An "itis" and an "oid." Not to mention Eventually, Severe and a Warning…


Before I got married, I drove a 1984 Ford Escort. It was a real piece of shit. I called him Evenrude, after the dragonfly in The Rescuers, because it would drag up hills and fly down them. It rumbled and rattled everywhere I went. At least that’s what everyone told me. I didn’t know personally because each time a new rumble or rattle appeared I simply turned the volume of my stereo up another notch so I couldn’t hear it. I worked at Dunkin Donuts at the time, a job not particuarly conducive to affording car repairs, so ignorance was bliss. It got me from Point A to Point B, and occasionally to Point C, and that was all that mattered. But shortly after Dear Hubby and I started dating, Evenrude up and quit. DH’s brother–who is something of a mechanical genius–took a good, hard look at the poor thing, shook his head and told me there was nothing he could do for it but administer Last Rites and haul it to the junkyard. Before he did so, he gave me a lecture about Warning Signs and Taking Care Of Things before it’s Too Late.

When it comes to my body’s rumbles and rattles, I’m afraid I fare little better. I related an example of this, you may remember, a couple months ago with the story of my left sausage ear. Although the pain, itching, and swelling went away for a day or two (as reported here) it came back less than a week later (as not reported here). Did I–as promised–go to my doctor to inquire what the hell was causing the trouble? Of course not. I just turned the radio up a notch–in this case, by pouring alcohol into my ear on a daily basis, as recommended by Newspaper Delivery Guy. As long as I remembered my daily treatment, all was well.

Until last Tuesday.

I was sitting with my family and several friends, visiting and shooting the crap and generally having a good ole time, when I noticed something odd going on underneath my left eye. It was twitching. Visibly. Many comments were made about Working The Night Shift and Not Getting Enough Sleep, much laughter ensued, and the conversation reverted back to normal. Until a few moments later, when the left side of my face went numb.

Naturally everyone else assumed I was having a stroke. I suppose it’s the normal thing to assume when your friend or loved one’s face suddenly goes numb. Not me. I knew it had something to do with the abuse and neglect I’d been alternately subjecting my ear to for the past few months, and stated so as vehemently as I could with only half my mouth working.

Did anyone believe me? Nope. Not Dear Hubby or Concerned Friends, not the paramedics who were immediately called. (They got there in less than ten minutes. Beat that slow poke Sheriff Dispatcher!) Certainly not the kind and helpful nurses and doctors who greeted me twenty minutes later. They drew blood. I was given a CT scan. I was threatened with an MRI (fortunately, the hospital is so small that the machine was closed down for the night). Not once did anyone look inside my ear, despite repeated requests by me that they do so. I would’ve had an easier time getting my local Top 40 station to play me some Skynard.

Finally, convinced I wasn’t suffering from a stroke, the kind doctor sent me home. While I slept, the slides (or whatever they’re called) from my CT scan were sent to a doctor in Australia. He read them and sent the diagnosis back to my regular doctor, whom I wasn’t able to see until almost a week later (did you know doctors are allowed to take vacations???) The verdict? A rather severe case of Acute Mastoiditis – ie an untreated ear infection that retreats into the honeycomb-like air cells behind your ear called the ‘mastoid process.’ A few of the many symptoms of mastoiditis are pain, itching, and swelling of the affected ear, with later symptoms including weakness or paralysis of facial muscles.

My glee at having been proved right was short lived. The initial treatment for mastoiditis is a fourteen day regimen of very strong antibiotics. How strong? The pharmacist literally did a double take when I handed her the prescription, then called my doctor to make sure she’d written it down correctly. And before handing over the vial she said, with a sympathetic eye, “The benefits will eventually outweigh the possibly severe side effects.”

Nervous, I nonetheless took the prescribed dose when I got home. Nothing drastic happened and I was able to work my graveyard shift with no problem. In fact it wasn’t until about an hour after my third dose (the following afternoon) that the trouble started. I won’t go into great detail here. Those of you who’ve ever had a reaction to antibiotics know just what I’m talking about, and those of you who haven’t can make use of Google Search. Suffice it to say, if I can’t lose weight on the Antibiotic Diet, then nothing’ll work.

Hopefully it’ll work on the infection. Because if it doesn’t, a mastoidectomy might be required. That’s right. They might actually have to remove the honeycomb-like air cells behind my left ear, with the possible risk of permanent hearing loss. It’s apparently a rarely performed surgery nowadays, because most people go to the doctor when their ear swells up like a sausage, instead of turning the radio up a few notches like an idiot.

