Friday, May 25, 2012

"Did you put toilet paper in your ear?"

Apparently, when I was a child I never had ear infections. Never. Which is what makes this that much more fun!

I arrived in Thailand/on Koh Tao June 6th. I went on my failed scuba diving adventure June 8th. I did a few skills and was probably only 2 meters under water for a total of 8 minutes. June 9th my left ear felt a bit stuffed and I had a teeny bit of pain. I asked Astrid to drop some Tea tree oil in there and the next day the pain was gone but my hearing was still muffled.

The muffled hearing continued until June 15th when I woke up and equalizing (just from yawning) was quite painful in addition to the muffled sounds. And so I went to the Ban Chalok clinic across the street from my Tropicana resort. Nok, the wonderful nurse there, checked my ear and said "Oh yes, you have a big infection." She asked me to equalize and said, "Yes, when you equalize your ear drum shouldn't move, but yours is moving...your ear is really swollen inside so I can hardly see your ear drum."

Nok prescribed me Denzen (anti inflammatory), Phemamine (decongestant), and Curam (antibiotic with amoxycillin) to take for 3 days. I started my meds that day but due to a really strange thought process I wasn't actually taking the Curam until the 3rd day because I was confused about one thing or another (the Denzen package wasn't labeled so I thought Nok gave me the box for it...and then on the 2nd night I opened the Curam box and out fell all these pills. Sweet.). Total cost of first visit: 1280 baht = $43.

And now, for the pain. Man, if governments want to add another torture mechanism - give people ear infections and don't cure them. It is the worst pain you will ever experience because it's in your your your your jaw. It peaked in the afternoon, too. So everyday from 2/3pm - 6pm I would be in my room, in and out of sleep, holding on to pillows and groaning because I could not handle it.

This was me looking pretty for the camera.
Did I mention Nok asked me if I wanted pain meds and I said no? Hah, I went back on the 2nd day and begged for them. Doctors/nurses really shouldn't listen to me. She gave me tramadol 50mg to take one pill/ 3 times a day (Add 180 baht = $6) I took 4 in the course of 4 or so hours and felt like I was on drugs. I don't know how people get addicted to pain meds - it is not pleasant. I felt like I was coming down from ecstasy - my mouth was dry, the world a mellower place...but one thing did not change - I STILL HAD PAIN! No, I would not wish this on my worst enemy. I finished the 10 pills in 2 days, needless to say.

And somewhere in here, to add more torment to my suffering, I lost hearing in my left ear. It was totally blocked...ah, the fear and worry....

On the 4th day I was to go to Nok at 11:30am for my check up...but after so many delays on that day at 9am I was leaving for a 3 day/2 night boat trip to Ang Thong and was not about to cancel. I went to the pharmacy and the woman there told me it sounded like I had a middle ear infection and needed to go to the hospital, but in the meantime she gave me a packet of 400mg Ibuprofen (180 baht = $6, running total $55) "Take one 3 times a day." Hah. One. Right.

And so then I spent 3 days around Ang Thong - a beautiful place reminiscent of Halong Bay, Krabi, and basically any limestone karsts and islands sticking out of the sea that keep me mesmerized for hours. When I was doing things (kayaking, hiking), I didn't feel the pain. Otherwise, I was in absolute torture. I was painfully and constantly aware of the fact that I could not hear out of my left ear and eventually just gave up even trying. Being a musical person and a lover of music, losing my hearing was more scary than the pain I was pushing through.

We left June 18th and returned June 20th. The 19th I cried my eyes out quite dramatically as I paddled alone in my kayak because I wanted to tear my face off my face and no amount of drugs were helping me...I'd finished the ibuprofen, the guys on the boat gave me a couple of 600mg ibuprofen as well as a packet of tramadol, which I took with much more reservation this time.

Wind guard.
Miraculously, on the 20th - the day we returned to Koh Tao at about 6pm, I had very little pain. I ran to the clinic once we hit land and Nok checked my ear. I told her I was going to Bangkok the following day, so she said she would clean my ear even though she'd rather I waited a few days...but she knows what she's doing - everyone on Koh Tao has ear problems.

So, I lay down on the bed in the clinic and she pumps water into my ear and gasps, "Wow" as everything is released, "A lot of water! I will show you when we're done." She continues to pump water into my ear, sometimes it's gentle, sometimes it feels like she's about to rip out my eardrum. As she's doing this she's telling me the story of the guy she's been treating with antibiotics the last 10 days who came in today and it turned out he had the wing of a fly trapped in his ear which was the ultimate result of his pain. I thought, "Wow, how insane!"

She's looking in my ear and kind of giggles, "Did you put toilet paper in your ear?"
"No, no, just kidding."

Two minutes later: "Yes, there is toilet paper or something stuck in your ear."
I am bewildered.
Then begins the more painful cleaning as this toilet paper or cotton from the q-tip (so it seems) is really stuck in there. After a few minutes she gets the first piece out, small but for an ear not so small...then the second piece...then she does more of the painful deep cleaning/washing through and says that she can't get the last piece. Damn, how long has that shit been stuck in there?

Nok has me lay on my right side as she puts drops in my ears, "Stay like this for 20 minutes, you don't have anywhere to go, right?" Right.

And so for twenty minutes I'm on this bed in aircon (quite nice! Can't complain!) thinking about how the hell toilet paper got in my ear. Then I decide to sing the longest song I can think of, so I sing in whispers Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (of course). Then I start with "Don't youuuu forget about meee..." And Nok comes back.

"First we'll try gentle, but if it doesn't work then we'll have to the deeper, painful one."
"Ok," I whimper.

Let's just say, thank you Buddha that Nok was able to pull out the last piece of toilet paper after just a couple of flushes of warm water into my ear.

And let me tell you, removing that last piece suddenly cleared my ear and I was able to hear again! HUZZAH! I was in shock! She kept asking me if I was dizzy, but I was fine.

And let me tell you, that last piece was as long as my pinky finger nail.

It wasn't clear if it was toilet paper or cotton from the q-tip. It really did look like toilet paper, which of course makes me wonder HOW? WHY? WHEN? And the only thing I can think of is Barbados in January of this year when I stuffed toilet paper in my ears to block out the loud music playing at the 4 clubs across the street.

And then I remembered how in the last few months I've been developing more wax in my ear than usual and cleaning it much more often and i think that was my body telling me "Alert! Alert! Foreign object in your ear!"

Diving was the straw that broke the camel's back. The ear infection was the "add insult to injury" of my failed diving adventure.

But I had my hearing back as well as another rx for Denzen (antiinflammatory), Tarivid (a solution to drop into my ear 2 times a day), and Tylenol 500 (1370 baht = $46, running total $101). Nok is the bomb - she takes out toilet paper and fly wings out of peoples ers and gives them back their hearing.

Good times.

My catchphrase for that experience is, "I came to Koh Tao to find love, and all I found was toilet paper in my ear."

But this is not the end...
This is only the mid point between the beginning and the middle, get it?

Adventure and beauty is a good distraction from pain!

1 comment:

  1. HAHAHAHA i laughed at various points through this, namely:

    "I wanted to tear my face off my face..."


    "My catchphrase for that experience is, 'I came to Koh Tao to find love, and all I found was toilet paper in my ear.'"

    Glad to hear you are feeling better!!! :)