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    Monday, January 16, 2006

    What Did You Say?

    Three years ago I was camping with the kids, my mom and a family friend. We were on the beach at a lake that is very deep and has a long diving dock. The water is filled with kids bobbing and diving. My mom watched one daughter and I watched the other since it's hard to keep track of two kids in such deep water. I lost sight of #2 and jumped up to move around to see if I could locate her. Just as I found her, I tripped over the boardwalk and fell flat on my ass. I was embarrassed but relieved to have found #2.

    I really didn't think too much about my fall since I've always been a little on the clumsy side. The following day I was walking back to our campsite and once again fell flat on my face with another audience watching my every move. My mother laughed hysterically and made quite a scene.

    I was worried because my equilibrium seemed terribly off. I didn't feel ill but I didn't feel great either. I tried to forget about it and enjoy the rest of the trip.

    The night that I returned home I became extremely agitated and decided that it was my ear that was bothering me. Since I didn't have a primary care physician I decided to go to the walk in clinic. After 3 hours waiting with vomiting babies and grumpy old people, the doctor informed me that I had swimmer's ear and otitis media (an ear infection). She prescribed antibiotics and some ear drops. The pharmacy was out of the drops but would have them by the next day. No problem, I thought.

    I went home and went to bed. I awoke at 3:00 a.m. in the most excruciating pain I had ever had in my head. I was beyond myself and told my Mr. Sign that if there had been a gun in the house I was sure I would have used it.

    Since the pain was so bad I decided to go to the Emergency Room. I drove myself since the girls were both asleep and Mr. Sign needed to stay with them.

    Five hours after I arrived I got to see a 1st year resident doctor. When she tried to see my eardrum, she said that she couldn't see anything. She decided to place an ear wick into my ear and place drops in. An ear wick is a piece of cotton that expands in the ear canal and holds medication there longer than if just the drops are used. Let me just say that this was most unpleasant but she assured me that within a day I would be feeling great.

    I went home and went to bed. When I woke up, I still felt terrible. I took a nap and when I woke up, the entire left side of my face was swollen. Even my eye was swollen almost shut. I knew that an infection that close to your brain was dangerous so I dragged myself back to the ER.

    This time it was even busier. I finally got a bed in the middle of the hall. When a doctor was finally able to see me he said he was concerned that I had a brain tumor. I assured him that I knew it was my ear and that obviously the anit biotics weren't working. Of course he didn't listen to me. Why would I have any idea what was wrong with me? I'm just an ordinary idiot coming to the great one for physical care. He ordered an MRI and I refused. My God, it was just an ear infection.

    I went home and went to bed. The next morning my whole face was swollen and I had no hearing in my left ear. I didn't even have the strength to get out of bed. My mother kept calling me telling me to find a specialist. I didn't even have a doctor, how was I supposed to find a specialist? I had resigned myself to death when Mom made one more call to me to plead with me to see someone even offering to pay if need be. I looked in the phone book and chose the first name that I came across. Lucky for me he accepted my insurance and he could see me right away.

    When I stepped into his office I was taken back 30 years. There were no computers and the magazines were decades old. I was so sick I didn't care.

    I had to bring both girls with me since they were too young to stay alone. They followed me into the examining room. The tools and equipment looked like they hadn't been updated since the 60's. I sat in the big chair that looked like a dental chair but was more of a sitting chair than a reclining one. The girls sat in chairs close by. When the doctor appeared, my breath was taken away. He was at least 6'6" tall and had blonde wavy hair and looked to be in his late 50's. He wore glasses that were in style in the 80's. He didn't even say hello. He appeared to be very rude having a terrible bedside manner.

    He sat down and straddled my knee and tried to look into my ear. He said something that was muffled since I had no hearing in that ear. The girls would later tell me he said that it was very bad. The next thing I knew he had something that looked like a hot poker and he stuck it in my ear. He had to hold me down as he did this since the pain was so intense. Tears were pouring out of my eyes and I had no control over them or my muffled screams.

    Within seconds one of the office staff came in and led the girls out. I can't imagine how afraid they were watching some stranger put their mother through so much pain.

    Immediately after he poked me I could feel something running down my neck. He took a tube and started to suction inside my ear. Believe it or not, this was even worse! I was actually pushing his hand away from me and I seemed again to have no control over my reaction. It felt like he was scraping my ear using a Buck knife.

    He finally put the tools down and proceeded to put another ear wick in. He described to me (in my hearing ear) what he had done. He had cauterized my ear drum because the infection had abscessed behind it and there was no place for it to go. It had taken the only course it could by using my brain as it's outlet hence the swelling in my face. If I had waited any longer, I might have suffered brain damage, complete hearing loss or death.

    He wanted me to come back in two days to have it checked. I was afraid of what he might do not to mention his terrible manners. This man scared me!

    I went and he was much more gentle. He performed a hearing test in which it was found that I still had 80% hearing loss. I went back two weeks later and had regained all of my hearing. I was so relieved.

