Friday, June 25, 2004

Swimming through liquid glass

I did not miss the appointment.

Dr. Henderson's receptionist is an amazing woman, I'll just get that out of the way right now. She was younger than I expected her to be, but absolutely competent and helpful; she is the first person in days I was able to communicate easily with. Of course, she possibly works with a lot of hard-of-hearing people, which no doubt helps. She had my history of audiograms at her elbow, faxed over from the hospital. After only a short wait, she ushered me into the office.

Dr. Henderson is businesslike but pleasant; didn't even look in my ears as everything he needed was spelled out clearly on the charts. All except what was causing the hearing loss in the first place. I told him the tired story which I've had to tell everyone on this path, about the ulcers and the surgeries and the antibiotics and so on.

"Hmm," he said. (I lip-read that.) "I wonder if you don't have an auto-immune disease that's caused all of this - from the ulcers on." (That, he shouted into my right ear.)

I didn't know what to say to that. I am one of those people who is so baffled by auto-immune diseases I'm not even certain they exist.

He asked about family history of deafness. Yeah, well, my Gramma. But she was 95.

He told me there was a drug, a corticosteroid, that might help. But it had one concering side-effect which made him hesitate in my case. It caused stomach upset. In some cases, ulcers. Har-de-har-har. I may be nearly deaf, but I can hear the gods of irony snickering louder than anyone.

What did I think of that, he asked? Should we risk it?

Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Anything to get me out of this place. This place that is like swimming all the time through liquid glass, invisible but thick and slowing and silent.

He prescribes a stomach protector which is to be taken before the corticosteroid. The latter is to be taken with food. We talk about options; if I am in distress, I should halve the steroid. If in doubt, stop it.

Then there's a plan. Right away I am to go to the hospital for blood tests. Then get the prescription filled. Call the audiologist again, make sure I have an appointment for Monday or Tuesday. Dr. Henderson wants to see me again on Wednesday.

It's a dizzying amount of information, in retrospect remarkable that he made it all understandable under the circumstances, or that I retained it. But that remarkable receptionist, "Carla", had all the paperwork ready for me in three minutes and had repeated his instructions, and I had directions in hand and a plan. Finally a plan.

I thanked Dr. H. for seeing me; I had been told by the audiologist that the only other Otorhinolaryngologist (no wonder we just call them "Ear-nose-throat Doctors") in town had left last week, and he was swamped. He smiled kindly and led me out.

I followed the directions to the letter; my good audiology guy returned an email of update promptly and has booked me for tests on Tuesday. And then of course back to Dr. H. on Wednesday to see if there is any hope - I mean, improvement.

The prescription turns out to be for just seven pills. Seven pills, seven days to buy a chance to save the 10% hearing (with 82% distortion) in my right ear. Or maybe, maybe, maybe bring some of it back.



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