This month has been a big one in our family with our 7-year-old undergoing surgery to remove a cholesteatoma. When preparing for the surgery, I read everything I could find about what to expect. I wanted to share our experience with surgery in case you’re out there doing the same thing.
This is our experience, and should not be confused with medical advice.
A little background on how we got to surgery day. My little one qualified for speech therapy due to some slight delays. For many, it might not have been that noticeable. However, -ar and -er continued to plague her. Both blends are in her name. It’s kind of important to be able to say your own name.
The initial diagnosis came during a different procedure. After failing a hearing test, we worked with our daughter’s ENT to determine the cause. She went in to have a new set of tubes put in her ears in hopes her ear would drain, allowing her eardrum to fluctuate and improve hearing. During the surgery to insert tubes, her doctor found the cholesteatoma.
Enter the months that seemed to drag on and on. After discovering the cholesteatoma, we had a change in our health insurance. That meant starting over. Ugh. New ENT, more waiting.
After an MRI confirmed the presence of the cholesteatoma, we were scheduled for surgery. Another round of hearing tests were done to have a new baseline. Unfortunately in six months, her hearing had declined significantly. Previously the doctor had said our best case scenario was “near normal hearing.” With the rapid decline in hearing, damage to her delicate bones was logical and, therefore, our best case was no longer mild hearing loss.
What to Expect from your Child’s Cholesteatoma Surgery
Day of Surgery
We arrived early at the hospital for check-in and lots of waiting. The tympanomastoidectomy surgery was scheduled to last four and a half hours, and went the whole time. After we were able to be with our daughter as she slowly woke up from the anesthesia. After about an hour in recovery, she asked to go home.
Her ear was covered with a cup, stuffed with gauze and cotton. The gauze needed to be changed periodically because her ear did bleed a little. She didn’t talk much, didn’t eat much, didn’t do much.
She spent the rest of the day on the couch. She took the prescribed pain medication, ibuprofen, and antibiotics. I also applied ice as requested.
The following day, my little one continued her residence on the couch. She ate exclusively soft foods like pudding, Jell-o, and mashed potatoes. She said it hurt to eat, and it hurt to talk.
By the next day, she continued to depend on mainly soft foods, but started requested things with a little more sustenance. She was sitting up more and doing art projects. She would move around the house from one comfy spot to the next. By Day 3, prescription pain medication wasn’t necessary.
Her ear continued to drain and the cotton and gauze needed to be changed every few hours.
Her doctor had said showering would actually be good for her wound behind her ear, as the shampoo would keep it clean. She DID NOT want to get it wet. It took a lot of bribery to get her into the shower.
Total change! She started seeming more like herself after surgery. We did a little homework and even went out of the house to run a quick errand. Although the doctor had only required her to wear the ear cup for two days, she was hesitant to take it off.
It was reassuring to see her back to her old self, plus she seemed to be in less pain.
After a week, it was time to remove the packing from her ear canal. The stitches were healing nicely. She had asked to be able to see the stitches, so we took a picture to show her. In hindsight, I’m not sure she was ready. For the most part she had been blissfully unaware.
She went back to school on Day 7. There was still a tiny bit of bleeding draining from her ear. A quarter of a cotton ball in her ear caught most of it.
Heading into surgery our goals: a healthy head and improved hearing. Unfortunately, the cholesteatoma surgery only helped remedy the healthy head part. During surgery her second hearing bone was removed. That in addition to sound being conducted through the cholesteatoma have decreased her hearing to almost nothing in the affected ear.
One thing we hadn’t anticipated was a need for follow-up surgeries. She will require an additional, albeit much shorter, surgery in six months. Time wise, we’re looking at a 2 1/2 surgery. The goal then will be to put in bone implants and check that nothing has grown back.
Despite our desire for this all to be done, it sounds like we’re in for a little bit longer.
Again, I’m just a mama and my art degree shouldn’t take the place of a doctor. But I know how scary it can be to go into a procedure without knowing what to expect. Hopefully sharing our experiences will be helpful for you and your family. If you’ve got any questions, I’d be happy to share any details I can.