Thursday, 20 February 2014


I've lost track of how many times I must've used that word over the past months and years. Turns out, this little boy couldn't hear me.

To cut a really long story short, what began as a speech delay about eighteen months ago turned out to be glue ear: congestion of the middle ear that causes hearing loss. Poor little dab, his hearing as poor as if you put your fingers in your ears. Life must've been so lonely for him in his little muffled bubble.

At the end of January, he (finally!) went to the Bristol Children's Hospital for a bilateral grommet insertion. I always remember kids at school having grommets and never knowing what it meant, so in the interests of education, here goes. Grommets are little tiny tubes that are inserted into a hole the surgeon makes in the ear drum. They drain the middle ear and relieve congestion, and hearing is improved. Grommets stay put for around nine months until the ear naturally says goodbye, at which point they fall out and the ear drum begins to heal.

On the day of his operation, we woke T at 6am, got him dressed and headed to the hospital. We were admitted to a small ward with four beds, and T made himself comfortable. He was the first on the list, and we spoke at length to the anaesthetist as well as the surgeon, and the nurses took his vitals and numbed his hands ready for the canula. Only one of us was able to go down with him for the anaesthetic, so I took him. I've never had a general anaesthetic before so it was a bit of a shock quite how quickly he went under. He just passed out in my arms after a couple of seconds, which was disconcerting.

Ben and I were told to head to the cafe for a cup of tea while the operation took place (it only takes half an hour or so). Back on the ward, we waited for him to come round at which point I went down to the recovery room to fetch him. He was in the arms of a doctor, sobbing and very disorientated. It took about 45 minutes for him to calm down; the hospital DVD player and a packet of chocolate buttons did the trick in the end.

We were out by lunchtime, and it was a relief to get home. I'd read other accounts of grommet operations after which kids had noticeably improved hearing almost immediately. T's wasn't quite so apparent, although over the days that followed his operation it was a joy to hear his new phrase: 'what's that noise?', said in response to birds flying overhead, or the miaow of a cat in the window of a neighbour's house.

In the weeks since the op, things have changed significantly. His hearing has definitely improved, his speech is a lot clearer, and his behaviour - although up and down for a while - seems to be improving. Time will tell how much better things will get and how quickly he catches up with his peers, but I'm glad we opted for the grommets and so excited for my littlest boy and the brand new world that's just opened up for him.

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