With eight kids, Stacey and Keith are veterans at parenting. So when baby Noah presented with a bit of a “wonky” ear last October, they clocked it, but weren’t overly worried. After an appointment with their family doctor about Noah’s “sticky-out” ear, an x-ray was ordered which showed a cyst-like structure behind his ear. They were referred to the Neurology Clinic at the ACH to help figure out what the lump was. In a turn of events which, as the story unfolded, quite possibly saved Noah’s life, the clinic had a cancelation and the appointment was bumped up. At the clinic, they met Neurosurgeon Dr. Jay Riva-Cambrin who was worried about the mass and involved ENT straight away. Between surgeries, Dr. James Brookes ran down to examine Noah. Worried about infection, Dr. Brookes intervened and ended up draining a surprisingly large amount of puss from the ear and wanted Noah to have a CT scan in case the infection had spread further. His hearing could be in jeopardy. Dr. Brookes walked the Audleys’ down to CT, discussed his concerns with the people in CT, waited while Noah was in the scanner and then read the CT immediately. Not liking what he saw – that the infection had eaten into the bone surrounding the ear canal – Dr. Brookes marched the family to Admitting, got them checked in and then walked them up to Unit 3. After an already full day in the OR, Dr. Brookes didn’t want Noah to wait any longer for surgery. By 4:30 p.m., Noah was in the OR where Dr. Brookes flushed/cleaned all the infection away and cut away the infected areas of bone. And it was a good thing he did, because in surgery he discovered Noah had two pockets of infection starting against the dura – the brain’s protective layer. He was able to clean that out as well until he was satisfied all the infected areas had been dealt with. An MRI the next day revealed Noah had a blood clot and he was immediately put on blood thinners to help break it up. His doctors think it’s a miracle he didn’t have a stroke. He was also given strong antibiotics to combat any further infection. He spent 20 days in hospital.

Dr. Brookes says the infection was so serious and so dangerously close to the brain that if they’d waiting even a day to do the surgery, Noah’s condition could have been facing encephalitis which can be fatal. Many factors lined up to save Noah – mother’s intuition, a cancelation at the Neuro Clinic, Dr. Riva-Cambrin’s hunch, and Dr. Brookes’ perseverance in ordering a CT scan and doing the surgery straight away. The other incredible part of Noah’s story is that he presented with none of the usual symptoms associated with infection. Except for his ear looking a bit funny, no one would have known anything was wrong.

Stacey and Keith are so grateful for how thorough and quickly everything happened. They know only too well how this story could have ended very differently. 15 years ago, Stacey and Keith sadly lost their two-year-old little girl Rebecca to a very similar illness. So when everything began presenting with Noah, his parents were naturally terrified history was repeating itself, which Dr. Brookes picked up on.

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