I was talking with my sister Cho the other day. She works in a hospital emergency room and, being the funny one in the family, she has a knack for turning tales of horrible suffering into one liners that serve the entire human experience up on the plate of farce. Particularly memorable was her comment that “the triage notes read like the funnies.” People apparently go to the emergency room for a whole range of bizarre reasons that evoke questions ranging from, “Wait, so why is this an emergency?” to “Um… how exactly did you punch yourself in the face with a chainsaw?”
I’ve been pretty lucky in the “need for an emergency room” department, knock on wood. I spent half an hour there once as a precaution after a slightly nasty car accident but have otherwise managed to get by with nothing more urgent than a visit to Express Care. I don’t know if this was just what it’s called at the hospital we went to growing up or if this is a common term, but it was for things that required more urgency than the family physician could handle but not as much urgency as, say, a facial chainsaw wound.
Even that I only recall visiting twice for myself. I recall many hours spent playing with the bead roller coaster while waiting for someone else in my family to receive care, but my visits were infrequent and, with the small exception of the time the earpiece of my glasses got jammed into my forehead in kindergarten, the most exciting of these visits was for the time I lost my hearing. I had a horrible earache and just could not persuade my right ear to hear anything normally.
As it turns out, I have inherited my dad’s tendency to overproduce earwax. Seriously. The most eventful trip I have yet made to the hospital was for earwax blockage.
I have recently been reminded, however, of just how serious a situation that can feel like. After that last trip, maybe fourteen or so years ago, I diligently followed the nurse’s recommendations for keeping my ears clean. Once in a while during swimming season or a head cold I’ll get the temporarily fogginess in my right ear, but it has always gone away after a few shakes to the head or a little hydrogen peroxide down the ol’ ear canal. This cold and flu season (brought to you by Rites of Passage for First-Year Teachers, Inc.) has thrown more at my body than it knows what to do with. The minute my body thinks it’s past the worst and lets my immune system take a breather, some sneaky bug pulls out its kegs of gunpowder and sets to work.
My right ear is apparently my body’s weakest link. Sometime last week it decided that there was nothing else it could do but clog itself up thoroughly and hope its supplies would outlast the siege. I spent about twenty minutes waging intense chemical warfare against the barricade and managed to break down just enough that sound could pass through without experiencing some Doppler-esque shift relative to my other ear. Then John came and kissed my ear to make me feel better, resettling the barricade firmly into place.
All I can hope for is that my ear will give up before I develop an unhealthy empathy for Van Gogh–that is one triage note a person would never live down.