Last weekend I noticed that I was having a hard time hearing out of my left ear. I have had to go to my doctor on occasion and have her flush it out when the wax has built up for some reason, so I figured that was what was going on here. Monday was a holiday, so my doctor was not in. I went to my sister’s house that day, and noticed that my ear was feeling increasingly more “stuffed up”. I went on Facebook that night and some friends suggested some home remedies. I tried the solution of peroxide with water, and let it sit in my ear for a few minutes before letting it drain out. Nothing helped. It seemed to plug back up in just a few seconds.
Wednesday morning I woke up with terrible pain in my ear. I had never had that before. I suspected an ear infection, so I called my husband and asked if he would take me to Urgent Care when he got home. We went right after work, and only had to wait for them to prepare a chart for me. I explained what was happening to the doctor, and she looked in my ear. She saw wax, and that was pretty much blocking her view from anything else. She said she would put drops in my ears, and then the nurse would flush it out for me. She would check it after that to see if I had an infection. All of this took place over about 30 minutes. The flushing out hurt, but it also seemed to bring relief. I remember the moment that the nurse seemed to break through whatever was blocking my hearing. But when she showed me the little basin of what she got, it didn’t look like times past when I had had this procedure done. My ear still hurt. When the doctor came back in, she accidentally looked in the wrong ear, and we all got a chuckle out of that. When she looked in my left ear (for 2 seconds), she told me I had an infection, wrote me a script for oral meds and drops and sent me home. End of story? Uh, not by a long shot.
The next morning I woke up, my ear was completely plugged again, and the pain was like nothing I have ever felt in my life. It had me in tears several times throughout the day. My husband called my doctor, and she told me to come right in. Andy was still at work, so I had to drive to the office feeling like that, and my head practically resting on my shoulder because the pressure helped a bit.
When my doctor went to look in my ear after I described the last few days to her, she could not even get her instrument into the ear canal. It was not wax, it was completely swollen shut. In fact, my whole face and cheek surrounding it were swollen. She was VERY concerned, as was I. Because I don’t have a spleen and ANY infection can be very serious for me, and I am also diabetic, she thought it best to send me to the ER. I agreed.
We left for the ER as soon as my husband was able to join us. I sat in triage for nearly 90 minutes in EXCRUCIATING pain, fighting back tears it hurt so bad. I was finally taken to a room, and I could hold the tears no longer. The doctor came in as I was wiping my eyes. He said this didn’t look good if ear pain was causing me to cry. He took the same instrument my doctor had checked my ear with. He barely put it up to my ear and said, “You’re not going anywhere…we’re keeping you, and I’m going to have a specialist look at this”.
I was immediately started on an IV, which in and of itself would normally send me into an anxious fit…I didn’t give a rip. I just wanted her to get that thing in there, because I knew it meant GOOD pain meds were soon to follow. I have had both Vicodin and Dilotid before, and they stop any pain I have had, and wipe me right out. They gave me Dilotid first, and though it made me more comfortable, it didn’t take away the pain :(. That told me I was in serious trouble.
The nurse ran some blood tests to check my kidney function for a CT scan, and to check my white blood count. It came back very high which means a serious infection. Next the doctor came in with a tiny tube called a “wick”. He needed to insert that in my ear to “open it up” to be able to get drops in. Yeah, right. This would hurt… I could not bite my lip or clench my teeth, because it hurt my ear too much (I had not been able to eat or drink anything all day). This was a very painful procedure, but it enabled the doctor to put 5 glorious numbing drops into my ear. Again, it didn’t take away the pain, just soothed it a bit.
Next I went for a CT scan. I warned the tech of my fear of the contrast because it made me nauseous each time, and I didn’t like the closeness of the machine. She said she would be with me most of the time, explained the whole procedure in detail to me, so I was able to relax. It was over before I knew it.
I was taken to a room on the ER Observation unit,and there I stayed until Friday night. The CT scan came back showing that I have Mastoiditis, which is an infection of the mastoid bone, or temporal bone of the skull behind the ear. It usually is the result of an ear infection gone bad, but not having a spleen probably greatly contributed. This is a very serious infection any way you slice it because it can lead to more serious infections like meningitis, or inner ear infections. I was immediately put on IV antibiotics, an anti-inflammatory medication to take the swelling down, and dilotid every 4 hours, and the numbing drops. Needless to say, I stayed in my bed the whole time I was there. No tv,no phone, no lights. I just slept when the pain didn’t keep me awake.
The ENT was unable to make a consult at the hospital, so I will be going to his office on Monday. They sent me home Friday night with oral antibiotics, a script for Vicodin for the pain, those numbing drops, and 600mg of Ibuprofen to try to take this swelling down. That is the reason I have no hearing, or very little in my left ear right now.
I have very little pain for a couple hours until the meds wear off, and then I’m miserable until I can take the next dose. One of my nurses fashioned a wonderful little heating pad for me yesterday, and I kept that pressed against my ear and face most of the time. When the heat wore off, I just kept it there for the pressure. My husband took a picture of the patient using it… I know, bed hair! :) I didn’t care, believe me…
I am home now, resting in my own bed, taking the meds prescribed for me, and praying for some relief soon. I’m praying that God will protect me from the side effects of this condition, and that no further infections will develop. If my symptoms worsen at any time, I am to go right back to the hospital. Otherwise, I will see the ear specialist on Monday and see where we go from there. We leave for vacation a week from Monday, so I’m hoping I’ll be better by then. In worst case scenarios, that bone has to be surgically removed because of the damage to it, or the risk of further dangerous infections. I’m praying it will not come to that. I’m praying that my feeble immune system will be able to kick this infection’s tail, and get rid of it. I don’t really want to go through a major neck surgery right now. :(
I’ll keep you posted as I can. It’s painful to sit up for too long right now, so I’m pretty much just keeping up with Facebook and emails on my iPhone because I can lie down. I have a hard time getting on my blog on there… If there is an update and I’m unable to write it, perhaps I’ll have a friend do a guest post for me.
I hope we’re able to get relief, healing, and solutions soon. I also hope they can give me some preventative measures to keep this from happening again, as it seems I may be prone to it now with a weakened immune system…I’ll let you know how it goes…