Forgive me if this post goes into too much detail, but I would be remiss if I didn't try to explain the recent chaos in my life and describe what was one of the worst weeks we've had in a long time.
In the midst of changing jobs, I had been wrapping things up with the old job so I could start the new one, which included one last trip out to the boonies. When I returned, I discovered one of my tires had a flat. Fortunately it happened overnight in the parking stall, so at least it didn't blow out while I was driving on the road. I even managed to get the lug nuts off the tire and the car on the jack by the time Britt arrived to help me get the spare on. We shall call the flat tire Rupture Number One.
That weekend, Penny developed a fever and said her ear hurt. She was very specific about which ear was bothering her; it was her right ear, not her left. She didn't have a runny nose or a cough, but I'd had a sore throat for a couple of days, so I figured she was coming down with another cold. I alternated Tylenol and Ibuprofen for her fever and pain, and hoped she'd be better in a couple of days. Note: Ear infections usually resolve on their own, it was the weekend and my doctor wasn't in, and she seemed ok otherwise.
That Tuesday morning, I woke up because of a stabbing pain in my uterus. It was blinding, constant pain—not cramps, which come on and dissipate; this was like nothing I'd experienced before. I couldn't stand up. I started sweating profusely and I felt like throwing up. As I was lying on the nice, cool floor, I calculated where I was in my cycle and concluded there was no way I was pregnant. Penny brought me a blanket and covered me up while I sent Britt a desperate text. He came home as soon as he could and took us both to our doctor. Penny's fever had spiked and she was still complaining of ear pain, so we thought, let's take this party to the waiting room!
The theory is that I had an ovarian cyst rupture; which would be Rupture Number Two. Apparently this happens to women, although this was a new experience for me. It hurts like hell when it happens, and then you're ok. And I was ok, after a couple of hours. Ladies, has this happened to you? How come no one talks about it? Meanwhile, Penny definitely had an ear infection in her right ear and we started her on antibiotics. We also stopped at McDonald's on the way home and Penny and I both got Happy Meals, even though they don't contain any real food. It just sounded good.
Wednesday night, Penny had been asleep for a couple of hours, then woke up crying. I comforted her for a bit, and noticed her hair seemed damp, as if she'd been sweating. She said her throat hurt. I gave her some water and held her for a while, and then she went back to sleep. The next morning, Britt said, "Um, her ear is draining. A lot."
Which brings us to Rupture Number Three.
*We interrupt this post to explain how the middle ear system works:*
Our eustachian tubes help equalize the pressure in our ears. Children have smaller heads, so their eustachian tubes are shorter and more horizontal, so when kids get sick with colds and congestion, the tissues surrounding the eustachian tube swell up, and basically pinch it off. This creates a nice little vacuum in the middle ear space behind the eardrum. The resulting pressure draws fluid out of the membranes in the middle ear, which accumulates behind the eardrum. This fluid is a nice breeding ground for bacteria, so the fluid can become infected when bacteria gets in there and multiplies. In severe cases, the eardrum can rupture because of the build up of infected fluid behind it.
Penny's rendition of a bear with "yucky" ears. :(
So, that dampness I thought was sweat was actually infected middle ear fluid from Penny's ruptured ear drum. She wasn't in pain anymore, as the pressure was alleviated when her eardrum burst. Also, the eardrum is a remarkable thing—it can heal itself. But I felt like a negligent monster. I see kids with draining ears all the time at work, but having it happen to your own child really puts things into perspective. Penny's ear oozed goo for a couple of days; they don't tell you in school that it will get all over clothes and bedsheets and and matted in hair. Yuck.
No fever and no pain; time to mess with the cat.
Anyway, we survived. I was able to pack up my office that weekend, thanks again to Britt, who helped with everything behind the scenes, and I started my new job last Monday. Whew. Looks like I'll be bringing Penny in to see some friends of mine to make sure her ear heals.