24 January 2012

A Year of Healing

image via Etsy

It's been a year ago yesterday since The Man found me at my apartment very ill and insisted I go to a clinic for some antibiotics. I had been sick for over a week and in severe pain for four days. I of course thought I was going to start feeling better at any moment and it was all nothing to worry about, even though I had been unable to lie down to sleep because of the pain in my head and neck for almost two days.

After a quick visit to the physician's assistant at the quickie clinic, she refused to treat me due to concerns about what was going on with me and sent me to urgent care. The urgent care physician also refused to treat me and told me that I needed to go to the emergency room immediately for a CAT scan. Not my best Sunday afternoon ever. I spent 10 hours in the ER in a chair, part of that time vastly bettered by an IV drip of drugs. The CAT scan at midnight verified that I was going to be spending the night in the hospital for what I thought was a couple of heavy doses of antibiotics.

The next morning when the doctor visited I asked him if I was going to be able to go home that day and he looked at me like I was a little nuts and said, "You aren't going anywhere for a few days." I took that pretty hard since I had been lead to believe it might just be an overnight stay. I was diagnosed with Mastoiditis, an infection of the bones in the skill right behind and below the ear. When untreated it can be  fatal. Once I realized how sick I was I could understand why it was so serious.

Four days in the hospital, after an allergic reaction to my medication, dramatic choking incident in the Ear, Nose & Throat clinic of the hospital, heavy doses of pain killers and antibiotics and the two most horrible roommates you could ever hope for in a hospital, and I was on my way home for a very long recuperation.

I was pretty emotionless in the hospital. I didn't have the energy to care about anything and I was probably numbed out with drugs. But when I got home and realized the magnitude of what I was going through the emotions hit pretty hard. I was completely deaf in one ear and that created a lot of frustration. I couldn't hear people talking to me just a few feet away and found myself telling everyone who talked to me, "I can't hear you" with a lot of angst.

My voice box was also very damaged in the choking episode in the hospital from the reaction to my medication. When I spoke I thought it sounded like I was yelling, but people kept telling me I was whispering. So I was continually being asked to speak up. Of course I didn't feel well for many weeks, I couldn't do the things I normally did, I did a lot of lying around. I didn't feel well enough to read or do anything interesting. I'm sure part of that was that my head was the part of me that was damaged and focusing on anything was pretty much impossible.

The scariest thing of all to me is that for several months afterwards I could not determine where sound was coming from and I could not hear people walking up behind me. Having people scare the living daylights out of you from behind you or at your side all the time is a very disconcerting feeling. Crossing the street without being able to hear the sound of cars coming and going is equally as scary. I also could only use the telephone in my right ear.

The worst part of the entire recovery process was not knowing if my hearing would ever come back. I knew this could have a major impact on the rest of my life and I spent a bit of time crying about what would be. For some reason, one of my biggest worries was that if I ever had small children I would not be able to hear them calling me or crying or if they were hurt. That and the idea of never being able to sing again due to damage to my voice box and hearing loss were the two things that really got me upset.

I am full of gratitude that as the months passed my voice recovered and even though I could not hear well I could speak and sing. As the months passed I began to slowly notice improvements in my hearing. Six months after my hospitalization I returned to the hospital for a follow up hearing test. Just driving into the parking lot of the hospital I became very upset --A return to the scene of my personal tragedy. I shed a few tears talking with the audiologist as we prepared to test my hearing. Thankfully the test went well and showed that I was nearly completely recovered in my damaged ear. Even still I continue to only use the phone on my right ear. I still just feel more comfortable listening to the phone in that ear. I always feel a little anxious with the phone at my left ear now.

Today I go back for my one-year check up. While I will let the doctors take care of the physical checkup, I'm thinking about all the other things I learned from this experience. All the deeply personal lessons about my well-being, the fragility of life, the godsend of loving friends and family, and I think most importantly, my realizations that life is precious and should be tended as such. You can read more about my experiences in these posts.

Lastly, the image above is from the Etsy shop of JD Wolfe Pottery. Gorgeous, right? Beautiful ceramic pieces especially for Valentines Day. Beautiful idea for a special someone!

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