Monday, October 13, 2008

I am drug free, and so is my 5-year-old niece.

Apparently she came from from school wearing a bracelet that proclaimed that she was drug free, but when her mommy asked her if she knew what that meant, she had no idea.

Aah, the power of education.

I, however, KNOW what it means that I am drug free - it means that I have not taken any pain medication since 2:45am Saturday morning - woohoo!

What, you haven't either? Ok, fine, but here's why mine is significant:

So I went to the emergency room at about 12:45 am on Monday morning. My left ear had been hurting for a couple of days, and Sunday night when the pain woke me up, my BFF ibuprofen helped me get back to sleep, but Monday night - no such luck. I called the Nurse Hotline to which I have access with my health insurance, and after ascertaining that I did not have a "foreign object" in my ear (and how could you tell if it was foreign, you ask? by the accent, my friend, by the accent), she said that "the protocol suggests that you seek medical attention within the next 4 hours." I'm not a math major, but 12:30am + 4 hours = the middle of the night. So after sitting on my living room floor crying for a few minutes (no couch to sit on, as of yet) (and no, that's not why I was crying), I decided that this was why they invented emergency rooms, and so I went.

The ER was fast (read: "empty") and by 2:15am I was home with amoxicillin for the infection and vicoden for the pain of the partially ruptured eardrum. (The PA told me they'd give me amoxicillin for the infection, and then he looked at his watch (1:30 am) and then at me, and said, "And since you're here now, we'll give you something for the pain, too." I about fell off the hospital bed with gratitude.) The PA that gave me the vicoden told me that it would make me, and I quote, "drowsy," and asked how long I would be able to sleep the next day. I said that I had class at 9:30, and he looked at me like I was an idiot, so I said, very insincerely, "...but I'm not afraid to miss class." I mean, come on, I know I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to pain, but miss class?!?! Whatever, dude. Give me the drugs and let me go home. College students go to class feeling "drowsy" all the time.

Well, he was right about "drowsy," if what he meant was "totally incapacitated." Oooh, the nausea, the nausea!! When I got up at 9:30am and called my boss to tell her I would not be coming to work, I had a hard time staying vertical long enough to call her. She was like, "Uh, I'm going to hang up before you throw up!" They had prescribed hydrocodone, which I took as prescribed until that afternoon, when I decided that if they said, "take it on a full stomach" and the taking emptied the stomach, that was not acceptable. Then I called around until my doctor (who I've never met) told her nurse to tell me to stop taking the hydrocodone (duh! yeah, I maybe could have thought of that on my own if I hadn't already been totally out of it!), and to resort instead to my BFF ibuprofen. LOTS of it.

So I alternated ibuprofen and Tylenol, as even prescription-strength ibuprofen didn't kill the pain long enough for me to make it from one dose to the next without being in considerable pain. And this worried me, because the PA at the ER had told me that the antibiotic would take 24-48 hours to kick in, and I assumed that that meant that I would then be able to reduce my pain meds. But no. Whether the amoxicillin kicked in or not, I was taking full doses of pain medication all through Friday. (I'm going to the doctor this afternoon to make sure that the healing is proceeding as it should.)

Side note: After walking around for a couple of days cupping my hand over my left ear (the pressure helped alleviate the pain a little), I laughed outloud when I realized where I had seen people doing that before--on trains in Romania! There is this old superstition in Romania about "curent" - a draft or blast of air, or a cross-breeze. The idea is that you don't want a breeze to blow "through" your head--that is not good for you. So, for example, you can have the two right side windows of a cab open at the same time, but not both front windows - the cross-breeze is bad for you. So we'd be riding on trains in the middle of the summer, and when we'd open the window to the train AND the door to the compartment, any old Romanians around would cover their ears, and often their whole heads!, to avoid the badness that would come with the "curent." Apparently they didn't hold with our feeling that surely any "badness" would be more manageable than the discomfort of suffocating heat and still (and usually smelly) air. We now return to the regularly scheduled program.

And as fascinating as you find your field of study, throbing pain in your ear is a LEEEETTLE distracting. I was fine until I'd try to sit in one place to read (oh wait, that's all grad students DO!), and then all I would think was, "language learning...PAIN...Contrastive analysis hypothesis...can I take more medication yet?...midterm next week on this stuff!...PAIN."

Yeah, it was pretty rockin' awesome.

So when I woke up in a GREAT mood on Saturday morning, it took me about 15 seconds to figure out that the reason I was so cheerful was because my first thought was not "PAIN." What a glorious feeling that was!

And so gentle readers, I have now been drug free for two and a half days, and while I am not pain free, I am so eager to be drug free that I'll put up with the minor pain that kicks in now and then.

And this is already really long, but I have two final thoughts.

First, I really need to not get sick for the next, oh, 5 years. I was comatose for one day, and not good enough to be up to studying and attending class the next day, and I am AMAZED how far behind I got!

Second, I have no idea how an eardrum can be only "partially ruptured." I feel like that's a binary (that word's for you, Jer) condition--an eardrum is either "ruptured" or "not ruptured." Whatever. It hurt A LOT.


helgaruth said...

I feel your pain - ear infections suck. It makes it hard to eat. Trully all I really want when I feel like that is my mom - oh, and lots of medication. Glad that you're on the mend. Good luck playing catch up. :)

Allison said...

Oh! My ear hurts just reading this! Mostly, though, it reminds me of the time I had an ear infection, and my friend Margaret brought me soup after I got home from the urgent care facility, and I tried to make conversation with her but instead I lay on the couch cupping my hand over my ear. Ah, memories. Love you! And I'm glad you are feeling better.

Allison said...

And thanks again for the soup.

Sharon said...

Oh man! Congrats on being drug free!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on being a good example to your niece :)

And congrats on being the perfect example of a grad student.

merrilykaroly said...

I'm glad you're feeling better! Just so you know, you make anything entertaining to read. Even a terrible partially-ruptured eardrum story. Not that I'm laughing at your pain, because I'm not. I'm just saying I enjoyed reading about it. That's all.

Danielle said...

This is exactly what happened to me several weeks ago - my ears hurt sooooooooooooooooo badly I could barely stand it (and I have a pretty good pain threshold). The doctor suggested I go to the emergency room, but I was too cheap. So, I went and spent an arm and leg to have a specialist see me. I had an ear infection in both ears, one was close to rupturing. Fortunately, the antibotics took care of it. But, yeah, I know what you mean... (though, your ordeal sounds much more horrific. I wasn't flattened by high doses of powerful pain killers.) ANYWAY, I'm SO SORRY TO HEAR YOU'VE BEEN SICKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the update. I always LOVE reading your blog. You have a lovely fantastically funny way of wording things. I miss you, girl!!!!!!!! Good luck with school. Lots of love.

NoSurfGirl said...

ahhh! Partially ruptured eardrum!

I got a series of ear infenctions after starting to work at an RTC for eating disorders where the food was very dairy-rich. I didn't know it, but I had a milk allergy. 3 major antibiotics and 3 months of soymilk-only and one Jeffrey bearing olive-leaf-powder later, I was dating, AND ear infection free!

I know how painful they can be. I'm very sorry you're going through this. I don't think I ever ruptured my eardrum though... so you probably feel worse. Ibuprofin sometimes worked for me. That vicodin can't be beat for pain relief. :)

lindsey said...


I am glad that I finally got over here to check out your blog. I am sorry about the ear pain. Hopefully it is better? I agree on the questionable "partially ruptured" scenario. Confusing.