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When Friends Offer ‘Alternative Treatments’ for Your Child’s Health Issues

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When I posted about my son’s double ear infections on Facebook, I think I was looking for a few words of encouragement from a select audience who should have already known these things about my son:

  • He was born with bilateral hearing loss and has abnormally small ear canals;
  • He wears a hearing aid in his left ear; his right ear is currently recovering from surgery (to be aided or not, remains in question);
  • He has had three ear surgeries in his 6 years of life;
  • He had a cholestetoma removed from his right ear during a five-hour surgery last summer;
  • Because of the cholestetoma, ear infections are no small matter for my son;
  • He is currently under the care of an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor); and,
  • He has sensory integration issues, with oral defensiveness; taking medication causes my son great anxiety.

I believe those same Facebook friends should have also known these key facts about me:

  • I’ve spent the bulk of my time over the past six years caring for my son;
  • I probably know a good deal more about ear health, structure and anatomy than most people;
  • I’ve been feeding my family organic food for 16 years;
  • I am a certified yoga teacher and use alternative medicine whenever possible; and,
  • Because of concerns over returning cholesteatoma and further erosion of his middle ear bones, we have to play it “safe” and use antibiotics.

I was advised on Facebook to try sprinkling garlic on my son’s food and to start buying organic food because it was said to clear up ear infections in the advice-giver’s son.

This comment (well-meaning as it was) made me angry, and then it made me cry.

I realize I’m sensitive right now. This week, my son couldn’t hear out of his right ear and couldn’t wear his left hearing aid, leaving him without access to sound. He couldn’t go to school, and I’ve had to try hard to get him to take an antibiotic. This week, I also drove my fevering son four hours round-trip during 10-below temperatures to see his surgeon, who basically told me there is no good way to know whether cholesteatoma has returned (shy of lifting up his ear in the operating room again for a “second look” or perhaps an MRI in six months). So right now, as much as I’d like an “easy” fix, I can only “wait and see.”

I have no control, and no amount of garlic will change that fact.

Facebook friend, I realize that you were only trying to help with your suggestion of garlic. However, it’s probably best to stick to the basic “tea and sympathy.” Instead, you might simply try offering some empathy. I really take comfort in those Facebook friends who provide comments like these:

  • So sorry you’re dealing with this again.
  • Hugs and prayers.
  • You guys are so brave!
  • Hoping he feels better soon.
  • You’re an awesome mom, Heidi!
  • Stay strong!
  • Praying you both get a good night’s sleep.

And after seeing comments like the above, I know I’m not alone. Maybe all I really need during those times of worry and heightened stress over my son’s fragile health is to know my friends are standing with me.

boy wearing baseball cap jumping near a rock

Follow this journey on Mother Imperfect.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: February 22, 2016
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