Sunday, December 05, 2010

Is It Getting Better?

Fifteen minutes on the clock - or so... I am haunted by what my dear friend Rabbi Michael Unterberg recently wrote about being an introvert - spot on. I am sick with an infection, and the question of the Gemorah, "Is your illness dear to you?" comes to mind. When you're sick you're allowed to sequester yourself off. Almost. There's still a resentment, at least my radar tells me so. There's judgement. Ear infections are supposed to be done at a certain time, soon after the anti-biotic works it's magic. Fever must be present and to a certain degree. Otherwise your sickness borders on being unsociable, people seem to say. And they're being in-compassionate and off the mark while being onto something at the same time.

In the middle of writing this I got an email from one of about 8 students so far that have asked for Israel recommendations. The recommendations for me need to truly recommend the person. For that to happen I need the student's input into what they've learned, like to learn, who they are, who they want to be. It's serious stuff.

Ear infections are serious. They need to be undone, like most bad things, or they can cause a lot of problems. I've been getting them since I was a little kid. So painful. I remember going to a sleep away camp, at 13. My mother asked the director what he could tell her about me. He was at a loss as to who I was. Then it came to him, I was the kid with the cotton in my ear.

At 17, on my own in Israel, I got maybe the thirtieth ear infection of my life. It was really bad. And the coverage was alien and iffy feeling. I remember a doctor telling me to hold my nose and fill my cheeks with air and blow; that was supposed to clear the ear. No. When that infection finally passed my ears clicked when ever I swallowed. It had something to do with my Eustachian (sometimes I say Fallopian by mistake) (almost as bad as when I confuse NCAA and NAACP) tubes being blocked. That clicking stayed since the. When I get sick the clicking stops; good news, bad news.

I lost count. If it's not the ears then it's the throat, which is less pervasive and debilitating. Over the last fifteen years or so I only remember getting earaches a few times, most notably five years ago - almost to the day. That time was like this time, but the end came sooner. At a certain point a specialist took out some wax that remained and after the infection had gone. In a second the buzzing was gone. No such luck this time, at least as of Friday.

A second specialist squeezed me in on Friday. It was set for 2:15 and making it home for Shabbos was my own, lonely miracle of Channukah. I keep hoping it's getting better. The latest doctor told me to stay to course with everything the previous doctor said. I put my faith in G-d. And Augmentin.

I have work to do. I have a life to live. In the end I have dreams much more dear to me than my introversion and my earache. G-d please grant me health and strength.


Blogger kishke said...

I empathize. I had ear infections as a small child, but then nothing for years. Suddenly, when I was in yeshiva out of town, at about age 17, I got the most excruciatingly painful earache. I had forgotten, if I ever remembered, how painful they could be. People don't really understand what you're going through, b/c earaches are not that common among adults. Thank God, I've rarely had another, but I still remember that one, and it made me much more sympathetic to my kids when they went through the earache stage.

When I had that earache as a teenager, it was a weekend and I couldn't get to a doctor. There was a guy who worked in the yeshiva who knew about natural remedies and he showed me to pour castor oil in my ear. It didn't cure the infection, but it gave me a lot of relief.

December 6, 2010 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thanks K. I really appreciate your empathy. My Dr, who I just came from, gets it - how rare and painful this is for adults. I also tend to be anxious and this kind of a permeating pain doesn't exactly help keep me calm. You're right that most people don't get it. there's a lack of understanding of what it is or feels like and how it can take its time going away.

I'm sorry you had to go through it, away in yeshiva. Must have been hard. i remember being in yeshiva in Israel and kind friends bringing me food to my room. I also remember one Rebbe saying that my illness couldn't have been actually going on so long (a week or two).

My first year of full time teaching about twenty years ago I got hit with a bad ear/throat infection and missed a large chunk of school. That didn't make a hard start easier.

I guess I should use some of the things that ease the pain. When I was a kid, mom used to set me up with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. That was soothing. They're still available, haven't even thought of them in a long time.* Drops can help, though at this point the doctor and I agreed that they're not helping me.

I'm extending the Augmentin a bit , and just started on some kind of another thing (steroid) that I was reluctant about but the doctor says it will help me get better.

The Dr. is busy, but kind. Quick, but efficient. And his staff seems happy to work for him - I find that very telling. He's nice, though in his busy-ness he doesn't smile alot, also because he doesn't seem to have a phony bone in his body. On my way out I got him to smile a big smile by letting him know that I watched him on TV.**

I told him I liked that he was serious and no nonsense and didn't go along with the host's goofiness. He was very pleased with that assessment.

I'm tempted to write more here. I like sometimes doing hidden posts in comments - trusting that long time readers, like you, will read it.

I fear, though, that I'm over the limit for a comment...



December 6, 2010 at 2:57 PM  
Anonymous lavender garden said...

Refuah sheleimah, so sorry you are feeling so awful!
Neil, if this happens to you often, we would guess you have some allergies/sensitivities. There are well-established holistic-type professionals who have helped others by figuring out what sets you off. Sometimes something as simple as avoiding dairy can get rid of the problem (prevent earaches) if you are susceptible.
Hatzlacha rabbah,
Lavender Garden

December 6, 2010 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thanks Lavender.

Did I ever mention on this blog that I LOVE getting comments? Sometimes I wonder - and forgive me for quoting the entire lyrics to a song - "Is there anybody out there? Is there anybody out there? Is there anybody out there? Is there anybody out there?"

The last time I had an ear infection like this was five years ago. Considering that most adults never get them, I guess that's often. I usually - in recent years - ward off these things with Airborne and Echinacea and vitamin C and zinc and multivitamins and and and. The week leading up to this infection was hectic and traumatic personally. I was running and worried and worn to the bone; I wasn't eating much of anything let alone taking zinc, etc. The night before I felt the bug entrenched itself I thought I was just exhausted - fell asleep with lights and clothes on in the middle of returning a text to a concerned friend. I should have known better. I recall eating a cinnamon Danish at some point, nothing else. As I got dropped off at a space not my own, a place not equipped with airborne, etc. I fell into deep exhaustion. I was packed for five necessary nights away from home. As I was dropped off, the dear driver called in an order for his dinner. I entered an empty home, not my own, and went to bed without supper. The next full day was the fifth in a row, to be followed by maybe many more, overflowing with hurrying up and waiting and caring and hoping and praying and hurrying up and waiting again.

I think there are emotional reactions and situations that set me (us) off much more than things like dairy (and are also more difficult to negotiate with than cheese). I appreciate your clearly sincere suggestion. I have seen holistic people. I went to one guy that a lot of chashuv (and regular) frum people like. I wasn't charmed, though I'm happy for the people he helped. I definitely need to exercise and eat and sleep right, sometimes life feels excruciatingly hard and it’s then that I’m most susceptible to wearing down.

May G-d bless us all, whoever we are.

December 6, 2010 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

I should mention, I guess, that I know lots of people, family & friends, who have brought kids with chronic earache to the chiropractor and say that they've been helped. I'm skeptical of chiropractors, based on my experience of them, but if you're not, maybe that's an idea.

December 7, 2010 at 10:30 AM  

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