“Surgery? What?! I can’t hear you.”-Clark

Or at least that’s what he WOULD say

When Clark was born, he failed his initial hearing screen. He was a c-section baby, and a lot of times these babies retain fluid in their ears and even lungs because well…they don’t get squeezed in the same way they would if they were born via vaginal delivery. So, failing his hearing screening wasn’t all that impressive and we made an appointment for a re-check at one month old. He failed this hearing screening also. They performed another test and they were able to determine that one ear failed because of fluid but they couldn’t say for sure if the other ear was failing because of fluid. I didn’t know why he failed, but I KNEW he couldn’t hear me. He doesn’t respond to sounds. I can clap my hands and his eyes don’t even flinch toward the noise. Now, I had to worry if my child was deaf. They told me we could either repeat the hearing screen in 2 weeks or request an ABR to diagnose.

I chose the ABR testing. ABR stands for auditory brainstem response. It tests the actual acoustic nerve. So, basically, it can tell what’s wrong and how bad it is as opposed to the hearing screen, which can only say pass or fail with no information as to why he failed. I called and made an appointment for the ABR. Now, this was about the time that I wanted my child’s cranio diagnosed, so I had an appointment with his pediatrician the day after his second failed hearing screen. At that appointment, my doctor diagnosed Clark with an ear infection which probably didn’t help him with his hearing screen the day before. We started antibiotics and proceeded with our craniosynostosis diagnostics.

A week ago, we had his ABR screening. It was super stressful. Of course, I was worried Clark may be deaf, but it’s also kind of a tricky test. Clark had to be asleep for the whole thing which takes over an hour. I had to keep him up all morning and kind of starve him. That way, when we arrived at the facility, I could nurse him to sleep. My generally sleepy baby did NOT want to sleep because real life is a real beyotch sometimes. It took the first hour of our appointment for him to even go to sleep. Then it took an additional hour for the test to be performed. I was so scared he was going to wake up and ruin the test, and every time he stirred my heart would start pounding and I would internally scream, “NO!” Thankfully, once he finally fell asleep, he did not wake up. The audiologist explained the ABR test results immediately—cue the praise hands! The test determined that Clark had moderate/severe hearing loss, BUT that his bone conduction test was normal. This is super important because it tell us that his dysfunction is conductive and NOT sensorineural. For nonmedical people, this means his ears/hearing are probably fine, but they’re plugged with fluid resulting in hearing loss. Still. It hasn’t gone away like it should. It needs to go away for him to be able to hear. Tubes could help with this.

I knew that to “qualify” for tubes, they (ENTs) want children to have had multiple ear infections and be at least 3 months old, but I made an appointment with an ENT and prayed she would put tubes in his ears even though he is only 2 months old and has only had one ear infection. I hoped that they could just put the tubes in his ears when he goes under anesthesia for his cranio. I met with the ENT and she reviewed his history and said,”He failed 2 screenings and the ABR, has had an ear infection, can’t hear, and is going under anesthesia in 2 weeks, anyway?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Let’s do tubes. If I can’t fit tubes in his tiny ears, I’ll make a small hole and suction the fluid out anyway.” I said, “Thank. You,” and I asked her to run away with me. Just kidding, but after a lot of disappointing appointments, this one was really great.

All that to say that Clark will also be getting tubes on the day of his surgery! I’m so relieved. There has been very little that I can do to help my son. Mostly, I’ve had to take the watch and wait approach, and I’m thankful we won’t have to do that anymore with this fluid in his ears.

Clark’s big surgery will be on Monday February 19th. I am ready to have it over with, but also dreading the recovery period. Darcy’s recovery was brutal. She cried for over 36 hours about 5 days after her surgery due to a pain crisis. For months, I would start having anxiety attacks when she started crying for any slightly extended length of time. Her craniosynostosis was more severe and the surgery was much more invasive than Clark’s will be. Her surgery required the top half of her skull to be removed, cut into pieces, and then put back together with resorbable plates and screws. Yes. Brutal. She had an incision from one ear to the other. His is endoscopic, which will require two smaller incisions on either side of his problematic, fused suture. Through these incisions, they will remove the portion of his skull that includes that fused sagittal suture and remove strips of skull bone on the sides of his skull as well. So, I don’t imagine he’ll feel awesome–it IS neurosurgery, after all. But he shouldn’t have quite as much pain as Darcy did. Within a week or 2, he will be fitted for a helmet to wear for the better part of a year. It will help to shape his skull as he continues to grow. *Bonus* It will also protect him from Darcy. He is not expected to stay in the hospital more than a couple of days. Hopefully, we will be able to go home quickly and start the road to recovery.

So that’s what’s been up.

Specific prayer requests include:

1. The surgery will go smoothly and as planned

2. Blood loss will be minimal, and he will not require blood transfusion(s)

3. His pain is well-controlled

4. We quickly leave the hospital, complication and infection-free

5. The tubes will solve Clark’s hearing problems

If you are still reading, thank you for being a part of Clark’s cheerleading squad. It has been quite the journey and this surgery is just another stop. I hope that Clark’s story will bring all the glory to our Jesus. He has been faithful to answer our prayer requests and has blessed us immeasurably with this little boy. We are thankful for your support, love, and prayers. Love to all.

What the hell is craniosynostosis, anyway?

