When Nicole Schmidt called to schedule her 11-year-old son’s latest hearing test, Audiologist Barbara Friedman, MD, greeted her with good news.
The University of Minnesota Health Lions Children’s Hearing and ENT Clinic just received new equipment that allows them to perform hearing tests on special-needs children without sedation, Friedman said. The equipment was made possible by donations made to Fairview’s Greatest Needs Fund.
The development was significant for the Schmidt family.
Years ago, when Andrew was just four months old, doctors diagnosed him with a growth disorder that caused him to lose his ability to hear. From there, his family began a years-long journey of tests, surgeries, trials and challenges. Unable to walk or talk, Andrew’s cognitive abilities inhibited doctors from performing traditional hearing tests. At the time, the only way to get an accurate reading of Andrew’s hearing was to put him under anesthesia.
But sedation came at great risk. Andrew has hypotonia, or very low muscle tone, which makes his breathing labored and puts his health in jeopardy while under anesthesia. Anesthesia can also cause after-effects such as nausea, vomiting, sore throat and shivering.
Andrew's parents had to bring him in for testing every three months, but the sedation never got easier.
“Andrew never got by with a light sedation or a quick in-and-out,” Nicole said. “My husband and I would have to take off work for clinic appointments, for days of procedure and usually a day after when he was recovering.”
Eventually, Andrew received a new diagnosis—a rare genetic disorder called Pallister-Killian syndrome. His movement and communication skills are extremely limited, and he is now considered legally blind and deaf.
“We have gone through many doctors over the years and I have learned how important it is to have a trusting relationship with those who are caring for our son,” Nicole said. “Because Andrew is not able to tell me what is wrong or where he hurts in normal ways, staff has to trust that when I say he breathes a certain way it may mean he is sick or bored or excited.”
Through it all, Friedman and other members of the family’s care team have supported Andrew’s hearing needs and worked tirelessly with the Schmidts to do all that they can. Andrew still goes in for hearing tests on a regular basis.
While the Schmidt family’s health journey isn’t over, recently it has gotten a little easier thanks to the new hearing test equipment.
“The staff brought in blankets to put on the floor so he could be comfortable and quiet,” Nicole said. “I was able to hold him and help him feel safe throughout the test.”
Within an hour the results were in and Andrew and his family could go back to their normal lives, free from the risks and after-effects of anesthesia.