The Score

I made the first version of this post last night, but when I hit “publish” everything vanished. That was a lousy turn of events, and this time around things will be substantially more abbreviate, especially considering I didn’t have much worthwhile to say to begin with.

One thing I wanted to talk about was the picture below. We played another bunch of ping-pong before leaving Niigata yesterday afternoon, and it was pretty much the status quo — I pummeled Chieko’s father, Chieko’s mom pummeled Chieko’s father and me. The picture is the tally of games won between myself and Chieko’s dad; I’m on the right.

I’ve always found this particular way of counting to be cool. In English we count by five using hash marks — ||||; in Japan they use the character you see below, which is written using five indivual strokes. It means “correct” in Japanese, so I’m not sure how it ties in to counting, but if anyone knows please let me know.

IMG_1543

The other noteworthy topic of conversation is our trip to the ear doctor on Wednesday. If you don’t already know why we are visiting ear doctors, I’ll give a brief recap. Ray has microtia, which is basically an abnormally/undeveloped ear. His case is actually not too bad in terms of appearance compared to what some people are (or are not) born with. Aside from having a smallish/oddly shaped ear on the outside, Ray also lacks an ear canal on affected ear. All the bits and pieces are there on the inside, but he can’t hear out of the ear.

The surgery we are looking into will only remedy the cosmetic issue with Ray’s ear. At this point he will never hear out of his little right ear, which isn’t really a problem according to a different ear doctor, because Ray has normal hearing in his good ear and has probably already adapted to his hearing situation. I should probably stop referring to the doctor we met on Wednesday as an ear doctor; he is a plastic surgeon, and one who has developed the best approach to building cosmetic ears to date. You can Google the Nagata Method to get a proper description of what he does, but I’ll sum it up briefly.

First, harvest soft cartilage from the ribs. This is the reason he doesn’t perform the surgery on children under 1o years old (or thereabouts). The patient has to reach a certain size so there is sufficient cartilage to harvest. He uses the cartilage to build a frame for the new ear, and uses skin grafts to attach the ear and cover it. Not that simple, and there are some fascinating details I’m leaving out. That’s phase one and a month in the hospital.

Phase two comes six months later and entails harvesting a bit more cartilage which is put between the ear and the head to make the ear “stand up.” One of the fatal flaws with other methods of reconstructive ear surgery is that the ears lay flat against the head and look very unnatural, so this second stage of the operation was an important development on Dr. Nagata’s part. Another month in the hospital, and Ray will be on his way.

Dr. Nagata gave us a two hour explanation/presentation that explained the process but also explained the history of reconstructive ear surgery (which provided ample opportunities for him to toot his own horn, deservedly so). There was one other woman in attendance. She’s getting her new ear in May; Ray’s on the slate for 2020, should he decide he wants a new ear. In the mean time, the doctor requested we come back once every two years to measure Ray’s growth, and also get him educated on what the operation involves once he gets a bit older.

On the daycare note, thanks again to everyone who commented. It wasn’t really that hard of a decision in the end, and I think I am more sentimental than anything. Ray will be going to the daycare our school is opening up, and more than likely it will work out just fine.

OK, that’s it for tonight. It’s 11:30 and Ray is showing no signs of sleeping. Chieko just realized we are going to America on Tuesday and not Wednesday; not sure where that miscommunication came from. Shaping up to be a busy couple of days. Good night!

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