Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Thank God for Myringotomies

Yesterday I had a procedure done on my ear that used to instill abject fear into me as a child. It's really quite a simple little operation if you watch it done (which you can here if you are interested in that sort of thing: Myringotomy Tube Surgery Video)

A myringotomy, for those of you who aren't up on popular ear surgery lingo, is when they cut a tiny incision in your eardrum and place in the hole a tiny metal or plastic tube, often with flanges on it. It's pretty much like inserting a button into a button hole. Not a huge deal. Unless you're a kid. And they have to knock you out at the hospital to do it. And you have to have it done 12 times by the time you're 10.

I remember hearing the news as a child at the doctor's office that I needed another tube put in because the previous set, as usual, had fallen out. My stomach would churn and my heart would race. And then I would dread the event for the whole time until we had to leave for the hospital. One time, after I'd had it done several times already, I apparently announced to my parents on the morning of the surgery that I had thought it over and I'd decided that I no longer wanted to go through with it, so I wasn't going. They could go to the hospital if they wanted to, but I'd be at home sleeping if they needed me.

I think as a kid what was so traumatic for me was not the operations themselves, but all the stuff leading up to them, including IVs, sitting in waiting rooms, drawing blood, getting your pulse taken, shots, and of course the final roll down the hall to the operating room. They put one of those little fabric hats with the elastic edges on me, I'm sure to keep my hair out of their way, and I wore one of those little gowns that for some strange reason can never be fully closed in the back. The nurses would push me down the hall on the bed, and as we rattled away from my parents, I'd clutch my stuffed dog Ruffer, who was allowed to come with me to the operating room, of course wearing a fabric stretchy hat of his own. My mom would remind me that even though she and dad couldn't come with me, Jesus and Ruffer would be by my side through the whole thing. That was always a comfort to me. Then the worst would come--the big black mask. They'd slowly lower the mask over my face, and I'd breath in the cold, sweet air, listening to the hiss of the tank next to me, counting backwards until I felt my body relax and lost consciousness. . .

Today if you're an adult and you have a skilled physician with a steady hand they can do the procedure right there in the office without knocking you out, which is what we did yesterday. It amuses me how my doctor, who is extremely adept at his craft, likes to point out his level of skill in comparison to other doctors. "Other physicians won't do this procedure in the office because they are afriad they might make a mistake or not have a steady hand. It doesn't concern me, however," he says with a wave of his hand. He takes about 4 minutes start-to-finish to slip that puppy in, and I have to say that even though I was gripping the chair until my knuckles turned white and sweating profusely the whole time, I felt hardly any pain. There is some discomfort, but more importantly I got some relief from 6 months of popping and snarfing and snorting caused by the build-up of pressure and fluid behind my eardrum. Glory be and Hallelujah! It probably doesn't seem to be much to anyone else, but when you've been sniffing every time you swallow round the clock for months on end, it seems like being released from prison to have it stop.

My doctor does a fantastic job on my ears. Ten years ago I had to have my right ear drum replaced, and his work was so flawless that other doctors who looked at that ear were not even able to tell I'd had the operation. And when I told them about it, I suddenly became the local freak show. Doctors would come out of the woodwork throughout the office to stand in line to take a peek at the masterful work done on my tympanic membrane. Unfortunately his patch job didn't stand the test of time, and it looks like I'm going to have to have it done again this fall or spring, which I'm not happy about. I will have to be in the hospital, and I will have to have the mask or an IV to put me out. But at least I know one of the best doctors in the country will be working on me. And my parents and loving husband will be with me as much as they can. And Jesus will still come with me, like he did when I was little. And Ruffer will probably be there too.

2 comments:

Stacey said...

OK, so that video is the coolest thing ever (other than thinking about the blood draining into your ear - yuck). Thanks for linking it.

David A. Zimmerman said...

I thought you were posting about "my ring tones" but was quickly disabused of that notion. I can suggest some IV stuff that might serve as a good substitute for anaesthesia . . .