“ Hello? What did you say? Can you speak louder, please? Turn up the volume on the TV!”
I had been suffering with this plugged up right ear for 10 weeks, ever since I had the sore throat and flu. It seemed like phlegm got into my ear passage. When one of your senses goes wonky, you realize how you take it for granted. My whole life was being affected.
The first time I went to the GP, he gave me antibiotics and oil to put in my ear. I had been inhaling medicated steam without any results. The antibiotics and oil didn’t help.
The second time he gave me antihistamines. They didn’t help.
It was uncomfortable, this plugged up ear, it made me heavy headed on one side. My hearing was muffled on the right side. When I talked, it was like talking in an echo chamber. I didn’t know how loud I was talking, until people started telling me.
I could hear things going on inside my head and body better than things in the outside world. For example, I could hear my jugular vein pulsating and if I was going to belch, I could hear the wind coming up from the deep recesses of my stomach through my tubes. It was weird!
The third time to the GP, he said I would have to see a specialist and he would put me on the NHS waiting list. I told him I would pay for the specialist, I wanted to get this over with!
I went to the private specialist with £50 on me, he took all of it.
Now, I was under the impression that the specialist would clear my ear right in his office. I had a similar condition with my ear years ago in the USA. Then the doctor blew out the phlegm from my ear with a bellows type instrument. I walked out, a half an hour later, hearing properly again! Quick and easy. But this time that was not to be. There were different techniques today.
The doctor examined me and said I would have to have a simple operation to remove the fluid from my middle ear. It involved a pin prick hole put into my ear drum and a grommet put in to act as a drain. I would have to have anaesthesia and this involved theatre time and an overnight stay in the hospital.
Well, you can imagine my disappointment and shock to find out that my simple blow out exercise had blown into a full scale theatre operation!
I was told if I wanted to go private, I could get it done in a couple of days, for about a £l,000. I couldn’t afford that. Put me on the waiting list.
So, it would be at least 7-8 weeks before my turn!
But, to my surprise, 2 weeks later, I got a letter telling me a bed was reserved at the General Hospital for me. I was to admit myself at 2 PM the following Monday. I believe I got in so fast because the specialist was on the staff of that hospital.
My wife and I went to the hospital and I got checked in. The nurse showed me to my bed. I was in the eye ward and it was mixed, men and women! I could hear my jugular vein pulsating away.
Looking at all the forlorn faces in the beds, it filled me with anxiety.
My next bed neighbour was in for a tonsillectomy. He was 29 years old. He was not happy. He hated hospitals. I ate a sandwich with a cup of coffee. That’s all I felt like.
I was reading and trying not to concentrate on the moans and groans around me. My wife came at 7PM for visiting and left at 8. I felt completely alone! I watched telly until 10 and decided to get into my night clothes and have an early night.
An old lady about 80, who had an eye op was kicking up a fuss. Her name was Gladys and she was delirious from the anaesthetic. She kept moaning, “ I want to go home.”
The nurse was trying to restrain her from getting out of bed.
“ No, Gladys, you can’t go home yet, you just had an operation.” Said the nurse, getting aggravated herself.
“ I want to go home,” repeats Gladys.
I thought it is going to be a long restless night, for me and for Gladys!
I think I awoke half asleep, I swear Gladys was standing by my bed smiling at me.Then, I dropped off to sleep again. Was it a nightmare?
Later on, someone startled me and put a sign above my bed that said, “ Nil By Mouth”. They took my water away. All of a sudden I was thirsty!
I got out of bed at 7AM. I couldn’t lay there any longer. I put my robe on and sat in the big chair and began my morning wait.
I asked the nurse when my op will be. She told me that my ear and the tonsils next to me, were last on the list for the morning. I would probably be between 11 and 12 noon.
I sat looking at the op trolley come for different people, but not for me.
Finally, the nurse came and told me to get into my smock. Oh, the dreaded hospital smock, that lets in plenty of air and doesn’t leave you much dignity.
At 12:15 PM the trolley came for me. They covered me up and the nurse checked my name tag with her papers. I told her I was going for an ear op. I didn’t want a slip up, and get someone else’s op! The nurse said she knows what I’m going for. That was a great relief!
Watching the ceiling go by, They wheel me into the anaesthetic room. People were rushing around my body, attaching things to my chest that monitor the heart. The anaesthetist was talking to me.
“ Do I smoke?”
“ No, I gave it up,” I said.
He keeps talking, “ You’re American?”
“ Yes, from Chicago.”
My doctor was in the sea of faces looking at me. The anaesthetist injected by right arm and I was OUT!
The next thing I realised, someone was tickling the bottoms of my feet with a brush.
“ David, are you awake?”
“ Yes,” I whispered. I felt very heavy lidded and extremely euphoric. But, this feeling lasted only a few minutes.
On the way back to the ward, I started feeling very groggy and sickish. When we got back to the ward, I glanced at the clock, 1:20, a little over an hour. My wife was there, smiling at me, and helping the attendants to get me in bed. It was good to see her and to be back in the land of the living.
I had a sandwich and a banana right before I left the hospital at 6PM, on Tuesday. I had been in since 2PM the previous day.
The nurse came and cut my name tag off and said, “ I don’t want to see you back here tonight.” Probably because they would have to get another tag for me.
When I got home I threw up the sandwich and banana. It was Wednesday afternoon before I kept some solid food down.But at least I could hear properly again.
My doctor gave me a note saying not to go back to work until Monday. So, it was exactly one week from when I was admitted into the hospital. What an ordeal to correct a plugged up ear.
I hope I won’t take my health for granted again. Hospitals are wonderful when you need them, but hopefully I will never have to go back there again.
Incidentally, I don’t see Gladys in my dreams anymore!
Very vivid, Dave. Reminded me of my one and only stay in hospital. I was eighteen and having my tonsils out; a minor operation when done on little kids, but can be more dangerous when you are older because of the danger of haemorrhaging. I was in a small rural hospital where they did similar operations in batches for economy – in a 12 person ward there was me, a very annoying guy who was having his nose done and ten hernias! As I was coming out from under the anaesthetic, I opened an eye and could see blood all around me on the pillow, I was aware of a frenzy of people all saying things like “we’re losing him, he’s going to die”. In my half anaesthetised state I was helpless and terrified. When I finally recovered, I discovered that all the fuss was for the annoying nose guy in the next bed who had inhaled his dressings and was choking. My operation had gone perfectly smoothly and apart from a bit of bleeding (which was not unexpected) there were no problems. I was been left alone to recover while they were dealing with the emergency in the bed next door. Incidentally, annoying nose person didn’t die but made a complete ecovery. The time coming out of that anaesthetic and thinking I was dying was without a doubt the scariest experience of my life.