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Warning: This may sting a little!

Earaches have got to be the absolute worst cold-related afflication a
person can suffer from.  (I was planning to say 'earaches have got to be
the absolute worst affliction a person can suffer from' period, but then
i thought at least earaches end.  So then I added 'transient' after the
worst and before the affliction.  But that fell short too.  Aided keenly
by my over-active imagination, I began to picture a whole host of really
gruesome afflictions and it didn't seem fair to dismiss them all so
summarily.  I mean, who wants to be covered in pustulent boils, for
example?  Not, thankfully, that I would know in person.  Or, then, a
little closer to home, to have yak-butter-tea-induced screaming-shits
while staying in a hostel with an open trough toilet in which they turn
off the automatic flushing system that keeps it from growing completely
putrid the entire night your shits are screaming?  Just for example, I
mean.  So 'earaches have got to be the absolute worst cold-related
affliction a person can suffer from' will have to do.)

I am not a person normally prone to earaches.  In fact, I have only had
one in my life before (that I recall).  Previous to this past Monday. 
When that obnoxious-but-basically-harmless feeling of pressure that
builds up when I've been blowing my nose for 3 days solid suddenly
shifted.  Into a hot-knife-penetrating-my-skull-through-my-eardrum
feeling that took over when something in that 3 days of nose blowing
failed to be blown and instead lodged itself somewhere in my middle ear
and began to grow.  And grow, and grow, and grow.  

There is very little to be done for the pain of an earache, as I'm sure
any of you unfortunate enough to either be a sufferer of earaches
yourself or the parent/loved-one-in-proximity to someone who is a
sufferer of earaches can attest.  Nothing helps for long.  Any shift in
position, no matter how minute, joggles around that middle-ear swamp and
causes a fresh knife jolt of pain.  To have anything press up against
the ear feels bad, but so too does leaving it exposed.  Either heat or
ice, gently applied, are distracting for a little while, but inevitably
the knife wins out.  When taking a sharp pin to your own eardrum just to
relieve the pressure seems like a perfectly reasonable solution to the
pain...it's way past time to consult your friendly neighbourhood ENT
(ear, nose and throat doctor).

Now, it just so happens that nearly the only private teaching I ever did
in Korea outside my university contract was a bi-weekly conversation
class for just such a group of doctors.  For about a year and a half. 
About a year and a half ago.  These 4 doctors ran (run) a private ENT
hospital in Changwon, 3 perfectly designed floors of a common office
building downtown, where we would meet for our classes after their
office hours were finished.  Eventually their burgeoning business took
up too much of their time to continue, and we all, quite satisfied, went
our separate ways.

Until the beginning of April.  When my parents arrived for their second
ever Korean vacation, Dad sporting one of the worst
i-got-it-on-the-plane colds I have ever seen.  I know a good doctor, I
said, and, health care here's really cheap.  And we were off to the

The morning we all went with Dad (all being he and I, mom and Amy) to
the hospital, things there were a little hectic.  I politely explained
the situation to the perplexed reception woman, who speaks a little
English, and the very wondeful Dr. Kim took Dad in with almost no delay.
 Dad came out smiling a couple of minutes later, numb throated but
chuckling that Dr. Kim still remembered him from the one lesson my
parents attended at the hospital the last time they were in Korea.  Dr.
Kim waived the treatment fee, we picked up Dad's drugs from the pharmacy
downstairs (a thrice daily 5-pill cocktail that cost all of $1.50), and
he was well on his way to perfect health.

Aah, wouldn't it be nice if the story could just end there?  (would save
you from those imaginings in the beginning paragraph, which, don't
worry, we'll get back to soon enough!)

A few days after Dad's miraculous 3-day recovery, Amy came down with his
bug.  No problem, we thought, we know who to go and see.  And Dr. Kim
was indeed just the man to go and see - just not for the problem we
thought needed seeing.  Since my wretched ears and not Amy's (no-longer)
wretched sinuses are the main subject of this e-mail, suffice to say
that the quick visit we anticipated has morphed into a month long series
of quick visits...post-op.  The day after her check-up, she was in
surgery on her nose and sinuses, a large procedure for which, once
again, Dr. Kim waived all fees.  Sometime in the midst of all her other
treatments, the cold she got from Dad packed up and went away.

Now, Mom appears to be superwoman, having somehow never managed to catch
the bug from any of the people floating around with it, and I was happy
to think myself the same.  For the 3-week duration of their stay,
neither one of us showed any signs of the dreaded bug.  She, with her
powerful immune system (apparently!) and me, thanks to a powerful round
of antibiotics I was on for an unrelated problem (recommendation: ALWAYS
wear gloves when working with cement...ALWAYS!!!).  But I guess the bug
was stronger than I thought.  It waited out the antibiotics and pounced
on me not 2 days after I'd stopped taking them.  Definitely time to
bleach down this house!!  

In order to support the full breadth of specialty of the ENT hospital,
the bug invaded my ears, nose AND throat, each new syptom sneaking in a
day or so after the last had reached full, noxious bloom.  There is so
much mucous in my head that it is actually leaking out my eyes, in lieu
of my nose which is so completely stuffed up that nothing could exit
that way even if it wanted to.  My throat feels like it's had a rasp
taken to it.  And then the ear...enter Dr. Jung (one of Dr. Kim's

Examine, examine, examine, horrified expression at each new orifice,
explain, explain, explain, torture.  Yes, you read that correctly.  One
does not normally expect, following a Dr's warning that 'this may sting
a little', that the metal swab with which he is raking the back of your
throat is actually coated in acid to eat away (yes, you read that
correctly too) the most easily-accessible bits of infection from inside
your head.  Nor that this will be such a distressing operation that it
requires a portable sink in which you can throw up at the conclusion. 
And yet that is exactly what his 'this may sting a little' meant.  Lucky
I never tried that pin-in-the-ear!

And so what is the conclusion of this grisly message?  What point could
you possibly hope to take away?  It would be easy to say that misery
loves company, but instead I'll just say that my brain's a little
medication-addled at the moment, so either you'll have to provide your
own conclusion (a shameless hint for messages to occupy me on my
sick-bed tomorrow)...or wait for mine another day. In the meantime, I
hope all of your ENT, plus the rest of you, is in top form and feeling
great!!  My thoughts and wishes to each of you!  Roberta