Halfway Home

This evening, after a three week wait that became less and less excruciating as I noticed my ear and jaw less and less, I saw my ear doctor. His hip is healing, but he’s frustrated with how long it’s taking. He’s pretty active, and he’s going crazy not being able to walk yet. But he was skittering around on a rolling chair, and didn’t even need a nurse to hand things to him, though there was a nurse standing in the room just in case. I sympathized with his situation, and he guessed that I would understand his frustration. I do. As I’ve adjusted my activities to ensure that the ear would have the best chance of healing, there have been ancillary problems.

The latest is my back. Because I’ve avoided any exercise that would cause me to sweat, which for me is anything more active than an elevator ride, my body simply isn’t as strong as normal, and for the last week, my back has been in various states of disarray. After three chiropractor visits in less than a week, it seems to be mending, but it had been pretty well mended Saturday, until an ill advised stretch before getting into bed undid it like a flimsy, ancient clock. (Oddly, at almost the same moment, the cable box in the bedroom, with a DVR holding years of programming my wife meant to watch at some point, gave up the ghost.) On the other hand, the TMJ disorder that had been plaguing me, and complicating my efforts to determine by feel what has actually been happening in my ear, seems to be resolved. The chiropractor said my neck was quite a mess, likely from the TMJ disorder and possibly because I’ve been turning my head to favor the ear that works better. She put everything there and down to my hips back where it belongs, and the muscles of my back are slowly reconciling themselves to this new arrangement. I hope it will hold this time. In any case, the shift of focus away from my jaw to my back has caused me to worry less about my ear.

The good news is that everything I’ve put my body through seems finally to have been justified. Over the last three weeks, there has been real progress on the healing of my ear. The tissue left to heal has gone from about a quarter of the grafted tissue down to about a tenth. The doctor would even like me to stop using Crazy Sam’s Good Time Magic Powder®, which, though it protects the ear from all manner of infection and spurs healing, irritates the already healed tissue. As he put it, I’ll have to make that leap at some point. I told him that scared me, and that I’d be willing to do it only if he would see me again in a week to make sure everything is still okay. Otherwise, I could easily imagine myself falling prey to my anxiety at the slightest unexpected sensation in the region of my ear. He understood and agreed. Unfortunately, the best we could actually do given his schedule was an appointment almost two weeks from today, which includes two intervening weekends. I’ll just have to tough it out, and I can use the powder occasionally if something doesn’t feel quite right in the ear. But given that I’ve gotten more than halfway to a fully tissued ear canal from where I was three weeks ago, things might be in pretty good shape in another two weeks.

Once the tissue has fully grown in, I will no longer be susceptible to infections, and I should be able to resume normal activities. It’s not clear to me what this will mean for my hearing, which is something I haven’t given much thought to. It seems to be improving slowly, but there’s still a constant ringing in the ear, and there are frequencies at which I have very little if any hearing. And even in those frequencies where I can hear, things sound a little far off. As I’ve said before, if this as good as my hearing gets, I’ll be satisfied. The doctor said today that he didn’t think my hearing would ever return to normal, but he did seem to think it would improve some. He declined to get any more specific, and doesn’t want to do any hearing tests until after the tissue has finished healing. On the whole, I feel awfully fortunate.

4 Replies to “Halfway Home”

  1. Don’t know if you remember, or maybe we never talked about it, but I was hit head-on driving home from work in 2002. Totalled both my van and the pickup truck that had crossed the yellow line to hit me. Anyway, I had many back problems and physical therapy. But finally about 18 months ago, I went on a diet and exercise plan that led to losing 50+ pounds and the back has never felt better. So, long story short (too late, I know), you definitely have to get the exercise in. Not only will it be good for the back, it will improve your mood and your whole outlook on life. And while you’re at it, the food is so key to all that too. If you’re worried about sweating (maybe not a problem for too much longer?), you could certainly turn up the air conditioning or open the windows now that it’s getting cooler, or just do some very light stuff.

    Regarding the ringing, Robin has Tinnitus and wears a hearing aid. They are practically invisible these days. People don’t even know she has one unless she points it out. It makes the constant ringing more tolerable for her. Something to consider if it doesn’t go away.

  2. Thank you both for the kind wishes and advice.

    Rich, I hadn’t heard about your accident. That’s terrible. I’m glad you’ve healed up. You’re right about the exercise, eating, and weight. After the first ear surgery, I got back into my exercise routine and felt better than I do now. Unfortunately, the ear didn’t heal properly. I don’t know how much the sweating from the exercising contributed to that, but I’m not taking any chances this time. My chiropractor has given me some low-impact stretches and exercises that are helping a lot, and with any luck, I should be able to get back to my full routine in a few weeks.

    I’m not too worried about the hearing and ringing in my ear. If things don’t get any better than they are now, I would be fine with that. I only notice the ringing when I think of it, and it never really bothers me. But my guess is that things will get at least somewhat better. In fact, my chiropractor really believes that she can really help, though I’m not going to let her try until the graft is properly healed.

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