed another set of tubes. My grandfather suggested we find the best ear doctor around. He was worried for me because my aunt had developed hepatitis at the age of ten, and never completely recovered. My parents took grandpa's words into consideration and found a doctor who specialized in ears only. His name was Dr. Roberson.

I never understood that my ears were a burden until I turned eleven. When my mother would read to me each night, she had to repeat so many sentences that it took the fun out of the books. Jokes were also hard to understand. The meanings would come out strange and not funny, but I didn't want to show that I didn't understand a simple joke. J would pay attention so hard in class, yet I often missed the most important part of what the teacher had to say. My speech was different from most people's speech. I knew that too, but I didn't know it was because of not hearing words correctly. Something even more significant happened in the spring of 2004.

It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon, and getting to leave early from school was a treat. I never questioned why I had to go to the ear institute. It was just a place I had gotten used to. Nothing ever changed much. I wasn't expecting to have to make any decisions or answer any new questions. When we arrived at the ear institute, I had to take a hearing test before seeing the doctor.

Hearing tests were not new to me. When I was four, I used to play with toys that beeped, and I would raise my hand, to show that I heard the beep. The hearing tests were dull and uncomfortable. I would be kept in a soundproof booth, sitting in a chair with wires plugged into my ears, around my head, and on top of my shoulders. Usually a technician straps me in, but I had already put the wires where they needed to go. Beside me, were all of those toys I used to love to play with when I would take hearing tests. I had outgrown them, but feeling like you had to do your best to score high on the test was one hundred times worse. Not knowing if J was hearing something correctly or if I was repeating the same exact word as spoken to me was stressful. I always tried my hardest during the tests so I wouldn't need another operation. Every time I took a hearing test, I felt as if I was the only one in the world who had hearing problems. I used to think that hearing tests were just check-ups on your ears. I never questioned why my brother didn't have to take hearing tests, I just assumed he took them on different days than I did.

Every time I received the results of my hearing tests, I felt as if I always failed. The results were always the same. My hearing never improved or lessened. I thought it was great that I was hearing just as well as the time before-I thought is was great- but in the back of my mind, I knew my hearing would never improve.

At Dr. Roberson's office, he did what he had always done. He would ask me questions about school, and make me feel comfortable so when he examined my ears, I wouldn't resist. He asked me how my ears were feeling. "It's still hard to know exactly what my teacher is saying. She assigned my seat at the front of the classroom so that I can hear her. Once, somebody said that they would go and get the Havdalah stuff. I mistook it for, hotdog stuff. Or once I asked a question about how we aren't allowed to play on the play structure after school. I was informed that it was because of the carpool. I could have sworn that I heard it was because of the harpoons!"

I also explained to Dr. Roberson that tons of fluid is locked inside my ears, causing pain, and a difficulty to hear, yet my ears haven't popped since I was three. "Not only that, but at the most unpredictable times, my right ear starts to throb with pain. Maybe I will be taking a test, or be walking and eating my snack, and then I have to sit down and cover my ear because it hurts so much."

I had explained most of these things to Dr. Roberson many times before. "Because of all of the tubes you have gone through, your tissue is very thin, causing your right eardrum and a bone in your ear, to crush together. The bone is already twenty percent damaged." He responded.

I was shocked. I had no idea that something inside of me was physically damaged. I thought my hearing was a part of me that was not changeable. I knew a cast couldn't fit around my ear bone, and I knew whatever would happen to me, wouldn't be simple. He explained that eventually I would need to have surgery so that the bone would not break. I agreed so quickly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

It was March 31st the night before my surgery would occur. So many thoughts were rushing through my mind. I lay in bed on a warm spring night, thinking of how it was, four months ago. I remembered leaving Dr. Roberson's office smiling, ready to relax and watch some television. It wasn't until the next day at school, when my teacher asked, "So how did the appointment go yesterday?" I was a little bit confused. I hesitated and then I remembered the appointment. I couldn't remember what we had talked about the day before. "Oh, my doctor thinks I need another ear surgery. It'll be sometime in April." That's when it struck me that there was something I hadn't considered before. I hadn't considered the fact that I hadn't remembered a single surgery on my ears. I knew I had four months until the operation. I had a lot of time to get used to the fact that I would be going through yet another surgery on my right ear.

I also remember the month before my surgery. All talked about was how I would be going through this long, dreadful procedure on April 1st. I made jokes about how I would arrive at the surgical center and the nurse would call me into my room, and all of the doctors would jump out and say, "April Fool's!" Deep down, I had a heavy heart and fear rushed through my veins.

I shared with my 5th grade class that I would be having surgery and what the operation would do to help me. People seemed concerned, but of all the people in the room, I was the only one who was genuinely scared. Many people congratulated me on my bravery for agreeing to have the surgery. I could have waited a couple of years, but I knew the surgery was inevitable.

I thought of a couple hours ago, and the conversation I had with my mom. "Who was that on the phone?" I had asked.

"That was the anesthesiologist. There are two ways you can choose to fall asleep. Either you can inhale some gas which will take more time for you to fall asleep or you can choose to have an IV. That's when they stick a needle into your arm and feed you the medicine that way. It's quicker, but you'll probably be scared."

"I guess I'll do the IV. I just want the quickest way possible. Do you know if they'll have to cut into my ear?"

"Dr. Roberson is hoping to go through the ear canal, but if he can't see clearly, then they'll have to."

