Monday, March 17, 2014

In Which I Almost Slap a Doctor: Those Sweet Childhood Memories

Don't trust that smiling face. He's probably a monster.

So, I have this thing about my ears.

It's basically because I had ear infections from a very young age, one after the other. Essentially starting in infancy, my ears have been my off-and-on enemy and also something I probably need to live, since the warning cries of my friends and family are shockingly necessary for my survival thus far.

Some of my earliest memories are of pain ringing in my left ear, waking me up in the middle of the night. I was a crier, and God forbid anyone else dare to sleep when I don't feel well, so I have pretty clear recollections of my sister's unhappy squinting nighttime face while I bawled over hurt I had a hard time actually explaining. The ear itself didn't hurt, but somewhere inside of it rang with such intense pain that I occasionally thought maybe it was my brain dying.

I had tubes put in when I was six years old. They're kind of nothing when you think about them as an adult, but as a six-year-old who was going into what was at the time still considered surgery it all struck me as Very Important and Grave Indeed.

My parents were surprised to find out exactly how bad my ears had gotten. Oh, sure, I was prone to infections, but you know a lot of babies born premature are. Ear infections are just sort of a childhood curse; you deal with them and you move on. Kids grow out of it, or you put tubes in. That's that. My parents were working on the assumption that, as no doctors had actually expressed any serious concern prior to that about my rate of infections, that they would probably fix themselves as time went on.

Except one day, driving down the interstate to the city we did all our shopping in, I was looking out the window at the fields, sitting in the backseat. My sister and mother were talking, and I was pretty happily just keeping to myself.

My mother said something to me. I have a very clear memory of my left ear being turned towards the front of the car, as I was looking outside. I think she repeated herself, and I realized she was talking to me and looked at her and said matter-of-factly, "Mom, I can't hear you if you're not looking at me when you talk."
While I don't remember my visit to the ear doctor shortly thereafter, I DO remember, with complete clarity, the look on my mother's face when I said that. I assume anyone's face would look roughly the same when their child essentially implies, in the same tone they would say we're out of Kool-Aid, that they might be going deaf.

So there was a very exciting visit to a specialist and shortly thereafter I had tubes put in my ears. I remember a hospital bed, and a big stuffed bear someone gave me; a grandparent, I think. I remember being a royal terror because the anesthesia made me feel bad and, being very young, I had no way to deal with that other than to take it out on people I knew would love me anyway no matter what.

And somehow, they still do.

I had those tubes for a long time.

One of them fell out on its own, like they're supposed to, but the other, the one in my left ear (seeing a theme here?), stuck around for a good long time. I think I was in fifth grade when the ear specialist decided it was time to take it out.

Of course, he didn't tell ME that.

I was sitting on the examining table-thing, swinging my legs a little. The doctor had mumbled something to my mother I couldn't quite hear, but the nurse was nice and while I've never been exactly FOND of doctors, I rarely actually disliked them.

He came over with the light-tool they shine into your ears in his hand, and cheerfully told me he was going to take a look, and to just hold still for a second.

The only warning I had was that the nurse suddenly put both her hands over mine.

I had exactly enough time to think that THAT was kind of weird before blinding pain shot through the left side of my head.

It didn't last very long, but I had spent much of my young life dealing with continuous ear pain for one reason or another. They ached due to the ear infections, and then after the tubes they would ache every time there was wind, or sometimes when it was cold, or just for fun some days. And I did everything I could to protect my ears, because I needed them and would do anything to keep the pain of ear infections from coming back.

So, anyway, blinding pain.

There I am, sitting like a good kid, when the doctor decides he's just going to take the tube out of my ear and that, you know, it's not like I need to KNOW about that or anything. Of course not. Not like kids tend to react with panic to unexplained hurt caused by strangers.

I jerked my hands back from the nurse, and my mother must have seen something in my face because she was getting up and out of her chair before I realized that I had one hand in the air, ready to slap a man roughly four times my age in the face.

I received a very educational lecture on how we're supposed to be more respectful to doctors after that, but I think we should all just be proud of me for not letting loose on that man with all the brand new curse words rural public school was teaching me every day.

... and also for not hitting him.

I'm pretty sure he deserved it for lying to a naive 11-year-old.

Also, turns out I don't trust doctors now.

So that's exciting.


  1. Oh man, I had tubes put in my ears when I was young too because of repetitive ear infections. Both of mine fell out like they should, but I continue to have ear problems because of my Lyme disease (which was actually the case of my ear infections as a child). I can give you many more reasons to not trust most doctors, but I'll just say: I can relate.

    1. Ear infection sufferers unite! Or something.

      My right one fell out somewhere along the way - we think maybe a pool at Disney World. The left one just had to be all stubborn-like. Pfffft.

  2. Your tubes were intended to be more permanent than the ones kids usually get. That's why they lasted longer. And YES, he did just rip that thing out of your ear while in the office. You actually handled it well, but boy were you mad!

    1. I maintain you would also have been mad if he ripped stuff out of YOUR ear!

  3. My mom had chronic ear infections as a kid. But being raised by a mean, alcoholic sociopath, she never got long term medical treatment for it, so now she still covers her ears in pain if you so much as speak in too loud of a voice.

    Anyway. That doctor: what a dick! I can imagine the impulse he had -- if you've ever spent an hour dealing with a kid's panic over the pain of something like getting a splinter out, even though it would only take like 4 seconds without the fuss, you would probably fantasize about this tactic. But obviously, you can't do it! Because of what you just described! Way to obliterate a child's trust in your labcoat and clipboard, asshole.

    For the record, what you've gotta do in these situations is get your doctoring shit all ready, tell your child to like, GRIP HANDS with the nurse, gently WARN the kid this will hurt for a second, and THEN do it quickly. Don't give them time to panic, but DO give them time to prepare! The cognition they devote to following the instructions about the gripping helps deviate attention away from fear, at least for a few seconds. It works with splinters too. Actually, splinters are my main area of expertise on this topic, but from what you describe, it sounds like it would at least be better than SURPRISE PAIN.

    1. And even if I was like six at the time, I might understand the lying-to-me impulse. But I was 11. I was old enough to hold still for a doctor, hahaha.

      And yes, exactly. I HATE dental work, and every time I've ever gone in they've told me what they're going to do, but also had me pay attention to something else in the room - usually the dental hygienist. It does wonders just having something to FOCUS on. And it always did.


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