The riot that occurred when the adenoids of children in a school on the "East Side" in New York City were removed without the preliminary of convincing the parents as to the advantages of the operation was merely a demand for the "right to knowledge," which is never overlooked with impunity. Reluctance to permit operation on a young child, and the natural shrinking of a parent at seeing a child under the surgeon's knife, require the teacher or school physician or nurse to answer fully the usual questions of the hesitant mother and father.
1. Is the operation necessary? Will the child not outgrow its adenoids? Usually the adenoid growths atrophy or dry up after the age of puberty. Adenoids are not uncommon in adults, however. The surgeon general of the army reports that during the year 1905, out of 3004 operations on officers and enlisted men in service, there were 225 operations on the nose, mouth, and pharynx, 103 of which were operations for adenoids and enlarged or hypertrophied tonsils. Allowing the child to "outgrow" adenoids may mean not only that he is being subjected to infection chronically but that his body is allowed to be permanently deformed and his health endangered. Beginning at the age of the second dentition, the bones of jaw, nose, throat, and chest are undergoing important changes—nasal occlusion. Adenoids left to atrophy—if large enough to cause mouth breathing—may mean atrophy of this developing process, permanent disfiguration of face, and permanent deformity of chest and lungs.
2. Will the growth recur? In a few cases it does recur; frequently either because it was not desirable to make a complete removal of the adenoid tissue or because the surgeon was careless. If the growths do recur, then they must be removed again.
3. Is the operation a dangerous one?
4. Is an anæsthetic necessary?
5. Will the operation cure the child of all its troubles? These questions are best answered by the process and results of an "adenoid party," which was given especially for the benefit of this book, every step and symptom of which were carefully studied.
The seven children pictured here were discovered by their school physician to have moderately large adenoid growths,—one boy having enlarged tonsils also.
Mouth Breathers Immediately After "Adenoid Party"
The picture on page 46 was taken by flash light at 2.30 P.M., January 15, 1908. At 3 P.M. the principal escorted these children into the operating room at Vanderbilt Clinic. The doctor examined the throat and nose of each child, entered the name and age of each, together with his diagnosis, on a clinic card, sending each child into the next room after examination. He then called the first boy and explained that it would hurt, but that it would be over in a minute. The principal stood by and told him to be brave and remember the five cents he could have for ice cream afterwards. The clinic nurse tied a large towel about him and put him in her lap; with one hand she held his clasped hands, while the other held his head back. The doctor then took the little instrument—the curette—and pushed it up back of the soft palate, and with one twist brought out the offending spongy lump. The boy's head was immediately held over a basin of running water. He was so occupied with spitting out the blood that rushed down to choke him that he hadn't time to cry before the acute pain had ceased. The rush of cool air through his nostrils was such a pleasurable sensation that he smiled as the school nurse escorted him out into the hall to wait for his companions. At 3.30 P.M. all seven children were out in the hall, all seven mouths were closed, and all seven faces were clothed with the sleepy, peaceful expression that comes with rest from the prolonged labor of trying to get enough air. At 3.45 P.M. they had been all reexamined by the doctor, and a few tag ends were picked out of the nasopharynx of one child. At 4 P.M. the "party" had returned to the Children's Aid Society's school and to the ice cream that follows each adenoid party.
It is worth while to tell mothers stories of the "marvelous improvement in school progress of those children whose brains have been poisoned and starved by the accursed adenoid growths, and how their bodies fairly bloom when the mysterious and awful incubus is removed," to use the words of one school principal. It is worth while to show them "before" and "after" pictures, and "before" and "after" children, and "before" and "after" school marks.