I didn't know what to think. I could only think of how I had waited all of this time, with the dread of having this surgery. I counted each hour until seven o'clock the next day. Mom would awaken me and take me straight to the surgical center. They didn't want me to eat anything before the surgery, so that my stomach would absorb the medication quicker.

The next morning I wasn't even hungry for breakfast. I woke up to my mom at the foot of my bed, holding my cat Sabrina in her arms. She left the room to give me time to fully wake up. I pet Sabrina until she purred so loudly that it was impossible to fall back asleep. I climbed out of bed, grabbed my soft bunny shaped slippers, and kissed Sabrina once more, before heading out into the car. It took some time to find the right building. As I walked across the empty street, I felt a gust of wind go by. The blue, cloudless sky was a comfort to me, since I was expecting a dark gloomy day.

As I sat in the waiting room, my brother was trying to entertain me. He let me play his Game Boy, which he had never let me play. Justin explained how to play the game, just before a short, polite nurse called my name. "Emma. Emma Goss."

I stood up without hesitating, and followed her into a small room with many people who had just gone through surgery. She pulled a curtain around my gurney, and handed me a white, cloth apron to wear. I took off all of my necklaces with help from my mom. The nurse then covered me in blankets and left the room. Justin took my stuffed elephant from my hands and made him dance. I was having a good time until the nurse came back with a thick purple liquid and told me to drink it. "It'll make you a little drowsy, so when you have the IV, you won't feel a thing." I drank the medicine reluctantly. It was a bitter tasting, slimy textured medicine. I gulped it all down and just waited.

Time passed and I began to feel weak. I couldn't tell when I was asleep or not. I just kept saying to myself, "One time one is one. Two times two is four." I needed to keep my mind active so I wouldn't worry about the IV. I was getting farther into my multiplication tables. I was starting to slur my words

"What's twelve times twelve?" Justin asked.

"Uh, a hundred twenty four?" I responded unsure.

"Guess again." I thought for a little while and eventually mumbled, "a hundred forty four."

"That's right!" Justin exclaimed. I was proud of myself for figuring out that problem. I don't know exactly what occurred next. All I remember is being shaken abruptly and then trembling at the sight of the needle piercing my skin. I was all numbed out and couldn't feel a thing.

I sat up slowly, with faces hovering above me like angels. I knew where I was, but I didn't know what I was feeling, IU knew IU was drugged, and I knew the surgery was over. I was starving, and dry in the mouth. Graham crackers and cold apple juice were served to me. I was emotionless and dizzy. Everything was a blur

Walking back to the car was a weary, moment. I was back in my bathrobe and slippers. My head was as heavy as a boulder, and my ear was stuffed and clogged. The day was brighter, with the sun shining, and clouds forming. It felt as though only a few moments had passed since I had walked down this street earlier.

Arriving at home was like returning from the toughest journey of my life. I asked for macaroni and cheese before plopping down on the couch, ready for a nap. When I had awoken, it was quiet, the sun was setting, and my head was throbbing. I walked over to the kitchen counter, surprised to find a meal waiting for me. The macaroni was cold, and I had forgotten I had ever asked for it. I slumped down the hallway, wondering where everyone was. I found my mom, washing her hands in the bathroom.

She handed me some Motrin and told me to take it easy. That's when I saw myself. I looked the same from the neck down. When I glanced at my head, I was shocked it was me. My eyes were drooping like I hadn't slept in months. My right ear was covered with a white bandage, tied all around my head. My hair was frizzy and untidy. It was impossible to fix it, since the bandage had wrapped around my hair too. I knew I would feel better in the morning, and went back to bed.

It was late morning when I had awoken. I was so excited to take those bandages off. I wanted my ears to stop feeling clogged and itchy. Mom slowly unwrapped the bandage from around my head. My hair fell down, but my ear was still clogged. I looked at myself again. My eyes looked wider, and my face looked healthier. Unfortunately, my ear was stuffed with cotton beneath the bandage.

After an exhausting day of driving and shopping, I wanted to stop at one last place before returning home. As I walked through the green gates of my school, I was overjoyed with happiness to see friendly and familiar faces. I ran up to my class as they departed from an ice-cream party, giving my best friend a big hug. I walked in line with the other kids, no one noticing that I had joined them. Walking into the classroom, my teacher spotted me right away with another hug. I handed her a poem I had written that day titled, "I Can Hear the Rain."

My poem was talking about how I could see, feel, smell, and taste the rain, yet I could never hear the rain. The last line of my poem read: "Can you hear the soft, moist drops of the rain? Now I can."

Three months passed by, and my ear continued to heal. I stepped back into the small soundproof booth I had grown to dislike. I listened to the same old tapes, repeating its words, listening for soft beeps. When the results of my test arrived, I knew what to expect. I expected that my hearing stayed the same, and nothing had changed.

"Your hearing has improved drastically!" exclaimed Dr. Roberson. "Usually it takes a couple more months to start hearing like this!" That was the first time those words had ever been spoken to me. I was surprised at the time-not joyful-just surprised.

"You're also speaking clearer." My mom added.

I felt as if I had beaten the challenge. I had conquered my goal. I was speechless and relieved. I walked out of the ear institute with a proud, new feeling inside of me. My lack of hearing had taken eleven years to fix, yet knowing I could do something greater than ever before was worth all of the pain.

California Ear Institute