More Zaniness From Chez Freire
by Nicole Freire
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving. Did you eat too much like we did? Did you try and hog all the stuffing to yourself like I did?
Actually, Turkey Day is sort of a blur to me. Why? I knew you'd ask that.
It breaks down like this:
1) Two weeks ago, our DVD/VCR player died. Really died, electronic death. But it was ok because we could still run DVD's through my husband's laptop. This laptop gets a lot of use, as we have a Mac, which I love, but I have children who have teachers that insist that assignments must be done on a PC, because Bill Gates has secretly brainwashed everyone into thinking that there is one and only one MS Word.
2) Four days ago the laptop died. This was a bit more of a frantic and traumatic death. I think at one point I suggested burning sage over the thing. Eldest daughter started to freak out, as all of her homework assignments were on there. Other people (not me) got all twitchy when reminded that their copies of iTunes were now lost. I have no idea what we'll do now. I plan on asking Santa for a new one.
3) Tuesday night at 4am I woke up in tears. Actual tears, not crocodile tears. I was crying so hard that my husband jumped out of bed and ran toward the kids' room, thinking it was one of them sobbing. But no, it was his wife, sitting in bed, crying. He kept asking me why I was crying but I was beyond speech, as someone had taken an ice pick while I was asleep and jammed it into my right ear. I was almost hysterical with pain.
Do you remember back in the day, when Grateful Dead tickets were about to go on sale, but you had forgotten to do mail order, so your only chance to get tickets was to start dialing Ticketmaster as soon as they opened the phone lines at 8am? And you'd sit there on an old couch with some incense burning and a cup of tea, just hitting redial over and over and over, hoping to get through? And when you did? And they weren't sold out yet? Man, that was a great feeling.
Interestingly enough, you can still duplicate that experience by being sick and desperate for a same day appointment. At 8am I dialed the Sansum Clinic, and kept hitting redial until I got through. Then I cried on the phone, and got an appointment for later that morning.
Part of being a parent means that often you have to put aside your own feelings (or ice pick pain) and attend to whatever your children need. In this case, Eldest Daughter was getting her braces off that morning, an event that pretty much trumps everything else. I had taken a bucketful of Tylenol, and was determined to hold out until my doctor's appointment.
As we sat in the waiting room, daughter very excited, mother trying not to cry in public, my daughter leaned over to me and said, "Hey Mom, did you know that there are a bunch of red bumps on your ear?"
"Yes, really Mom, red bumps. Here, give me your phone and I'll take a picture of them. See?"
An hour later, braces off, I dropped her off at school and headed over to the doctor's office, a full 45 minutes early, figuring that if I was going to do anymore hysterical crying, then the doctor's office was the place to do it.
I don't know what other people do with themselves while waiting for the doctor, but I like to play a little game in which I try to imagine the worst possible medical outcome for whatever ailment has brought me into the waiting room.
Because my ear hurt so much - really stratospheric heights on pain - I was hoping, actually hoping, that the doctor would take one look in my ear and decide that the only course of action would be to lance my eardrum. Obviously that would hurt, but it wouldn't hurt as much as I was feeling, and I decided that lancing would be a good thing. And there was the possibility of pus.
My other possible outcome was that the doctor would look in my ear, murmur something slightly worrying into the telephone and send me straight over to the ENT department, where that doctor would take one look at my ear and schedule me for emergency ear surgery, thus ruining my Thanksgiving weekend, AND rendering me unable to fly to Seattle for Christmas because of my ear recovery.
Thankfully, my runaway imagination came to a halt as I was finally called into the inner sanctum of the doctor's office --- the examining room.
I have a very nice doctor and she's known me for years, so seeing me sobbing didn't upset her. I kept crying and pointing to my ear, and when she got out the little light thingy I was beginning to feel a little relief, as surely she was going to look into my ear and say something along the lines of, "Why this is the most infected ear I've ever seen!"
Instead she said something that made me cry even harder.
"Your ear looks perfectly normal. No infection whatsoever."
We went through the checklist. Throat looked ok. No fever. Blood pressure good. Lymph nodes ok. No nasal congestion.
Finally, in desperation, I pulled out my cell phone and showed my doctor the pictures my daughter had taken only a few hours earlier, the ones with the "big red bumps" on my ear.
"Oh." said my doctor. "Well, that changes everything."
Ear cancer, I thought. Ear tumor? Cockroach crawled into my ear? Oh no, what if it was a spider in my ear?
My doctor, obviously relieved, cleared her throat.
"You have shingles."
"In my ear?"
"Yes, in your ear. Shingles run along nerves and the nerve passing by your ear is C3. That's why it hurts so much."
"In my ear? Really?"
I sat there on the crinkly paper in the examining room. SHINGLES. IN MY EAR.
SHINGLES! IN! MY! EAR!
One more time.
SHINGLES. IN MY EAR.
I had no idea such a thing was possible.
I left the office with three separate prescriptions and a note that said "Nicole has SHINGLES IN HER EAR. She needs to rest" (ok, maybe that isn't what it said, not word for word, but the sentiment was there).
So, I'm taking antivirals, which have to be taken 5 times a day. I've been carrying the bottle of pills and my phone around with me at all times. I've set the phone to alarm me every two hours, and then I take the viral meds, along with some crazy strong pain medications, the kind that are written on triplicate forms and make the pharmacist double check your driver's license.
I'm not sure if it's the pain or the discomfort, or just the fact that I have SHINGLES IN MY EAR that makes me chatty, but I've told just about everyone I've come into contact with that I have SHINGLES IN MY EAR, and have you ever heard of such a thing?
Luckily most people are happy to play the, "who has the worst illness" game with me. This is how I know that one lady had shingles all over her scalp. Another had shingles covering her breasts. I've heard of people who had shingles on their backs, on their face and many other bodily locations that perhaps you would rather not read about.
I've gotten to compare pain levels with people ("What? They only gave you Tylenol with codeine? How awful!"), discussed the whole, "wait until they crust over" portion of the shingles themselves, and discussed how much sleep someone with SHINGLES IN THEIR EAR needs. (A lot. Hours and hours of sleep.)
I can hear you guys already, fingers poised over the keyboard, waiting to post a comment. If you think you can beat SHINGLES IN MY EAR, then be my guest.
I'm going to try and figure out how I can work SHINGLES IN MY EAR to warrant some more pumpkin pie.
Oh, and the t-shirt ideas are just pouring out of me. Or it could be a band name! Or I can just walk around for the next two weeks saying, "SHINGLES IN MY EAR! Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?"
Well, of course not.
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Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.