Restoring the joy of childhood

Restoring the joy of childhood

You may have seen Jasmine’s face in the June 2017 edition of the Nightingale Magazine. Her full journey is below.

Since Jasmine was 18 months old, (pictured, now nine) she has endured pain in her right ear.

“Recurring ear infections started when Jasmine was a baby. This meant all sorts of pain, irritable behaviour and lots of antibiotics during her short lifetime,” said Jacqui, Jasmine’s mother.

At a young age Jasmine received grommet implants, which offered some relief, but when the grommets came out the pain and infections continued.

"When the infections began again, a hearing test indicated a significant deficit. The ENT specialist discovered a large perforation in Jasmine's right eardrum."

St Luke's Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon and leading Otologist, Dr Thomas Kertesz, says it's a common diagnosis in children. He operates on 20 to 30 similar cases at St Luke's each year.

"The two major symptoms are hearing loss and abnormal discharge after water exposure, which causes pain and infection. It doesn't get better until an operation is performed," said Dr Kertesz. "Some adults may be able to handle a perforated eardrum, however it affects hearing in general, and in a child you wouldn't leave it alone. Plus, Jasmine is a young girl who enjoys swimming. They just aren't able to swim like that."

It's true Jasmine hasn't enjoyed the usual carefree childhood that the coastal city of Wollongong often delivers. During the many recurring infections, Jasmine has been unable to participate in the normal joy of holidays, beach days, swimming lessons and pool parties.
Unfortunately, Jasmine's hearing also impacts her education.

"In the classroom, she doesn't hear her teacher as well as the other kids. She has to sit so her left ear is always facing the teacher. The hearing deficit was slowing the rate of her learning," said Jasmine's mum, Jacqui.

The Surgery

"The audiologist was concerned the hole was too large and the eardrum too weak to operate on," said Jacqui. "Dr Kertesz explained it wasn't the size but the type of perforation. He managed to reassure as well as educate us on the process."

"He gave us an honest prediction of the outcome. We can do something for Jasmine, not just ear management."

On 7 April, during a one hour operation at St Luke's, life for Jasmine changed as Dr Kertesz operated on the large perforation in her eardrum.

"We made an incision behind Jasmine's right ear and used the layer on top of the temporalis muscle to harvest a new eardrum. Widening the ear canal with a drill, we packed the ear with gelatin sponge to keep the graft in place and then stitched up the wound," said Dr Kertesz.

Four weeks later, the sponge is removed. Within two months, Jasmine's eardrum will be fully healed, and her hearing should be restored within three months of the operation.

"Jasmine is already looking forward to next summer. She's excited that she can enjoy the water and do things like all other kids her age without worrying," said Jacqui.

"St Luke's has been the difference between whether Jasmine can hear in her right ear or whether she can't. It's a huge life-changing difference for one little girl."

"To remain cutting-edge and provide the best outcomes for our patients, St Luke's needs up-to-date equipment," says Dr Kertesz. "It's important to regularly replace surgical equipment, particularly as new technologies become available."

Thanks to your generous support, last financial year the talented surgeons and dedicated staff at St Luke's Hospital performed 4,406 life-changing surgeries – 951 on children under 14 years of age.

To support St Luke's Hospital Foundation, please visit the donate page.