Yesterday I got a particularly up close and personal look at the health infrastructure of Guam. At about 30 feet, I got a seriously bad pain in my ears that just got progressively worse as the night went on. By 7pm, I was in tears and two of the instructors, Tom and Judy, took me to Guam’s only ER at the recommendation of DAN and the hotel. Our hotel went above and beyond the call of duty and escorted us in a security vehicle. I curled up in the fetal position in the back of the car as Judy held my hand and assured me that it would be alright.
At the ER, we were shuffled through triage and admissions fairly quickly, but sat and waited to see a doctor for about an hour. My ears felt progressively worse until I heard a popping sound and lost all hearing in my right each and partial hearing in my left ear. By this point, I was completely hysterical and Tom went to tell the triage nurse that my condition worsened. They recoded me “blue,” whatever that means, and I was quickly taken to a bed and a doctor sat down with us.
When they moved me into a room, they wanted to take Judy and Tom away from me because I am twenty-one and it is hospital policy that they do not allow unrelated people to accompany patients during treatment. I wouldn’t let go of Judy and Tom flashed his sheriff’s badge at the “rent-a-cop” trying to separate us, so they let us all in together.
The doctor was a short and very thin man with a good sense of humor and some background in hyperbaric medicine. He looked in my ears and tsked, saying that I had endured a moderate barotrauma in my middle ear and my tympanic membrane was bulgding and red. Luckily, my tympanic membrane was not perforated, so they gave me some painkillers, prescribed an antibiotic and a topical analgesic, and a steroid for the swelling in my ear. They had me sit and wait for a nurse to give the injection but fed me a fairly high dose of painkillers. I was loopy by the time they told me they wanted to inject me in my butt. I protested vehemently, saying that they would have to stick me through too many layers of fat. So they did half of the injection in each arm and it turned out okay.
We went to a restaurant called the Marianas Trench, which was a Thai restaurant that was very tasty. There were tons of military-looking men being served by women dressed in pirate costumes, and it took me back to a time where comfort women were common in Southeast Asia. It was a very strange atmosphere. The food was good. We just got back and I’m about ready to curl up in bed and fall asleep.
One more thing – I’ve not been lazy with blogs! I just can’t post them here because they’re in the pipeline for publication on Scientific American.