|If this looks stupid, that's just because it is.|
I swim a lot, and as much as I try not to, I get ear infections once in a great while. Like this week.
What many people do when they notice the symptoms of an ear infection coming on is they race to the doctor and get an antibiotic. This is because ear infections hurt. A lot.
If you've had a full-blown ear infection before, it's something that you don't look forward to experiencing again. So a lot of these cowards want to nip the problem in the bud before the pain and suffering really kicks in.
Not Thee Optimist. I grew up in an Irish family, and in Irish families, stoicism in the face of physical discomfort is a highly valued trait. Being soft is looked down upon. Suffering is raised to an art form.
So what did I do when the virulent ear infection bacteria came galloping into my life like the horsemen of the Apocalypse?
I tried garlic.
Garlic: The Irish Home Remedy
I don't know if garlic as a home remedy for an ear infection was invented by the Irish, but it should have been. See, because Irish people tend to be skeptical of doctors. Dismissive of them, even.
It's an interesting cultural trait, considering how many races of people revere doctors and put them on a pedestal. Now, to be clear, I don't look down on doctors. Secretly, I think they're pansies who were probably mommied a little too hard when they were kids, but I'll make use of a doctor if the need arises.
But the need for a doctor hadn't arisen. I read on the internet about how you could cure your own ear infection by crushing fresh garlic and letting it sit in olive oil for a little while, so the olive oil could absorb all the healthy goodness from the garlic. After that, you put a few drops of the olive oil in your ear.
Then, for the finishing touch, you take an actual garlic clove and stick that in your ear as well. Ear infection bacteria are doomed in the face of the healing essence of the garlic.
This method has a lot going for it, if you're Irish. For one, it allows you to be dismissive of doctors and the need for them. For two, since the method doesn't work and you waste precious time dicking around while the infection worsens, you get to practice being stoic while in extreme pain.
Doubling Down on Bad Medicine
After repeated applications of the garlic cure, it started to become clear that nothing was happening. Well, let me amend that. Something was happening.
The pain was becoming worse. It became a dull, throbbing ache, punctuated alarmingly by sharp, stabbing pains, like someone was shoving a knife or similar cutting tool into the side of my head. The ear canal was rapidly swelling shut, and the ear itself was hot. As hot as a stovetop. You could fry an egg on my ear.
It was time to change tactics. I went to the medicine cabinet and found a bottle of antibiotic drops I got from some wussy doctor during an earlier ear infection. I checked the expiration date.
Hmmm. Almost three years ago.
So the thing to keep in mind is that medicine isn't like milk. It doesn't go bad the day after the expiration date on the bottle. It keeps for a while.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Thee Optimist hasn't come to terms with how fast time is flying by. Somewhere in my psyche, 2012 is still years into the space age future, not in the horse and buggy past.
The ear drops must still be good. The thing to do is apply them every six hours, just like the bottle says.
That night, the fever kicked in.
The pain was transcendent, but I hardly noticed anymore. This is because I was delirious. The ear swelled closed entirely, and I went deaf on that side. The side of my face began to swell, and my throat became sore.
It is hot here in Florida, and the nights are warm. I was as hot as Florida. I was as hot as the fire planet Mercury. I was wearing long johns and a fleece jacket, trembling under the blankets while the chills passed through my body. Time slowed down. Every minute that passed took a year or more.
When I closed my eyes, it seemed I was transported to an alien world of reds and purples, where I floated just above lavender tree-tops. Pink Floyd played in the background.
I woke up shivering in a puddle of sweat.
It was 7:30 am. I got up, took a shower, and dragged myself to a walk-in clinic. American medical misadventures are a story for another time, but suffice to say, three hours later I walked out of there with a prescription for a powerful oral antibiotic, which is currently carpet-bombing all the bacteria in my body, both good and bad.
It makes me nauseated, this drug. But what's a little nausea when you're as stoic as I am? In a sense, I'm starting to feel better already.