While the plane was descending on my flight from Toronto last week, I felt my right ear go into some distress. An avid gum-chewer most of the time, I realized too late I had forgotten to pop the trusty Trident into my mouth having been too absorbed in conversation with my seat-mate, the HR man from Sobeys. By the time I noticed the crackling in my ear, it was too late. I deplaned and went home where my ear condition worsened as the day progressed.That evening and the next day I did extensive research on "airplane ear" or “barotrauma” and felt myself to be quite an expert by Saturday evening. My room-mate Tom refers to me as Barb Fullerton, MD….Mountain Doctor. The MacMillan girls call that DWOL….Doctors WithOut Licence.
I treated myself according to online direction—hot compresses, yawning, gum-chewing, valsalva. Valsalva. That’s the medical term we doctors use which means pinching your nostrils and exhaling to cause the ears to pop thereby unblocking the Eustachian Tube.
Eustachian Tube. That’s the canal in the ear that allows air to flow into the middle ear to balance pressure. As you can see, I am quite confident in my medical knowledge…a little TOOOO confident as it turns out.
By Sunday morning I was deaf in my right ear, and the pain was heading toward excruciating. I decided it was time to consult a DWL----Doctor With Licence. One millisecond after she looked into my ear she said, “It’s an infection.” I was shocked; I had not even considered that! I had misdiagnosed. I could hardly believe it. I got my two antibiotic prescriptions filled and headed back to the hills with my room-mate Tom at the wheel. He didn’t say much but I saw his eyebrows raise and his eyes roll when I admitted to him that I had been wrong in my diagnosis.
Tom, uxorious as usual, waited on me hand and foot with tea and blankets and hot compresses. By late afternoon, I pried myself off the couch, grabbed a knife, and told him I was going to the garden to get some greens.
“You can’t do that!” he exclaimed. “You have an imbalance in your Fallopian Tube!”Tom has a way with words. He has a way of mixing them up. It makes me MAD because I think he is just being careless, and if he gave ANY THOUGHT WHATSOEVER to what he was going to say, he wouldn’t make such RIDICULOUS mistakes!
“My fallopian tube!” I yelled. “MY FALLOPIAN TUBE!!!???" I’m impatient with this quaint little quirk of his at the best of times, but fueled by pain and painkillers, perhaps I was a little harsher than usual in my response.
“I mean your Estrogen Tube,” he sputtered, his eye on the knife in my hand.
“My ESTROGEN TUBE!?” I screamed. “I DON'T believe it! EUSTACHIAN TUBE! I have an infection in my EUSTACHIAN TUBE!!!” I yelled, waving my hands and stamping my feet for emphasis.
“Right,” Tom repeated, cowering in his armchair, his eye still on the knife. “Eustachian Tube.”
Until Next Time.......