And why I know so freaking much about it

What is with this weather, man? We’ve had snow twice this winter in South Louisiana. It’s cold and weird, but I don’t hate it. School closed for an entire week, and we got to play together as a family. From looking at social media, most parents were complaining that their kids were making them crazy. Maybe Darcy makes me crazy on a daily basis, but I honestly loved having Ben and Darcy and Clark and I home together. It was a continuation of Christmas break, and I think we needed the down time. Ben is in school at LSU for his last semester of engineering, so that’s why we’ve been able to enjoy the breaks together. He does work part-time, but his office was closed during the snow fiasco because the entire state of Louisiana shut down.

Now, some of you remember that Darcy was diagnosed with craniosynostosis at 5 weeks old. What is craniosynostosis? Well, when babies are born, their skulls are not one solid bone. They are actually several separate bones held together by lines of fibrous connective tissue called sutures. This allows the skull to expand and accommodate a rapidly growing brain. With craniosynostosis, one or more of these sutures is fused too early meaning proper skull growth cannot occur. If the skull cannot grow as the brain grows, intracranial pressures can increase and cause brain damage. Also, the child will have an abnormal head shape. There are certain syndromes associated with craniosynostosis, but most cases are non-syndromic and only involve one suture. Darcy’s was non-syndromic sagittal craniosynostosis. She underwent a total cranial vault remodeling surgery at 12 weeks old. It was hard, it was brutal, but she is growing, thriving, and developing perfectly.

I am both a nurse and a mom. A lot of people say, “When it’s your kid, it’s different,” but I seem to be an exception. It’s really hard for me to turn the nurse off. I assess my children critically and clinically. I knew that Darcy was a beautiful child, but I also knew her head shape was different, that her temples were dimpled inward, her head was narrow, she didn’t have posterior fontanelle, and that she had a strange ridge down her head. I remember mentioning it to her pediatrician as he assessed it. We got scans that day, and she was diagnosed. When Clark was born, I noticed immediately he didn’t have a posterior fontanelle and had a small ridge down his head. I specifically asked the neonatologist (who was stupid about a lot of things) if the MRI showed craniosynostosis. He said “No way.” I can’t let things go, and it gets me into trouble sometimes. When something is bothering me, I get total word vomit–I just blurt it out and throw my persistent thought/worry out into the universe, and not always so elegantly. Ben jokes that he never has to wonder what’s bothering me because I’ll just straight up tell him. In my heart, I knew Clark had craniosynostosis despite what others said.

“But the MRI showed he didn’t.” “His head doesn’t look as narrow as Darcy’s.” “He looks just fine.”

I mentioned my concerns to our pediatrician at Clark’s one-month appointment, and he said we could just continue to monitor it. That held me over for like 2 days before my propensity to not let things go led us back to his office requesting imaging studies. We got an X-ray of Clark’s head that was consistent with a craniosynostosis diagnosis. Our pediatrician then referred us to Darcy’s craniofacial surgeon who we love ♥️At that appointment, he told us that he was moving to California in 2 weeks and unfortunately the neurosurgeon on Darcy’s team has retired😭

–This was devastating to hear, but moving on–

He told us that without a CT scan we couldn’t be 100%, but that Clark looked like he had partial sagittal craniosynostosis whereas Darcy had complete sagittal craniosynostosis. This would qualify him for a less invasive surgery using an endoscopic approach. This means they would use a small incision to remove the fused suture, and then use helmets to shape his head over the better part of a year.  Our CT scan the following day confirmed what we knew—Clark has partial sagittal craniosynostosis. I asked our craniofacial surgeon why both of our children had this and what could cause this genetically. He said that the sagittal suture is typically NOT associated with genetic origins. He said that it was “extremely rare” to have 2 children with non-syndromic sagittal cranio. I asked “How rare?” and he said that he had actually never seen it occur twice in a family. We’re SpEcIaL! Ha! Honestly, after the hell we’ve been through, the fear and anxiety, this seems like small(ish) stuff. It’s probably a mark of how bad shit has been when you look at neurosurgery as not a big deal, but we don’t see it as that big of a deal. Not after what we’ve been through. This is fixable, man.

After Darcy was diagnosed with cranio, I swore I would never miss that diagnosis as a future practitioner. I never anticipated having another child with it, but we did, and I didn’t miss it. We’re getting an early jump on it, and we should be meeting with our new neurosurgeon in the next few days to come up with our surgical plan for baby Clark. He should also begin physical therapy in the next couple of weeks as well. His tone IS improving, and he’s pretty much perfect in our book.

Darcy loves “baybee.” In fact, we wish she would love Clark less. She excitedly runs up to him and throws blankets over his face and body so he won’t get cold. She jams his pacifier into his face as he screams in protest. She tries to pick him up and is the opposite of gentle. It’s actually probably a good thing he’s going to be wearing a helmet 23 hours a day after his surgery. Darcy has added so many words to her vocabulary. She got a toy kitchen from Santa Claus and begs us to play in her “kitch” every day. She loves to throw and drop things while yelling, “Oh, no!” She says “okay” after everything, loves to play outside, and yells, “Go Saints!” whenever she sees football on tv. Darcy loves to point to the chair, couch, or floor and tell us to “Sit.” We’ve been going to the grocery store every Sunday just the two of us, and she likes to help put the groceries on the conveyer belt. She’s the best little toddler I know.

I decided to return to grad school this semester because my life is very calm, and it’s a very rational choice. 😑That’s a glimpse into our crazy lives right now. It is legitimately crazy and unfairly blessed. I am thankful to my Jesus for this life. Love to all.

P.S. That picture is from our craniofacial surgeon’s office. We have the same picture of Darcy at the same age. It’s becoming this weird family tradition 😂