Health reform? Won’t punching my NP do the trick?

22 Mar

Halfway through our vacation, I got sick. I woke up with a sore throat, my head was stuffy, my nose was snotty… and it got progressively worse as the week unfolded. By the time we left for the airport on Sunday, I was rating myself at 45% of normal functionality and my amateur diagnosis was “sinus infection.”

When we got to the airport (the journey itself merits an entirely separate post), I popped a Benadryl, thinking that it would help dry out my sinuses and make the flight a bit less painful. (Both Alan and I travel frequently for work, so we’re no strangers to the pain that is flying with a sinus infection.)

It seemed to work – until the plane began its descent into DC. At that point it felt like someone was hammering nails into my ears and eyes. I tried desperately to yawn; I swallowed repeatedly; I tugged on my ears. Yet nothing helped.

On the ground, my ears were still firmly popped, making my internal noises seem louder than sounds in the real world. Sucking my snot was Volume 11, while Alan asking if I wanted to take a nap was Volume 2. By the time we hailed a cab, I was one snippy bitch: my head felt like it would explode, my ears ached, and it seemed like Alan was whispering everything to me.

I’ve had delayed popping occur before when I flew, so I figured that if I just came home and took a few Sudafed tablets, a little time would heal all. WRONG.

Last night, it was impossible to fall asleep… my ears felt like they had water in them and were on the brink of popping, if only I knew the right trick. Anyone looking into my bedroom window would’ve had me institutionalized: I jumped on each foot, I thrashed from side to side, I did a headstand, I put alcohol in my ears, I put a hot compress on my ear… I tried everything. No dice.

(Well, I tried *almost* everything. My childhood NP always said that urine was the absolute best thing to put in an ear to cure an ear infection, but I could never bring myself to try it. If my ears don’t pop by Friday, I’ll admit: all bets are off on my prolonged aversion to this method.)

This morning I woke up (excited to see that our new healthcare bill passed in the House over night) and called my doctor for an appointment. After I explained my predicament (potential sinus infection, unpopped ears from yesterday’s flight and a pending flight tomorrow), the doctor’s bitchy receptionist said, “I’ll have him call you sometime today.” Wow. And I even HAVE insurance!

That was a bit vague for my taste (or, more accurately, hearing), so I showered and headed out to the Arlington Urgent Care Clinic. I was initially thrilled because there was only one person in the waiting room ahead of me, and the intake staff seemed exceptionally nice, professional and competent. 90 minutes later, when I was still sitting in the waiting room, I began to have second thoughts. What the hell was taking so long??

When I finally got called into a room, I met with a Nurse Practitioner. I don’t have anything against NPs – in fact, as a kid I loved our NP and preferred her to my doctor because she was just as knowledgeable and twice as personable. This woman seemed nice as well, until she made me want to punch her in the face.

First, when describing my symptoms, I told her that the most annoying thing was that my ears hadn’t yet popped from the flight and that not only was it painful, but also that I couldn’t hear right. She smugly replied, “But you’ve heard everything I just said, so it can’t be that bad.” Well, then how about I put my foot up your ass then tell you that because you’re still able to take a dump you must be fine? Let’s see how you like that.

Second, after examining me and diagnosing a viral sinus infection, she suggested that I could’ve avoided the ear pain if only I’d chewed gum on my flight yesterday. Um, yeah. Because it was clearly my first time on an airplane and I didn’t know how to pop my ears? At that moment, I wanted to throttle her. Instead, I started crying like a big fat baby. (And – for the record – I’m generally not a crier.)

I don’t go to doctors often because I like to think that with time, my body can generally heal itself. I have a fairly high pain threshold and don’t like taking medicine, so if there’s a way to ride it out, I do. It’s a sheer act of desperation that sends me to a physician in the first place, so it’s like adding insult to injury to have someone condescend to tell me to chew gum.

Because this experience really pushed my buttons, I have to ask myself: what was I hoping to gain by going to see a doctor? I didn’t want antibiotics and I already have Nasonex in my medicine cabinet from my last sinus infection. Honestly, I think I believed I could walk in and someone could stick something in my ear to pop it for me.

So what’s the moral of the story? There isn’t one. I’m just cranky because I hurt and I want to complain about it. Oh – and if you know any tricks for popping unpoppable ears, please drop me a note – unless your cure involves pee!

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