‘You are talking too softly, Mummy…’

August 2016

Last November, Ryan failed his hearing test in school. It was only then when E and I started noticing how Ryan often needed us to repeat instructions and how he always complained that I talked too softly (Anyone who knows me, soft spoken is rarely a trait used to describe me). Thereafter, we went for two hearing tests in the UK with the audiologists and the latest one was in July 2016. By then, the audiologists confirmed that his hearing was still flat(25 percent of a normal child) and required grommets in his ears. The specialist informed us that it would be a day surgery and fairly uncomplicated.

By then, I was anxious about his condition, hoping that his hearing would just miraculously improve. I noticed how his response was slower in sports and activities. While the difference may be minute, the major concern was that his hearing may deteriorate over time and this may impact his learning.

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When we got to Singapore, my mother advised that I should bring Ryan to the polyclinic to seek for a second opinion and perhaps there could be a treatment to remove the ear wax. We saw the GP at the polyclinic and he referred us to see a ENT pediatric specialist at KKH. The initial appointment was in October, which was not possible for us as we would have returned to London. Fortunately, when I called KKH to ask for an earlier slot, the nurse managed to get one for me on the 5th of August.

For our appointment on the 5th of August, the doctor removed the ear wax from Ryan’s ear with a micro suction. Thereafter, he went for another hearing test and this time round, it seemed that his hearing remains the same, still rather flat. The doctor confirmed that Ryan’s hearing was considered mild-moderate. When asked if Ryan suffered from speech delay, he was surprised that Ryan’s speech was okay. Still, he advised two procedures for Ryan to improve his hearing since Ryan is still young and hearing is essential for his learning. The first procedure being, removing his tonsils and adenoids. Ryan’s tonsils looked large, which is causing him to snore. Snoring may lead to fluid building up in the middle ear and affect hearing. The second procedure is what the UK specialist advised as well- to put grommets in Ryan’s ear. Grommets are small plastic tubes instilled in the ear drums and they allow air into the middle ear which reduces the risk of fluid building up.

With these information, I decided to book a surgery date first and thankfully, the team at KKH managed to get a slot for Ryan on the 16th of August. That was the best timing for us as we were due to return to London in September. This would give us sufficient time to recuperate and go for a review with the doctor. Despite having the surgery date, I was feeling nervous and hesitant about the surgery when I got home. As E would not be back in time for Ryan’s operation, it meant that I had to be the lone parent, accompanying Ryan and we had to stay overnight as well. It possibly sound easy to some of you but there was the consideration of Ryan’s recovery(and how he had to avoid water after the operation. He loves swimming! :() and the logistics for Baby Megan who is very attached to me. The operation sounded invasive. When I explained to Ryan the entire procedure, he was in tears!

Just when I wanted to back out of the operation, the doctor at KKH called me to check on Ryan and I voiced out my concerns. He repeatedly told me that he stood by his opinion and I should not worry unduly about the recovery. I talked to some of my mummy friends and they also shared on how they would have done in my shoes. It also helped that my sister-in-law is in the insurance line and she told me that the removal of tonsils is common operation, even for kids. Somehow, I managed to pluck up the courage and made the decision to go ahead with the surgery. There is this nagging feeling in me that his hearing condition might worsen without operation and I did not want his poor hearing to be an excuse for his behavior and learning. The plus points of getting the operation done in Singapore would be how my family could help me with the girls while I head off the the hospital with Ryan.

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The day of the operation arrived and we cabbed to KKH. Ryan was to be admitted at 7 in the morning and his operation was the first that day. I was feeling all right all the way, just abit jittery but between Ryan and myself, I need to be the adult and behave in a calm and composed manner even when I felt a lump at the back of throat when we were getting ready to go to the OT.

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Ryan is a great kid. I don’t usually praise him but he is really good. Prior to the surgery day, he started off being teary and reluctant about undergoing the procedures. However, things took a turn for the better. The week when he was due for operation, he behaved well and on the day of the surgery, he sounded so sensible about the operation. (Sometimes I feel so bad that I don’t spend enough ‘alone’ time with him and the one day of being alone with him was the trip to the hospital. *sigh*)

Ryan was given anaesthetic gas when we were in the OT. He was restrained by me and the doctor while he was taking in the gas. Halfway, he started struggling and yet, we had to continue to hold me. He then gave me the look of betrayal before closing his eyes. It sounds very dramatic but I think that moment, I really wanted to cry but I suppose crying is not very productive. I left the OT with Ryan in it, feeling very, very heart-broken and alone. I sat outside the OT.

With 3 kids and sometimes, they get ill and hospitalised, I am not sure how other parents cope but I find it easier when I emotionally detach myself from the condition and the treatments that they have to undergo. My heart aches and I do want to indulge in crying but I have responsibilities towards the other two children, so maybe crying have to wait. Not today, or any day for now. I highly doubt the 25 year old me would be able to deal with any of what I go through these days. Such experiences are painful and sometimes, they harden me, both in good and bad ways.

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Ryan’s operation was done in 2.5 hours. The surgeon told me that he removed Ryan’s tonsils and was able to vacuum out the fluids in Ryan’s middle ear. The liquid removed was unlike water form, and thicker and similar to mucus. The doctor also mentioned that it was good that Ryan removed the fluid in the middle ear as any build up would cause him to lose more hearing.

I met Ryan in the recovery, bawling, with a nurse restraining him. His tonsils were removed and I imagine it was immensely painful and traumatic experience for anyone, what more a 5 year old boy. He was complaining of great discomfort in his throat and could not speak properly. He kept coughing between crying. The nurses had to give him some drug to calm him down and he slept while he was pushed to the ward.

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The entire afternoon in the ward passed quickly- alternating with Ryan sleeping, and eating/drinking and crying. My family came down to visit him in the evening and Kimberly(major love!) kindly offered to take care of Ryan in the night while I went home to care for Megan. By 10 the next morning, the doctor was happy with Ryan’s progress and he could be discharged.

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Today marks Day 3 since his surgery and he seem to be happy, requiring painkillers at least twice a day before he eats. We will be returning to KKH for a review next week. *Fingers crossed!*

Somehow, I think everything happens for a reason and this episode just reminds me to trust in God and his plans. It is very timely how Ryan’s latest Bible memory verse is from Proverbs 3:1- Trust in the Lord with All your Heart.

I cannot feel more thankful that Ryan is recovering well and how my family have been very supportive during this trying time. Praise the Lord!

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