Miracle on Fourth Street

Funny things happened this week; adorable things spilled from the lips of my precocious preschooler. Definitely blog-worthy material. But I can’t remember any of it. All I can think about are the baby’s ears.

Our tiny Butter Curl had a string of ear infections really young. Each cold Peanut brought home from school meant congested ears then infected ears, then a tough decision between antibiotics and a ruptured ear drum. We tried everything to give him relief with each bulging tympanic membrane: warmed olive oil, mullein oil, a pillow elevating his mattress, massaging his ears and neck, bulb syringe to clear as much as possible from his nasal passages, avoiding the bulb syringe to keep nature handling the buildup in his sinuses. During every cold I monitored Butter’s ears with an otoscope and every time I watched the eardrum fill, then redden, then yellow and swell.

So after a ruptured eardrum in September I did lots of research into natural remedies, trying desperately to spare him the probable choices of prophylactic antibiotics or surgery for tubes.

I found anecdotal evidence that lengthy labors, posterior-facing babies, and vacuum extraction often means much higher rates of ear infections. (Butter was a 48-hour labor, posterior at the end, five hours of pushing, and an eventual vacuum extraction. Horrors for me, but potential lingering horrors for him if that process really did jack him up enough to block his ear drainage.) My online searches led me to the idea that chiropractors, craniosacral massage therapists, and osteopaths have gentle, simple treatments to release whatever damage the birth trauma exacted on wee heads and necks.

I didn’t believe it for a minute, but I had to try. A tiny baby in persistent pain and facing icky options and future hearing loss needed me to try.

So I found the practitioner most heralded by local moms for fixing ear infections: an osteopath trained in Britain and forced in the States to practice as a massage therapist. Insurance doesn’t cover her work. Of course. I’m going to pay a premium for voodoo while we’re pinching pennies. Figures.

After one visit the osteopath told me it should take a few visits but she could fix the tension that was blocking Butter’s ears. After three trips she said he was done; come back if he gets a cold and she’ll double check, but he should be fine.

He got a cold last week. His ears filled quickly, eardrum going from dark and reflective to grey and dull in a day. We went in and she said the illness brought out a lot of trauma under his right scapula (directly below the ear that was causing him so much trouble, though she didn’t know that). She massaged him and stretched him; then claimed his ears would now drain fine and we would probably never need to come back.

That night his ears looked worse. The next morning they were the same. By the next night they were back to normal. His ear drum was reflecting light again even though his nose was still congested.

Why has there been no large-scale study on the efficacy of chiropractic or osteopathic treatments on ear infections, especially ear infections that have no food allergy component and could be tied to birth trauma? Why are pediatricians not tracking the results even without a formal study? Ear infections are the most common reason for pediatric visits, aren’t they?

Can someone get on that? I’m going to write to the insurance company and the pediatrician and the ENT to whom she referred us. I want them to know, and you to know, that there might be a way around the awful choices of repeated rupture or medication or surgery for chronic ear infections in little people. I have nothing to sell, no way to profit from this information. But my little guy has avoided one course of antibiotics, another ruptured eardrum, and a talk about surgically implanting tubes in his ear. And I want other parents to have that.

I know Peanut said funny things this week, but surely a complete resolution of what would have been ear infection number four in four months, a complete reversal of a condition with a couple of noninvasive sessions…isn’t that better than cuteness?