Hospital becomes playground for 2-year-old with ear tubes

Luke Park

Distracting and entertaining a toddler during a doctor’s visit is no walk in the park. But what if the doctor’s office has all the bells and whistles of the playground, plus it makes your child feel better?

Luke Unsworth is an active and healthy 2-year-old who lives with his parents Marybeth and Andrew Unsworth in Norwood, Mass. After six painful ear infections in six months, Luke’s pediatrician referred the Unsworths to Dr. Eelam Adil at Boston Children’s at Waltham for Myringotomy tubes (ear tubes).

Dr. Adil says ear tubes “decrease the frequency and severity of ear infections, improve comfort, allow for using antibiotic drops instead of oral systemic antibiotics and improve hearing.” About one million children in the U.S. each year have tubes placed in their ears.

Toddlers and ear tube surgery

As common as ear tube surgery is, Luke’s parents were nervous about how their 2-year-old would handle the anesthesia. They had been told not to let Luke eat the morning before surgery, so they also worried about how he would do on an empty stomach. “When we got to the waiting area, Luke didn’t know what was going on and was a little nervous,” recalls Marybeth.

Then the nurses brought him stickers and started blowing bubbles, and he relaxed. “Luke was loving it all. It was like going to the playground for him.”

Dr. Adil explained everything to the Unsworths, while Luke busied himself popping bubbles, waving to himself on the TV screens and choosing his anesthesia flavor—strawberry.

Within minutes, Luke was asleep, and the Unsworths were escorted to the waiting room. Marybeth cried, but not for long, because in less than 10 minutes, Dr. Adil came out exclaiming, “He did great.”

Luke 2The Unsworths immediately reunited with Luke, who was already wide awake. “When we met back up with him after surgery, he was eating a Popsicle and chatting with a few nurses, loving life. I couldn’t believe it. He wanted to stay,” says Marybeth.

Luke’s ear tubes will stay in place for 9 to 12 months and then will fall out on their own. By that time, he will likely have wider and longer Eustachian tubes (a canal that links the middle ear with the throat area), allowing better drainage of fluids from the ear.

Luke will be head back to Boston Children’s at Waltham for a few checkups while the ear tubes are in place. He can’t wait!

Dr. Eelam Adil
Dr. Eelam Adil

Does your child need ear tubes? Dr. Adil recommends that children be evaluated for ear tubes when they have recurrent infections and/or persistent fluid behind the eardrums for longer than three months. The latter is usually noted by the pediatrician but can sometimes present with speech delay or hearing loss. Children qualify for ear tubes if they have recurrent ear infections (usually more than three in six months or four in one year), or chronic (persistent) fluid in the middle ear spaces behind the eardrum for longer than three months with a hearing loss noted on an audiogram.   


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