Serious Slumber

Appears in the January 2019 issue.

Though his focus is ears, noses, and throats, this ENT finds sleep to be a common link in pediatric problems

From first working with airway and cardiac issues as an EMT to eventually developing an interest in cardiac surgery in medical school, Eric Gantwerker was certain that he wanted to specialize in otolaryngology (ear-nose-throat issues). But it wasn’t until his residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that his desire to focus on working with kids within this area was solidified. And it wasn’t until he really got into practice that he came to understand that as a pediatric otolaryngologist, he wasn’t just treating the child on the examination or surgery table.

“You actually have two patients to care for—the child and the parent,” says Gantwerker, who currently practices at the Loyola Center for Children’s Health in Oakbrook Terrace. “But I really enjoy trying to get the kids involved in their own care and creating that bond with the whole family as they progress through treatment.”
In addition to common childhood ENT maladies such as ear and sinus infections, one issue that more of those families are dealing with these days—and one that Gantwerker believes parents should be on the lookout for—is sleep apnea. The condition causes excessive snoring or difficulty breathing at night, which can lead to a host of related sleep deprivation problems for little ones.

“Sometimes it shows up in things that aren’t so obvious, such as kids who are having trouble getting potty trained, or are dealing with hyperactivity during the day,” he explains. “These may be tied back to the fact that they’re not getting the sleep they need. It’s the little nuanced things that we don’t always think about that could be a sign that something else is going on.”

Photograph by Michael Hudson