Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ruptured Eardrum - Not Due to Loud Music


Kath (who was suffering from tonsilitis two weeks ago, for those of you who might not have known) is well and happily running around as per normal. Yay! Good to have our joyful little girl back.

I, on the other hand, am rather badly...

For the past two weeks I've had a cold. Last week that became a throat infection. Four days ago that moved up into the middle ear and became a severe ear infection. I drove myself to the emergency room of the local hospital, Davos, at four-thirty in the morning to be seen by a doctor and get antibiotics. The doctor on duty looked like a yakuza tough trying to disguise himself in medical greens, and his attitude bore it out: not only were his arms and face pimply with sores beween the rough black hairs sprouting everywhere, his fingers were crusty with some sort of scaling, and a permanent scowl had etched horizontal grooves in his forehead. He handled the otoscope as if he were trying to see straight through to the other side of my head, snapped a prescription at the nurse, and stamped away. I can't excuse him on grounds of overwork, either, as the place was clearly not busy (and never has been on the various occasions I have been there).

Two days later (Sunday morning) I woke up with a bloody discharge from the ear. Bry was at church in Seoul (and unreachable, as we don't yet have a cell phone). So I had to take myself and my just-awakened child back to the emergency room, via a long hike down to the front gate and a taxi. I found in the process that not only did my ear throb, but that I was completely deaf on that side, nauseous and very dizzy (difficult to walk in a straight line).

Davos Hospital refused to see me as soon as I mentioned the bleeding. You would've thought it was one of the symptoms of the Plague. 'No, no, we don't treat that here, go away'.. in Korean, 'go to Suwon. Not here...'. Suwon is the next major town, about forty minutes by bus. I explained that my husband was in Seoul with the car and I had my child with me and no one else to care for her... didn't make a difference, they wouldn't even let a doctor take a look at me. I asked for the name of a hospital in Suwon so that I could get a taxi once I was there, and the front desk intern scrawled it on a piece of paper and thrust it across the desk - literally as quickly as possible, without meeting my eyes.

So I walked three wobbly blocks to the bus terminal, bought two tickets, and sat for an hour on a rickety local bus with Katherine. I had no idea where in the large metropolis of Suwon the hospital might be, but taxis are inexpensive, so I planned to get off at the terminus and enquire at that point. As we reached the outskirts of the town I pulled out the paper and sat trying to decipher the characters; I had just painfully sounded out 'Ah-joo Dae...' when the bus loudspeaker announced "Ajou Daehakyo! This stop, Ajou University!".

I scrambled Katherine and myself off the bus. A passerby confirmed that there was a large hospital associated with the university, and it took only a minute to flag a taxi and wave the paper at him. Five minutes later we were dropped off at the main doors of Ajou Daehakyo Pyongwon - Ajou University Hospital.

In contrast to Davos's dingy four stories squeezed between an office building and a series of stores, Ajou Hospital is light, bright, and gentle. The staff, despite it being a Sunday and most areas shut down, guided me to the emergency room (mostly filled with parents clutching sick children) and assured me that they would be able to take care of me.

I spent the next five hours there - with Katherine - waiting, filling in my personal data to be admitted for treatment, waiting, being seen by one of the many doctors on ER duty, waiting for his diagnosis, being sent down the hall for a CAT scan of my head, waiting for the results of the scan, being taken in a wheelchair up to the Otology Department, waiting for the specialist, being examined by the specialist (a little camera on a probe was one of his many tools) and consulting with the specialist.

It devolved that I had a throat infection still in full swing, a serious middle ear infection which had caused my eardrum to rupture (hence the blood and fluid discharge), AND one of my interior sinuses almost completely closed up with a third infection. My otologist shook his head over the contusions in the ear canal - caused by the rough otoscope work of the ER doctor back at Davos Hospital but assured me they were the least of his concerns. Apparently while children's eardrums sometimes tear due to the pressure of infection, it's not at all common in adults. He spent a good half-hour going over my scan with me, asked intelligent questions in good English, and finally prescribed a completely different set of antibiotics and made an appointment for me to return on Thursday.

Everyone with whom I came in contact at Ajou (despite it being a Sunday, a busy ER full of wailing, feverish, cranky children, etc.) was courteous, made an effort to communicate and to reassure me, and had patience with Katherine tagging along for everything. I can't say how much I appreciate that - nor how much I appreciate Katherine. She had no breakfast (by her own choice, but still....), no toys or books with her (since we'd only planned to be at the Davos ER, not all day in another town), and no real idea of why we had to be sitting in a very boring, noisy environment for hours on end. She behaved like a pint-size angel rather than a typical three-year old: she played contentedly with a plastic bag I shaped into a rabbit, cuddled, did Rock/Paper/Scissors (in Korean, charming the nearby parents), drew in the little notebook from my purse, and generally kept me company as sweetly as anyone could ask for.

We had some orange juice from the pop machine around one, and another can around four just before we left. I had no appetite despite having only a slice of toast that morning, and Katherine eats like a bird, so I usually let her tell me if she's hungry. As we finally walked out into the afternoon sun, she said wistfully, "I'd like a hamburger, Mama..." I swept her up and hugged her. "And you SHALL have a hamburger, my darling," I said, "you were wonderful today. If that's all you want, we will get it for you..."

I won't bother detailing how I phoned Bryan from the bus terminal in Suwon, feeling too weak and weary to jolt home via public transit again - how Katherine fell asleep in my arms while we waited the hour and a half for him to get to us - how he finally got us to McDonald's and our darling got her long-awaited hamburger - or how I made a game attempt to teach classes yesterday despite my near-total deafness - or how the medication has the side effects of causing complete loss of appetite.

Suffice it to say that I am not at all well and would love to have about a week in bed with some hot drinks and my computer. Alas, we have only three more teaching sessions with our students and we really can't afford to miss any classes at this late date. Let's hope the eardrum heals swiftly, that the antibiotics do what they are supposed to do and control the various infections, and that I don't collapse in class tomorrow. Your sympathy and prayers will be appreciated!

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Anonymous Mom A. said...

Judy, you poor dear! No wonder Audrey and I couldn't figure out why there was nothing posted on the Blog for so long. I hope Your meds will soon take effect and you'll feel a whole lot better. Give Katherine a hug and kiss from Oma for being such a good little girl when her mom was having such a bad time! Hng in there, Judy and soon you'll be over all this and finished teaching for the semester and be able to sleep for an uninterupted length of time.

Love, Mom A.

May 22, 2007 at 7:47 a.m.  
Anonymous Susan said...

Hello Judy: I'm sorry to hear you have been feeling so poorly. I hope things start going uphill from here. We are continuing to keep you in mind! We miss you!
love, Susan

May 22, 2007 at 11:04 a.m.  
Anonymous audrey said...

You have our sympathy and prayers! (though I'm not sure how much good our sympathy will do..)
We hope you'll feel better very quickly.
Eat some comfort food and don't work too hard!
Much love,

PS Did the mermaid arrive yet?

May 22, 2007 at 12:47 p.m.  

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