just a mom figuring it out one day at a time

The Odyssey

**This is our odyssey of a bizarre injury my son had. I share it with you in hopes that if you ever encounter something similar, you know what to look for and a few more questions to ask.

“T, he’s just not acting right. I’m taking him to the E.R.”

My husband was erring on the side of caution and if there is the threat of a head trauma, my philosophy is “better safe than sorry.”  I was concerned, but not too much.  CJ had cut a corner too close and banged his head on a door jam. He didn’t lose consciousness, but had mild nausea, fatigue and a few hours after the incident, had complained about his ear on that side feeling full and ringing. At worst I thought it was a mild concussion.

A few hours later, Tom and CJ returned from the E.R. with the diagnosis: Mild Concussion. He could return to school in two days and if the ringing (tinnitus) didn’t stop by Monday—it was Saturday—we should call an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat Doctor).

Monday morning I contacted his normal pediatrician to inform them of the accident and told them we were calling an ENT because CJ still had ringing in his ears.  The day went on and aside from fatigue, CJ seemed fine.

Tuesday I received a call from school, CJ’s symptoms were worsening. The ringing was getting louder and it was becoming increasingly hard to hear.  I immediately contacted his pediatrician who advised me to try and get him to an ENT sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, the ENTs locally couldn’t see us for another two days. Concerned that there was something missed, Tom went to the pediatrician’s office directly to express his concern while I grabbed our son from school and met him there.  In the span of an hour the pediatrician saw him, started him on steroids and had arranged for a hearing test and a CAT scan.  He was not to return to school.

Telling a middle schooler that they can’t return to school for the last few days is tough. He wanted to participate in field day, get his yearbook, hang out with his friends and close the year out.  But for CJ, that simply wasn’t going to happen.

Wednesday we started the day with a hearing test.  CJ began his testing and I could see that the Audiologist was concerned.  After more testing she said, “Stay here, I want you to see a doctor today not tomorrow.”

CJ searched me for answers and I tried, to the best of my ability, to remain positive and upbeat.  Unfortunately the doctor soon saw us and revealed the true reality. In a span of a few days, CJ had lost 85% of his hearing in his right ear and it appeared that there may be damage to the acoustic nerve.  The doctor said that if things didn’t improve, he wouldn’t even qualify for a hearing aid because he had lost so much.

We left that appointment and tried to remain positive as we went to get the CAT scan.  As we sat outside of the room waiting for the scan, CJ asked me, “Mom, what will we do if I’ve lost all my hearing on that side?”

All I could say in response was, “Buddy, let’s not even go there yet.  We are going to think positively and believe that this is just a temporary thing ok?”

Nodding his head yes, he turned away from me to wipe the tears that were welling up in his eyes.

Later that night we got a call from the pediatrician who had made arrangements for us to go to Johns Hopkins the next day to meet with a specialist.

Hanging up the phone, the full impact of what was happening hit me. Not wanting my son to see how scared I was for him, I told him I had to drop something off at our next door neighbor’s house.

This is where I am grateful, oh so grateful for good friends… because I lost it.  I broke down and just cried. Cried because I was so scared for him. Cried because of how this might impact his life. Cried because it was something so stupid that caused it. Cried because there was nothing more I could do.

As I pulled myself together, she helped me devise a plan for my daughter KC for the next day. Pickups and drop-offs at school etc.  A plan. I had a plan for at least one of my children. I had regained a small nugget of control. It was minor, but when faced with a lot of unknowns, I found comfort in it.

Thursday morning we got in the car and started driving the hour plus towards Johns Hopkins. We had no idea what testing they would want done or when, in-between surgeries, the specialist would see us.  But, we knew that we didn’t want there to be a chance that we wouldn’t be seen because we were too far away.

By the end of the day on Thursday we had another hearing test, a pressure test and met with the Otolaryngologist- who was amazing.  We learned that aside from steroids, rest and prayer there wasn’t much more that we could do for CJ.  The good news was that it seemed that his word recognition was better, although his mid-to high frequency sound was still an issue. In a span of less than 24 hours he had improved enough that if nothing else changed, he would be able to get a hearing aid.

It is now a week and a half after that mishap and CJ still shows positive signs of regaining parts of his hearing.  At this point, only time will tell.

I debated putting this post out there and even discussed it with my son-who feels really stupid that this all came about because he hit his head on a door jam.  But he said, “If I can help another kid with my story, then I think we should post it.”

The reality is that sensorineural hearing loss can happen in kids for a variety of reasons- including an inner ear concussion which is what they believe happened to CJ.  In speaking with the doctor he said that it is sometimes difficult to gauge with children because they don’t always articulate what is happening to them.

So you parents out there, this is what I’ve learned:

1)      If your child suffers a concussion, or even mild trauma, and complains of ringing in the ears, fullness or loss of hearing, this could be a sign that there are issues with the inner ear

2)      If they complain of the above, consult your doctor and try and get an ENT involved as early as you can.

3)      Time is of the essence to prevent further damage.

4)      Discuss the positives and negatives of steroids with your doctor to reduce inflammation and hopefully prevent permanent damage.

I’m not a doctor, or a medical professional, I’m just a mom who wish she’d known what to look for when this first happened. I somewhat wonder what would have happened had CJ had an ENT involved at the hospital, or if he was put on steroids sooner.  While hopeful that he will continue to recover, I do wonder what damage could have potentially been avoided had he started this course of treatment earlier.  While we will never know, maybe our experience might help another.

*I am not a medical professional and should you, or your child, have a medical need, please consult your doctor.  

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