Thursday, June 25, 2015

My Ear Problem, pt. 1: The Onion

If you're a mom with a good memory for the causes of your child's tears, you may remember that your little one got vaccinated for Hib, or haemophilus influenzae: twice. That said, the darned thing is still remarkably active in the elementary school scene. (Vaccinate the herd, People!) Both Badgerettes got pneumonia from it this late spring, and we parents--recipients of weeks of cough spray--developed bronchitis.

During Ineffective Antibiotic Courses 1 & 2, I coughed so much that I shot some of the evil directly into my ear. I sat up all Wednesday night, holding the left side of my head and trying to contain the exhausted, panicky fear that an artery was about to explode.

The Prince of the Forest, who just a couple years ago lost 75% of his left ear's function in a case of sudden hearing loss, rushed me to our ENT. The doc took one look inside my ear and declared, "Yep, those ear fluids look pretty angry." Which is actually a good sign it's not sudden hearing loss.

The doc informed me the that the first two antibiotics should kill every bug alive in my too-welcoming habitat... except haemophilus influenzae: "Thankfully, cephalosporins are effective, so I'm going to give you Omnicef....No, it's really going to be ok!"

That last part was her responding to my sudden pained and perplexed expression, and I just nodded, not wanting to explain my two primary thoughts:

1. OMNI? Was Alfaandomegacef deemed too long by the marketing team?
2. Didn't Will Smith help a Cephalosporin to give birth in Men in Black?
Spit-up coming in 3...2...1...
As for popping yet another antibiotic: sigh... ok, let's stock up on Fage yogurts and refrigerated probiotics and get this intestine-wrecking party started.

Three days of suffering followed. I made 35 Google searches regarding "stop ear congestion pain." I suspected that if I searched just one more variation, I would get this message: "Greetings, Badger! Your persistence has paid off. Here is the secret recipe for relief that we don't give to those who made 34 or fewer Google searches on the same topic!"

I even tried WikiHow's suggestions:

First of all, Look at that picture! I look so much like that illustration, it's eerie.
 Wiki suggestion 1: Try gravity. Bounce your head around. Sleep face down.
I almost capsized doing this simple move.
Take a nap? That's a gift, not medical treatment!
If you are older than 4 months and no longer have a hard button of a nose,
I recommend a 2 pillow arrangement so that breathing may continue
uninterrupted during your nap.
Wiki suggestion 2: wash out your nose with a Bedouin goat's bladder of  water. 
Under normal circumstances, I'd have no problem with washing out my nose.
BUT, this WILL shoot more crud into your ear, Infection Sufferer. Just say no.
 Wiki suggestion #3: Futz around with your ear. Chew gum. Yawn.
None of that will work, and you'll have tried it a million times before resorting to WikiHow,
but let's just admire the clarity of this illustration for a moment....

Finally, I caved and went crowd-sourcing on Facebook.

Ok. It's been 3 days with brutal ear infection. I'm on antibiotics. Anyone have solid advice on reducing clogged/swollen sensation taking over half my head? Thanks in advance.

This is when I discovered that Facebook Friends are sassier than I expected:

You could hold an apple in your left hand and a spatula in your right while standing on your right foot and stick out your tongue as far as it will go. Then, grab a kiddo, have them snap a photo of you doing it, post it on FB and then we will all feel better.

Another Friend suggested heating half an onion and holding it to my ear. I thought whaaaa...? No....

Then, more Friends suggested the same. I was sure that I was being pranked--I mean, who doesn't want to see a picture of a friend holding an onion up to her ear? It sounds like the MOST obvious choice for satirical rag The Onion.

Then I noticed that the majority of Pro-Onion Friends were German or German-culture-lovin'. It dawned on me that the suggestion was sincere. Germans like "natural" treatments. In 1997, as a visiting American Literature lecturer in Mainz, Germany, I had a terrible sinus infection. My ENT proudly informed me that my medicines were made with "extract of ananas--ahhh, Und pine resin!" All I wanted was extract of moldy bread, but I gave the double pine treatment a try.

Didn't work. My first two full German sentences were, "Heute, mein schleim ist dunkel braun" (Today, my mucus is dark brown) and "Mein Got, John Denver ist tot!" (My God, John Denver is dead!) Physically and emotionally, the autumn of 1997 was a traumatic time.

Back in 2015: One more day of pain and I asked the Prince to heat up an onion.

Rule #1 of Onion Treatment: Be specific with your onion-heater. I was not, and The Prince wanted to be thorough, so he nuked it for one full minute. Even wrapped in a napkin, the tender edge of my ear was flash steamed.

It's not so bad a week later, but you can still make out the pink burn.
Twenty  minutes later, I put that hot onion against my ear again. As a dear friend noted, I do look optimistic, which indicates how very desperate I felt. This being the 21st century, I posted the pics and waited for the online giggles. I did not wait long.

My favorite FB comment: "Can you hear the Farmer's Market?"
What did I feel, laying there with hot onion on my ear? Deeply comforted, like a warm, silent vacuum was pulling my ear back to normal. I immediately Googled famous quotes about onions:

Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep. (Carl Sandburg)

Oh Carl, you're so right. In fact, Life is like a bag of onions: it's surprisingly heavy, and it stinks.

I drifted away into a reverie of warm calm, not even minding that I smelled like a roasted chicken in the early stages of doneness....I recalled how much I loved Louis Sachar's novel Holes. (Don't watch the movie, the book is so much better.)

Onions: not just a metaphor, a significant element of the plot!
My German-ish Friends rejoiced, "YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!! Onions are magical!!!!!!" (Agreed; and along those lines, have you read Holes?).

Although hot onion treatment did absolutely nothing to clear the congestion in my ear, it may be The Perfect Warm Compress.

I loved its ability to retain warmth so much that, the next day, I strapped a napkin-wrapped onion to my head with a child's belt and took a nap on the sofa. Upon waking and looking at myself in the mirror, I renamed myself.

Call me Stevie Ray Vaugnion.

Copyright 2015, Tanya Monier

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