Having 5 kids in a little over 5 years, one would expect that sleep would be the last thing a parent would get for a while. That said, having 5 kids, by the last 2, Sleep Training 101 should have been a mastered art. Everything was going great until Matthew and Joey were about 2 years old. All of the sudden, they started waking up a few times during the night and asking for something to drink. Just so that Mike and I didn’t get too sleep deprived, we complied with their request and thought that it was a temporary blip in the sleep process.
Well…we found ourselves a year and half later, what went from a few times a night being woken up by the “babies”, to 5-7 times a night. Increasing, them waking up was less and less of a request for something to drink and more of being woken from a nightmare. They were not night terrors. I did a lot of research and know the difference. The kids were awake, yet inconsolable. They were scared of something. It actually got so bad for Joey over a span of a few weeks, my mind took me to some horrible place and I told the pediatrician that I thought someone hurt him, because I could not imagine what else would make him wake up from a dead sleep so frightened. He gave me the name of a therapist to talk to.
It took me a few days to get the courage to call the therapist, as I wasn’t sure how I was going to be bring my 3 year old there. That night, after the kids went to bed, coming from Joey’s room, it sounded like the Amtrak was rolling thru. I opened his door, and if I didn’t know better, you would have thought there was a 300lb. drunk sleeping his bed. Nothing could prepare me for the sounds that were coming from this 34 lb peanut!
I knew he was not sick and could not, for the life of me, think what would be the reason he was snoring the way he was. I adore my friends and trust the mommy opinions of those around me, so I posted a simple question on Facebook asking if anyone knew why this was happening. Within an hour, I rec’d about 50 responses telling me that I need to have him examined for Sleep Apnea and have an ENT look at his adenoids and tonsils.
I goggled Sleep Apnea in children and was truly amazed at what I read.
In addition to continuous loud snoring, other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in children include:
• failure to thrive (weight loss or poor weight gain)
• mouth breathing
• enlarged tonsils and adenoids
• problems sleeping and restless sleep
• excessive daytime sleepiness
Oh my gosh. All of the sudden a light bulb went off in my head. Joey is an identical twin. His twin, in the last 6-9 months has gained about 5 lbs and Joey had not. I shrugged it off as they are each their own person and he will catch up. But, there was really a reason, perhaps now why he was not thriving! He was breathing thru his mouth and would nap during the day whenever he could.
I immediately called my pediatrician and told him that I wanted a referral to an ENT. He wrote a script for an x-ray and off we went. Had the test done and went to see the ENT. CONFIRMED. Not only were his adenoids and tonsils large, his airway was almost 100% constricted. Poor boy. And to think, I had NO idea. Nobody talks about Sleep Apnea in kids.
The surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids was set for the following week. I talked to as many people as I could about their experience with recovery, just so that I was as prepared as possible. I know that every child is different, but you can never be too prepared.
The surgery went great. The surgeon and anesthesiologist were terrific. The doctor told us that Joey’s tonsils were one of, if not the largest she had ever seen in a child his age. He woke up peacefully, drank an apple juice and we were sent home. He slept most of the day, I kept up with the pain meds and I was thinking that the next week was going to be a breeze.
Wrong! Recovery has been difficult and it’s been very hard to see how much pain Joey has been dealing with. While it’s still considered routine and the procedure is completed in about an hour, it is major surgery. In an adult, it takes a month for full recovery. In a child, it's a little over 2 weeks.
Toddlers are all-or-nothing when it comes to pain management. While they're on painkillers, your child will act completely comfortable and care free. Don't be fooled. As soon as it's time to give them the next dose, do it, or you'll be dealing with 3o minutes of sobbing and clinging while you wait for the next dose to kick in. If your prescription says to give the painkillers every 4 hours, but you need to give it to them every 3 hours to adequately control the pain, check with the doctor, but ultimately, do whatever you need to do to keep your child comfortable.
Hydration is so important. Their throats dry out. I've heard a dry throat when waking described by an adult as feeling like you have a bunch of glass in your throat. And then the medication stings going down. It is hard to rationalize with a 3 year old. I tried to explain to him that if he didn’t drink that we would have to go to the hospital. He didn’t understand. He just knew that it hurt to swallow and he wasn’t going to do it. Sure enough, day 7, he was so dehydrated that we were hospitalized for 36 hours while they “pumped him back up” with fluids. No fun for either of us! We were told that day 7-10 is the most painful period post-op because of the scabbing. Joey was at a consistent high level of pain until day 10 and that seemed to finally be the turning point, where he could eat and drink a little more easily with less pain meds.
The past week and a half, Joey slept in our bed and Mike slept in his, just so that I was close enough to him to watch him during the night and give him his meds. It's a long haul, you will be sleep-deprived & your child will be miserable. Definitely not a good time to be trying to accomplish anything else major in your life!
Do anything you can to keep them occupied. Watching TV or playing on a laptop is a good way to distract them from their discomfort and keep them still.
I also was begging Joey eat. I would let him eat whatever he wanted – even if it was soft cookies for a week! After the surgery, kids tend to lose a ton of weight while they're recovering. He was already small to begin with, so anything he was willing to put down, I was willing to give him!
I do know that every child is different and everyone heals and recovers at a different pace. I thought it was important to bring to light the importance of not minimizing all of the issues that Joey was experiencing, because in the end, it was something serious and Sleep Apnea was something that I had no idea about. Those that I have spoken to, say that the surgery has been life changing for their kids. Matthew is next up….