Back when we went to Indonesia for vacation I wasn’t feeling so good. I had a bad cough and started to just feel pretty puny in general. I hate going to see doctors, so I kept hoping I’d just get past it and within a week or two I’d feel better. That never came…
On February 17th I’d had enough because I actually lost my hearing in my left ear completely, so I took a sick day off work (only my second sick day off work in the past 4 years) and I went to see an ENT here in Malaysia. The experience was not so good. It was my first visit to what is supposedly the best hospital in JB, which required us to go back and forth from the ENT’s office to a registration area, then to a second registration area for a short appraisal, then to the ENT’s office again, down to the pharmacy and then back up to the ENT’s office for a final tutorial on the medications. It took about 3 hours in total and on each visit to the ENT’s office we were the only people there.
The doctor said my ears were full of fluid and the passage that normally allows them to drain into your throat/nose was blocked. He prescribed me some antibiotics and this nose wash contraption, and at one point he mentioned there was an option involving a procedure to cut open my ear drums — I gave a quick “hell no” to that one though.
Fast forward a week and a half. I finished taking my medication and I did my twice daily nasal douche religiously (that thing is actually incredible, but I was always afraid of it because I remember reading a story once about an amoeba eating someone’s brain after being introduced through a neti pot). Zoe would watch me cleanse my nasal passage each night, and that thing was so forceful that the saline solution would come out my other nostril and my mouth, leading Zoe to make a ‘yuk’ face and ask “Daddy, you got boogers in your nose?”
By February 26th I had actually gotten even worse, which I thought wasn’t possible. My hearing in my left ear hadn’t improved at all and by the 26th the hearing in my right ear was gone. I couldn’t hear myself talking so not only was it difficult to communicate because I couldn’t hear what people were saying to me, but it was hard to gauge whether I was yelling or whispering and it led to many confusing conversations for everyone involved.
On the 26th I took yet another sick day because Jean made me an appointment to visit an ENT in Singapore. Zoe and Logan were sniffling by that point so we were worried that whatever I had that I’d been unable to shake was spreading. Jean made them appointments to visit their doctor too. We headed over to ‘Pore and went to my doctor first. He was very quick and didn’t waste a single second on small talk. His nurses kept calling me back and then he’d kick me out for about 5 minutes and they’d call me back again. I went into his office or this tiny room next door about 5 different times. The first visit he got my quick rundown of the history of my illness, then I had a hearing test in the tiny room, then he did a brief exam and said they’d need to use a camera to check deeper. He sprayed some nasty tasting local anesthesia into my nose and it ran down the back of my throat. I waited in the lobby for it to kick in and they called me back to his room again.
The taste in my mouth was disgusting from the anesthesia, but that’s the good part. He pulls out this long ass flexible black cable, maybe 12-14 inches long, and that’s the camera he inserted into each nostril and snaked it up into my nose and down into my throat. It was terrible. The only good thing was that they had a flatscreen tv right in front of me where I could watch as he narrated — “look at all that mucus”, “there’s your voicebox, it’s really red”, and so on. He pulled it out and went into the second nostril. When he finally finished he slowly pulled that thing out and I swear he had almost the entire thing up in my nose. This is why I hate going to see doctors…
He was just getting started though. He said that I had a sinus infection and severe ear infections in both ears. He said for immediate relief he was going to cut open my ear drums and suck out the fluid, and to wait in the lobby while they cleared it with my insurance. What? Cut my ear drums? I was basically in a daze, but I’d been miserable for a month at this point so I figured I would go forward with it if the insurance would cover the procedure. Sure enough they did, and I was back in his office.
He laid me back in his chair into a position where my lower body was elevated above my head and it felt like I was going to flip over backwards, then he had a couple of nurses grab my head and turn it sideways. They held on tight as he began the surgery. He said the anesthesia in my ear would feel like a bee sting, and it was indeed the most painful part. It hurt pretty badly but was over within about 4 seconds. It reminded me of getting a novocaine shot at the dentist, where the shot going in doesn’t hurt but them pushing all the fluid into your gums sure does. Shortly after the anesthesia he said he was going to make the cut and this was the worst part of all. It didn’t hurt a bit, but it was very loud and I could actually hear him sawing my ear drum, with a “shhh-shhh, shhh-shhh, shhh-shhh” as he cut back and forth a tiny incision into my ear. Next came the deafening sound of rushing air, which again was surprisingly similar to the sound you hear at the dentist when they are irrigating your mouth and they stick that sucker vacuum thing in there to get all the water out, only it’s a vacuum pushed into a hole that was just cut in your ear drum and the fluid coming out is mucus that’s been in there for several weeks.
They flipped me over and did the second ear, then told me to take it easy for a few minutes because it could mess up my equilibrium. I waited in the lobby, paid, got my medicine and went on my way. I could actually hear much better, but there was still fluid sloshing around in there, to which the doctor said was fine because the hole he cut would allow it to dry since it would take 2-3 weeks for the hole to heal. Lovely… I was told to wear ear plugs during my showers for 3 weeks because I couldn’t get the inside of my ears wet.
We went on to see the pediatrician. He said the girls were ok and they’d be over their sickness within a week or so (this came true). We headed on back to Malaysia and I rested the remainder of the day. Yellow liquid rolled out of my ear for the next 2 weeks whenever I’d go to sleep, but at least I can hear again.
I took that Thursday and Friday (February 27th and 28th) off work to recuperate since the doctor told me to get plenty of rest and for some reason to drink plenty of water. I had a big bag of different medications to take… Thursday was great because I took it easy, actually sleeping in until almost 9am! We went out for breakfast at a local joint, where we got some roti canai (prounounced “row-tee chunai”), a delicious Indian flatbread, and some cendol from a vendor we see on the road near our house a lot. We’ve decided we’re going to make the effort to try more local places since we’ve spent the last year either cooking at home or eating at 6-8 different places that are pretty much non-Malaysian (an Italian place, McDonald’s, a sushi joint, a seafood place, a Thai restaurant and a couple of Chinese places — we love them all, but that rotation has gotten old).
On Friday afternoon we drove up to KL since several weeks earlier we had purchased flights from KL to Brunei. We decided that instead of waking up at midnight and driving straight to the airport for our early morning departure it would be better to get an inexpensive hotel near the airport and go up there early.
Here are the photos of our doctor visits from February 26th and some shots of the local food options we tried on the 27th. If you’re squeamish, I will warn you now, I’ve included a photo from my nasal endoscopy and it’s pretty gross — it’s the last picture in the group so this is your warning to avoid it. If on the other hand you’re curious, enjoy my sickly nose/throat (my voicebox is supposedly the v-shaped photo in the lower right image).