When my son Tommy was two-and-a-half-years-old, I was told by doctors that he had enormous tonsils.
Despite having his fair share of colds, it wasn’t until just before his ninth birthday when our family slept together in a single motel room on a peninsula holiday that we realised he snuffled and snored during the night.
Tommy has always been a ‘good’ sleeper, but after that sleepless night (for the rest of the family) we took him to his GP to seek advice.
We were referred to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and prepared ourselves for a six to eight month wait to be seen by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
Seven months later, we received an appointment letter. Shortly afterwards, we were contacted by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), Australia’s biggest research centre for child health.
MCRI asked if we would like Tommy to be involved in a trial looking at reducing the need for surgery in children with snoring or sleep-time breathing issues. I’d had contact with the institute before for an allergy research program, and so was more than happy to support this important work.
Mamamia Confessions: We confess to moments of parenting horror.
After discovering Tommy’s breathing issues during sleep, I read a lot about treatments and was shocked at the number of children undergoing surgery to remove tonsils or adenoids. Each year more than 40,000 people have their tonsils out and it is the most common elective childhood operation in Australia.
If we could avoid (and help others to avoid) having surgery, then that would be a very positive outcome. And, it might also mean not having to wait forever to get Tommy treated in the public health system.
At our first visit we met Dr Alice Baker who asked Tommy lots of questions and was so lovely and patient with him. I also completed a couple of questionnaires about his sleep symptoms, his behaviour, emotional wellbeing, general personal background and our feelings around surgery.
We were given a bottle of nasal spray, a demonstration on how to use it and a diary to keep for six weeks that detailed the time given and any symptoms, side-effects or illnesses of any sort. Tommy felt very important being able to administer the spray himself.