So, Dear Readers, please learn from my idiocy. Pay strict attention to Warning Signs and Take Care Of Things before it’s Too Late…

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About R.J. Keller

R. J. Keller is the author of Waiting For Spring. An avid independent movie enthusiast, she was Managing Editor of The Movie Fanatic website and created episodes of the writer-centric YouTube series, Inside The Writers' Studio, with author Kristen Tsetsi. She co-hosted Book Chatter with Stacey Cochran from 2011-2014. She lives in Central Maine with her family, where she enjoys gardening, collecting geeky memorabilia, and watching other people cook. View all posts by R.J. Keller

11 responses to “An "itis" and an "oid." Not to mention Eventually, Severe and a Warning…

  • Kit Courteney

    Eww… that’s quite a lesson to learn. Glad you’re getting it sorted now though.

    I hope the ‘diet’ improves :0o

  • worldofhiglet

    Oh, wow. Take lots of pro-biotic yoghurt and a good multi-vitamin to counteract the explosive side-effects of the antibiotics. And yes, keep taking them even if you feel better/don’t want to – not finishing an antibiotic course is a sure-fire way of making things worse in the future.

    It puts me in mind of a quote from Futurama:

    Leela: “Death by sonic diarrhea.”
    Hermes: “Oh ho, you don’t want that.”

    Hope it all clears up soon!

  • R.J. Keller

    Thanks a bunch KC. And yes, unfortunately I’m known for learning my lessons the hard way.

    Higlet…that quote is too hilarious! It would have been a perfect title for this post. Come to think of it, I never once mentioned the D word, did I? Sort of like the Seinfeld episode that was all about masturbation in which the characters didn’t once say the M word…

  • worldofhiglet

    No, you never mentioned it, you just thought it really hard…I am sympathetic – really! I, too, have known the wrath of Draino-like antibiotics and it’s not much fun. And we won’t mention the ‘T’ word, either, as this is not a ‘female-troubles’ blog! 🙂

  • R.J. Keller

    LOL
    Indeed!

  • Jen O

    Oh gosh, I hope you feel better very very soon!!

  • bunnygirl

    Well, that sucks. I’m actually a little surprised they didn’t hospitalize you and put you on drip antibiotics, which are the most powerful they’ve got. Then again, hospitals are great places to get secondary infections and if you’re not sick enough to be unconscious or merit heavy narcotics, you’ll be bored stiff, so if the drugs you’re on work, it’ll be just as well.

    Nice that it took them a week to start treating you. Considering what we pay for health care in this country, you’d think they could be maybe a little quicker about it.

    I heartily second the recommendation to eat yogurt and get plenty of probiotics. And if your doc didn’t give you a scrip for diflucan, ask for it to be called in. You’re being set up for the mother of all yeast infections.

    If it turns out that they do recommend surgery, please email me first (uhamp “at” yahoo “dot” com). My father just retired from over 30 years in deaf ed and has degrees in biology and communication disorders. He might know what kinds of questions you should ask or what you should be aware of before allowing someone to mess around in that area. Doctors are humans, too, and if you don’t know what to ask and then go on and ask it, you won’t know if the treatment they’re suggesting is the way you really want to go.

    You’re the one who has to live in your body, after all.

  • Zoe Winters

    hahahaha @ “most people go to the doctor when their ear swells up like a sausage.”

    I hope all turns out well.

  • R.J. Keller

    Bunnygirl, thanks a ton for the info, and the offer. I’m rather fond of being able to hear, and losing that ability in even one of my ears would render my mp3 player relatively useless.

    Seriously, I’m more concerned than my flippancy would lead you to believe. I’ll be in touch if the antibiotics don’t do the trick.

    Zoe, you’d be laughing even harder if you’d seen it. Rather cartoonish.

  • Crystal Lynn

    Having been through the small town gambit of a) oh my B) it appears to be this c) we will do this d) My reaction “there is something wrong here”. I immediately did the one right thing… go to the big city specialist!!!

    One doc nearly cost me my hand, and another ignored the foot that looked like a sausage.

  • R.J. Keller

    Sausage appendages seem to be the going thing these days.

    Take care of yourself, Crystal. Here’s hoping next summer works out for a meetin’ in Maine.

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