    While I was telling me grandma this whole ordeal and explaining the demeanor of the doctor, she blurted out his name before I even got a chance. She recognized him by his bedside manner.

    Two years before she had been to 13 different doctors because she had an ear ache for 8 years. I was under the impression that in all of that time she had an MRI but she hadn't. The doctors all told her there was nothing wrong with her. As a last resort she had gone to this doctor as a last resort vowing to give up hope if he didn't find anything. He immediately asked to see her MRI which she had never had. He sent her for one and it was found that she had an Acoustic Neuroma, a tumor in the ear that involved all of her auditory canal.

    This doctor had saved her life! In this case he was lucky number 13. All of her inner ear had to be removed and she can no longer hear from that ear but she is alive to tell about it.

    A couple of year later he would remove my tonsils (for the second time, and they have grown back again. I'll never go through that again as an adult. It was horrible) and my youngest daughter's as well.


    pantylines said...

    wow, that is a horrible and yet good story....go figure the worst bedside manner guy is the one that actually knows what he is doing....

    Big Pissy said...

    OMG!!!! the pain you described must have been horrible!

    Just glad you found the right guy!!!

    buddha_girl said...

    I have two words:

    MamaKBear said...

    Good lord! I would get ear infections all the time as a child, and they hurt like hell, especially if they were in the ear I wear my hearing aid in because I would have to put the earmold in it. *shuddering at the thought*

    I even had some experience a time or two with the ear wicks, and had tubes put in my ears at least once....But DAMN...Never ever had an infection like that!!

    I also didn't have a clue that tonsils could grow back. I thought once they were taken out, they were gone forever. Learned something new today!

    Monkey said...

    Wow. I read this story on the edge of my seat. Ow and ow and double ow. I cannot imagine the pain.

    You and your grandmother were lucky to find this obviously very smart "House" like Dr.

    In a case like this, sometimes a rough bedside manner with a smart head attached is better, although you might not think so at the time . OUCH!

    Glad your grandmother is OK too.

    DZER said...

    holy shit my ear fucking hurts now! holy crap!

    you poor thing! I hate incompetent/uncaring doctors ... thank god there are a few good ones out there.

    American Navel said...

    This freaked me out

    confusedandlost said...

    so.. the moral of your story is... go to a doctor that can save your life and suffer the bed side mannners, he/she might have. I rather have a doctor with more experience than a new doctor that's so use to the new medical equipment available now.

    SignGurl said...

    Pantylines~Go figure!

    Big P~I was utterly relieved as soon as I left his office. I immediately felt better.

    Buddha G~I'll second that!

    MamaK~I was thinking about you when I wrote this. The pain you must have endured.

    Monkey~Thank you so much! I really appreciate your comment.

    DZER~That's the thing with most doctors. Some are so high and mighty that they forget to talk to the patient.

    Navel~I'm sorry you had to endure my writings.

    Confused~That is the exact moral. It's hard to find a good doctor but we now have an old school doc. He treats the whole family and will even see us after hours and on weekends! Instead of sitting in the ER for hours I just have to call him and in 5 minutes I'm sitting on his table.

    Mike said...

    Ouch...crap. Even the details hurt me. That had to be painful. At least he got you and your grandma all fixed up in any case.

    barman said...

    Gosh I had a big book typed and I decided not to post it. Glad you got your hearing back. I can not believe how fast that happened. My doctor is more old school and, for the most part, I trust him more that anyone I have run into before. Thank goodness his bed side manor is a little nicer than your doctor is.

    gigi said...

    I have to lay down now I don't feel so good!

    Suze said...

    Jenn, you had me wincing there. You were so lucky to find Dr Charming.

    It really doesn't give you much faith in the medical profession. It's much the same here, you go to casualty and you might as well take your sleeping bag.

    Glad things turned out ok in the end.

    SignGurl said...

    Mike~He really is a good doctor.

    Barman~You know I didn't plan on writing a book. Maybe Deb is wearing off on me.

    Gigi~I have that affect on people.

    Suze~Dr. Charming, that's funny! He is more like Dr. Dread.

    barman said...

    I would be pleased to be influenced by Deb. I love the way she writes. She does amaze me ... and you of course too. Not in the same way but I love your blog none the less. I know that does not sound sincere but it was.

    SignGurl said...

    Barman~I gave that comment as a compliment to Deb. She is a truly amazing writer.

    I just write for me. It doesn't always come out the way I expected but sometimes it takes a turn for the better. SOMETIMES.

    SignGurl said...

    Argh!!! Still no comments to email.

    Anonymous said...

    Wow Jenn, what a horrible story, I was freaking out as I read it but thankfully it had a happy ending.

    This was amazing!

    Gary said...

    That was an amazing story and well told. Thanks. Glad you're ok now.

    barman said...

    SG, I keep getting bounce messages that I sent to you and it was returned. That is the comment stuff, not anything else. So far I think this has only occured with AOL for some reason that I have seen.