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    Monday, September 03, 2007

    My hurting ear

    Insurance companies are the "whore of all the earth"
    My last post was two weeks ago. It's been a crazy and painful two weeks. Ironically, this blog is called The Bleeding Ear, because of this, and although my ear did not bleed, it did hurt mightily.

    You see, somehow, I got an ear infection -- Otitis externa and Otitis media. For those of you who did not grow up speaking Latin, I had both outer and middle ear infections.

    I was never one to get ear infections as a child. Sure, I had one or two, but most everybody does. Typically came after swimming, i.e. "swimmer's ear," that horrible, painful condition you get by not getting all the water out after swimming. Pseudomonas aeruginosa loves that environment, and can't help making you feel miserable while it grows.

    On that note, I looked up "home remedies" for ear aches and found people attributing swimmer's ear to fungus and all sorts of things. One lady even said "use vinegar because it works well against fungi, but don't use it against bacteria because it makes their infections worse." Sorry, lady, but I got news for you: you're advocating vinegar for a bacterial infection, not a fungal one--directly contradicting yourself.

    Back to the main topic: My story starts about 18 months ago in the wet and hot streets of Saigon ... actually, it was there that I got my first "adult" ear infection. It was painful, annoying, but bearable. I saw a doctor -- a pediatrician -- because it was better to go to a private physician, trained by Americans, who worked out of his home, and new my in-laws for many years, than to go to a government-ran hospital. If I had done that, I probably would have left Vietnam with only one ear (and no paintings of haystacks).

    In Vietnam, pharmacists are unlicensed doctors. You can go to them and buy whatever drugs you want, without a prescription. Two years ago, I went to a pharmacist in Hue complaining of flu-like symptoms. She promptly gave me a plastic bag with a bunch of nondescript, generic pills, told me to take so many at such and such times, and I slept through the bus ride to Hoi An. But I got better, so she probably knew what she was doing, and gave me real medicine.

    Because the Chinese will often grab a real looking bottle, with real looking gel caps, but fill it with chalk instead of acetaminophen, and then you get sicker instead of better ... but I digress.

    The pediatrician wrote me a prescription, since I saw him first, and I went right next door to his neighbor that ran a pharmacy out of his home. I picked up the drugs, which purported to be sulfamexazole-trimethoprim ("Bactrim") and took it for a week or two. I got better, but my ear has never felt perfect since.

    Then, a couple Thursdays ago, my ear hurt. I mean, it hurt bad. I didn't sleep well Thursday night -- only a couple hours -- and on Friday I went into the student health center. Got prescribed amoxicillin 500mg po tid and ciprofloxacin/hydrocortisone drops to put in my ear. Cost me an arm and a leg.

    Back in Vietnam, I could have gone to the pharmacist, spent $5-7 USD, and got all that medication. Or, like I did, spend $2 USD to see the doctor, have him prescribe me correct meds, and then spend $5 to $7 USD on them. Everything out of pocket. I was able to go whatever doctor and pharmacy I wanted. No forms to fill out.

    I probably would have left Vietnam with only one ear (and no paintings of haystacks)
    Similar sickness, different setting. I had to go to my student health center, because my insurance won't pay for any doctor outside of it (without me paying a fortune), and then had to drop over $130 USD for the drugs (the amoxicillin was $10 USD copay, at the center, but the drops were $120 USD out of pocket at Walgreens). If I want to get reimbursed for the drops (minus copay) I have to fill out forms, attach the prescription, and mail it to Dallas. Some paper-pusher who knows nothing about my medical case or history (or medicine, probably) will then decide if the doctor was correct in prescribing those drops, and if I filled out all the forms, so i can get my $100 USD back.

    Insurance companies are the "whore of all the earth" ... but that's another story.

    Friday night I tried to rip my ear out of my head --with all cochlea and small bones attached. I called a "nurse hotline" (because evidently, the doctors I could call when I was growing up have now given all their expertise to nurses) who told me to take a decongestant and put heat on it. Great. I did those things, and tossed and turned throughout the night.

    Eventually, after finishing my 10 day course of antibiotics, my ear is bearable. Not better, but bearable. It doesn't feel "normal." A lot of times I feel like that ear needs to be "popped," like when you ride in an airplane. Other times, it feels discomforting, not quite painful, but definitely not fine. Maybe I need to see and ENT...but I don't want to fill out any more forms...

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    xanghe said...

    Khổ quá!!!! Oh, that's it! Khổ qua, you need to eat khổ qua to heal your ear. Of course! And if it doesn't fix it, at least it's mát so you can get your dose of yang (or is it yin?)

    get better soon

    Nathan said...

    Triet oi! If you have time (I know with the baby coming that time is not a luxury.) and if it's possible (I don't know if it would be covered under your insurance.) you really should go see an ENT!

    Triet said...

    thank you for the sentiments! Kho qua is great, but I admit, it took some getting used to (like eating it every day for lunch for 5 months).

    Supposedly, my ear is fine now, although I think I have eustacean tube sequlae. it bothers me every once in a while.