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…