Ears

bye bye, Louisiana

I’m writing this from a Southwest Airlines 737-700 about 42,000 feet in the air. It’s been a busy day, but the big point is that we are now on our way back to Colorado from Louisiana. Let me bring you up to speed.

I already wrote about Tuesday’s trip to the Bogue Falaya Park. Well, that short trip tired me out and I spent all the rest of the afternoon napping in our hotel room. Wednesday was a bit more lively, though. We found a local coffee shop in the historic downtown area of Covington and had some delicious breakfast and coffee there. Then we walked around and did some window shopping and sightseeing on the side streets of Covington. That was fun, and I wasn’t nearly as tired out as the day before. Was it a matter of loading up on caffeine, or my body getting used to working with the newly rebooted balance system? Maybe both. Wednesday evening we met up with another patient of Dr. Gianoli for dinner. Her name is Valerie and she and her husband are from the Seattle area, in town so she can undergo the extensive balance test routine. It was nice having dinner with them, but unfortunately we chose a pretty loud restaurant, which tired out my ears and brain pretty fast. So it was nice to get back to the hotel and watch some quiet TV.

This morning we got up early and went to the doctor’s office for my one week followup. I told him this summary of my recovery progress as of right now:

  • the sound of my voice is very loud in my left ear, much louder than before surgery
  • I’m occasionally hearing my heartbeat in that ear, but not always
  • the pain level is pretty low and has been treated during the day with just Advil, and at night with Tylenol with Codeine
  • balance issues are pretty minimal: it seems that everything tilts slightly to the left, but the world doesn’t move, and I haven’t had any nausea or spinning at all

He took the packing material out of my ear – some cotton but mostly a gel packing – and then suctioned out the gunk that had accumulated. That always feels weird, but it was nice to have that stuff out of there. The tube in the eardrum that he put in during surgery is now free and clear to do its job, which is to equalize pressure while I’m traveling by plane and let bloody ooze seep out of the ear as my swelling goes down. Also, perhaps best of all, Dr. G took out the staples that had been holding the seams of my skin together. There are sutures you can’t see under the layer of the skin, and these are what are actually keeping the two halves of my face together. The staples were just on the surface, and he warned that now that they’re gone the gaps in the skin may (or may not) drift apart a little. But with time and a very light daily application of antibiotic ointment, things will heal back beautifully.

Dr. Gianoli did notice – as I had earlier – that my left ear is sticking out farther than the right one. Having seen his handiwork in the past, I won’t be surprised if it just naturally grows back perfectly into place so they’re even.

Now that I’m going back to the real world, a few things to look forward to in the future:

  • continue to sleep with my head elevated at a 45 degree angle if possible for another couple weeks
  • come back in January for my next followup
  • don’t get my ear wet until the tube is removed at the followup
  • no strenuous activities for 6 weeks, including lifting more than 10 pounds
  • antibiotic drops in the ear for another week
  • finish out the course of antibiotic pills and antiviral pills; double my daily dose of Diamox (to reduce intracranial pressure)
  • if I don’t need them (which I haven’t) just hold on to the steroid pills and the anti-nausea pills, in case I need them for some other reason
  • get a lumbar puncture in a few weeks to see how my intracranial hypertension is coming along

And after all that, we went back to our hotel and packed up to head home. We had some inexpensive Japanese food, and then walked around at the park for a couple hours. That gave me more opportunity to walk – this time on uneven terrain, which exercises the balance centers in new ways. After that, I was quickly tired out and rested a while as Beth took some photos, then we drove to the airport and caught a plane to Denver.

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