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July 02, 2008

Visiting the Doctor(s)

0806_june_dr_appts_gwenGwen has ear wax. Incredible (Super Hero strength) ear wax...  Ear wax that rivals the hardness of diamonds and sapphires and is probably under patent by the makers of "mighty putty".   

I can look in her ears and see it.  And, like most moms who want nothing more than to lick a napkin and clean her kid's face, I really want to cram my finger in there and start digging around to get it out.  But then I remember the old admonition that we "shouldn't put anything in our ear other than our elbow" (Hardy Har Har!), so I took Gwen to our Pediatrician who tried the Mineral oil/Ice pick trick before giving up and referring us to Stanford Hospital's Children's ENT Clinic. 

Three nurses, one Doctor, one re-purposed dental chair, four scary pointed silver instruments and one pair of lighted binoculars later, we were still waxing unsuccessful.   Defeated, we took our crusty old brown sticky ear-goo and just went home.

Her hearing is fine but I can't really imagine how that's possible when you consider what's visible in her ears.  If we remove it, I'm sure she'll have bionic hearing and nothing we whisper in this house will ever go unnoticed or unrepeated again.

(Edited to add:  Gwen has a follow-up appointment at the ENT clinic in September.  She'll have a hearing test and meet with the Dr again and, hopefully, she'll be more cooperative when they poke around in her ears.)

0806_june_dr_appts_maddyA week after Gwen's Dr appointment, it was Maddy's turn. 

Maddy's ears are fine -- perfect, actually -- but her problem is her very minor cleft palate that we hoped and prayed wasn't severe enough to require surgery.   

Even though Maddy was fluent and very conversational in Cantonese when we adopted her at age 25 months, she didn't really start speaking in complete sentences in English for more than a year.  It's really only been the last 4 or 5 months that she's been consistently speaking enough for us to conclude that she's totally unable to create certain sounds.  For example, she can make the "sh" sound but not the "s" sound and D is usually switched for G and other difficult consonants are left off completely.  It's common for kids to drop syllables or soften or de-emphasize them so it's only been just the last few months that we really started to worry more and more about Maddy's pronunciation.  As is turns out, she'll need surgery to fix the problem and probably should have had it already.

I recognize the importance of fixing this but I'm so uncomfortable with having her undergo potentially life threatening surgery to correct something that clearly isn't life threatening.  Even so, we're going to do it because it will affect her quality of life if we don't do it and other kids will almost certainly tease her.    I wish I didn't have to weigh the risks/benefits of teasing vs surgery but we can't avoid it because this is the world Maddy lives in and this is the world that will judge her (fairly or unfairly) so we have to give her the most level playing field possible.

Surgery is scheduled for the end of the first week in September.   I was so numb that I didn't even write down the date (Andrew says it's the 10th).  I'm dreading this but also looking forward to getting it over with and hearing my sweet baby sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with perfect enunciation for the first time in her precious young life.

We didn't really think Maddy's speech problems were very significant or even directly related to her minor cleft palate because Gwen seems to have many of the very same speech issues and she doesn't have a cleft palate.  But it turns out that Maddy's problems are completely related to her cleft and even though Gwen is growing out of her speech problems, Maddy never will.   

We're very protective of our children and wouldn't normally post such a personal thing on our blog but I wish we'd known more about minor cleft palate issues.  I guess we always (incorrectly) believed that a level 1 cleft palate probably wouldn't need surgical correction.  There's really not much information out there about Level 1 Clefts (not even on the big Yahoo AdoptCleft site).  Our experienced Pediatrician wasn't even concerned that Maddy might need surgery ever -- much less soon.   But she does.

I hope our story helps send the message that even minor clefts should be seriously evaluated.  I've already heard from a few families about the surgery experience and I hope that we'll continue to hear from more -- especially if their child was over age 3 or 4 when the surgery was performed.  We want to help Maddy cope with the post-surgical recovery as best as possible. 


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