Well, it is upon me. The anniversary of the day - October 26, 2006 - that forever changed my life. Through this year I have been strong and held my composure. I had to in order to make sure I did everything that I needed to do for Drew. So many times I was told how well I was handling things, although there were many times I wanted, needed (and did on occasion) breakdown. For some reason this anniversary is hitting me harder than I had expected and I'm fighting through tears as I type.
It was a rainy fall day, with a fierce wind that put a chill in the air. Beautiful golden leaves were falling off the trees and blowing all around, covering our lawn and street. It was the kind of fall day that reminds you summer is over and another winter is headed your way. Drew's Sister spent the day at preschool and with Grandma because of Drew's doctor appointment. The appointment with the ENT was scheduled for 2:00 pm.
I decided that it was a great day to go shopping! I can remember how happy I felt walking through the mall with Drew that day. I was in no way worried about the appointment later in the day. Drew's Dad and I were confidant that there was still fluid in Drew's ears. I enjoyed picking out a birthday present for my Sister and eating a nice lunch at Panera Bread.
After leaving the mall, I still had time before Drew's appointment, so I decided to stop at the grocery store to pick something up for dinner. Drew's Dad and I love crock pot spaghetti, and with the chill in the air, it felt like a great day to have our first "fall" meal. Drew fell asleep in the car on the way home from the grocery store. When I got home, I tip toed around the kitchen making dinner while he slept in his car seat sitting on the kitchen floor. I knew that if he were to wake he would want to eat, and I did not have time to make dinner, feed him and get to the doctor on time. So I was quiet. I lifted the stock pot out of the cabinet so quietly. I gently laid the spaghetti in the pot and I went to the bathroom to get water. There were points that I would make a little too much noise and I would hold my breath and turn to see if it woke Drew up. He never startled.
The ENT's office was cold and sparse, just as before. Something was different this time, however. My behavior. I was not nervous nor was I shaking. I notified the receptionist that we had arrived and then took a seat in the corner of the waiting room. I gently flipped through a magazine while I waited for Drew's name to be called. I only sat for a few moments before they called us back.
I sat in the same office as before. This time I went ahead and removed Drew from his car seat and held him in my arms. He was still sleeping. He was so warm and cozy in my arms, and I kissed his forehead. As the doctor walked in, wearing the same funny thing on his head, I told him, "I'm ready for you!" He was just as I had remembered, middle aged and unfriendly. He looked in Drew's left ear first and proclaimed, "The fluid is clear." My eyes got big and my heart sunk. I tried to maintain my composure when inside butterflies were jumping in my stomach. He had checked the right ear in the meantime. Same answer, "The fluid is clear in that ear, too."
I sat for a moment and then the doctor asked, "So, do you think he can hear?"
"I don't know," I responded, in a soft voice. "I was certain that there was still fluid in his ear because I haven't seen any changes in his behavior." It was at that time that the doctor picked up a metal pan and dropped it to the floor. The clanging and banging of the pan hitting the floor was so loud that people in the waiting room probably startled. Drew laid peacefully asleep in my arms. The doctor shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'll be back in a minute."
He returned with an audiologist. She was young and friendly. She escorted me to a new room where she ran an OAE test on Drew. His results were "refer" at all five frequencies in both ears. My heart sank further, as if that was possible, and the butterflies danced harder in my stomach. "Let's do a different test," she said. "The OAE is just a screening test and can produce false results." She moved Drew and I to another room.
From there much of the rest of the testing is a blur. I sat in a rocking chair, holding my baby while all sorts of wires were placed on his head. The audiologist switched the equipment from the left ear to the right and then back again and again. She would leave the room and return with another audiologist. Then she would leave and return with a doctor. I watched the hand on the clock on the wall tick, tick, ticking. One hour went by. Then another. I sat in the rocking chair, holding Drew and I cried. I would ask, "How are things going?" And I would get the same answer each time, "Let's wait until I'm finished." I continued to rock him and closed my eyes. The tears streamed down my cheeks.
Finally the audiologist removed all of the wires from Drew's head and ears. She gathered my belongings and took Drew and I back to the office we started in. She told me that she was going to review the results with the doctor and he would be in shortly. She left the room, leaving the door partly ajar. I sat in the office just looking at Drew. He was so perfect; how could anything be wrong with him? About that time the nurse that called Drew's name in the waiting room walked by. I think she was shocked to see me still in the office, nearly three hours later. She tapped on the door, pushing it slightly open. "Everything, O.K.?" she questioned.
I couldn't hold them back. The tears came streaming down my face and I began to sob. I have never felt so scared, helpless and alone in my life. I had no idea what the results of these tests would mean for Drew or for my family. I had no idea what could be done for a child with hearing loss. The gravity of the day was sinking in and it was too much for me to handle. I cried and cried.
Finally the doctor came in the room. He seemed even more unfriendly, if that was possible, this time. "Well," he paused, "that's not what we wanted."
Excuse me? That's not what we wanted? That's all you have to say to me? Your audiologist has been testing my son's hearing for almost three hours and all you can say is, "That's not what we wanted?" What is not what we wanted? Tell me what is wrong with my son!
The ENT continued, "Well, you'll need to have more testing done." He would pause for what seemed like an eternity between each sentence to make the most awful hissing sound. "Your son has hearing loss." Insert awful hissing sound, "Do you have any questions?"
The situation was too intense and I felt the walls of his office closing in on me. I was alone, scared and too upset to ask any intelligent questions. I continued to cry, which I could tell was making him very uncomfortable. Finally I mustered up, "What can be done?" He looked at me for a moment and said, "Well, we don't know until further testing is completed." At that point I was done with him and he left the room. I started gathering my things while trying to get a handle on my emotions. I heard a faint tapping at the door. It was the audiologist, checking to see if I had any questions for her. Again, I was at a loss. I can only remember that she told me that many children with hearing loss develop speech equivalent to their hearing peers with things like hearing aids and cochlear implants.
And that is how I left. Clinging to the hope that Drew would be one of the "many".