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After Cholesteatoma Surgery: A Follow-Up Post

Two weeks after surgery
The "After" pic

Two weeks after my cholesteatoma surgery, I had a follow up appointment with my surgeon. A handsome intern (they seem to hire models at this practice) had the privilege of pulling the blood-tinged packing out of my ear. I thought my hearing would be better, but it was still as if it were plugged.

"There's still packing left in there," the gorgeous intern explained. "And quite a bit of fluid. I'm going to suck some of that liquid out so we can have a better look at the ear canal. If you start to feel dizzy, let me know. Sometimes when there's an imbalance of air in the middle ear, you might feel some minor dizziness."

Let the sucking begin. I pictured all sorts of nasty things slipping out of my ear and into a tube. The sensation wasn't bad, the noise tolerable. But suddenly, I started having the tell-tale signs of losing consciousness. I felt sick to my stomach. My back became clammy. Everything seemed off kilter and those sang gray pixels were beginning to enter my vision. "I feel dizzy," I said.

The hot intern stopped and I sat up. "Can I have something to throw up into?" I pleaded. A small plastic dish was thrust into my hands. "I could use juice. Crackers," I rasped as I bent my head over my knees. The cute intern left and my surgeon entered with a nurse who immediately strapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm and one of those plastic contraptions that monitor the pulse rate on my finger.

The surgeon placed a cold, damp washcloth on my forehead and I laid back in the chair, feeling like I was dying. Gray blotted out everything. I was aware that the surgeon was talking to me and holding up his finger. I assumed he wanted me to follow it with my eyes, so I did.

The good-looking intern came back with my sustenance, so I slurped down the juice. Meantime, the surgeon spoke. "It's not the middle ear that's making you dizzy. Or your eyes would have been moving back and forth when I moved my finger around. Do your hands feel tingly?" They did. "You hyperventilated. That happens sometimes to patients. You're breathing out all your carbon dioxide and not replacing it."

After a little research prompted by my friend who also has these issues, I discovered this issue has a name: vasovagal syncope. Some people are prone to passing out during situations of emotional distress or seeing blood. I've had this condition all my life. I have a ton of personal stories that include this problem.

But I digress.

After the initial feeling of humiliation -- no one wants to pass out in front of people, especially in front of a cute intern -- I joked about how I'd like to have become a doctor, but passing out whenever I saw blood would put a damper on my career, and my surgeon wondered if anyone would even want to see someone named Dr. Gore, and I made a "Bwahaha" noise and rubbed my palms and hoped that this made a much better impression than my pale face and gagging into a plastic bowl.

After all of that, I was told I still had packing left in my ear while the ear healed and that my stitches looked good and I could use antibiotic ointment to help dissolve the smaller stitches. Two big black stitches remained that he'd pull out another time. The entrance to my ear is larger than it was, but other than that, my ear looks pretty much the same as it did. I can still wear earrings, etc.

The surgeon also told me I'd get bouts of shooting pain in my ear. This was normal and they would be short-lived. No one knew why this occurred, but his patients often complained of it. Sure enough, days later the shooting pains came and went. And I recognized this pain. I've had it before in the past. I'd like to study more about it and see what causes it. Just for my own curiosity. But that's for another day. Right now I'm still putting antibiotic drops in my ear, dotting ointment behind my ears, and continuing to catch drainage in cotton balls.

And as you'll see from my next post, this has been the least stressful part of my life. A mere hindrance. I feel fortunate my doctors caught this issue before it became a life or death situation. My kids need me. My cats need me. And I have books to write.

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