“There’s a Cockroach in My Ear”

Aug 17th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles, Ayni Books, Psyche Books

by Louis M. Profeta

Now, before you think it’s funny, trust me, it isn’t. Anyone who has ever had a cockroach or any other bug in their ear can tell you it is horrifically painful. Picture that little insect with its sharp, hairy claws, replete with hooks and nails to allow it to climb up vertical surfaces, scraping and ripping at your eardrum. Now you get the picture. There you are, asleep on your couch without a care in the world, and the little vermin climbs up your shirt, across your hair, and sees a nice little tunnel to snuggle in. Next thing you know you feel like someone has driven an ice pick into your ear. So when the woman came into the ER with the chief complaint of a cockroach in her ear, I rushed backed to her room, ready to alleviate her discomfort. Instead of finding an ear full of insect, I found a can full of worms.

“Quick, get it out!” she yelled, grabbing at her ear. “It’s a cockroach, it crawled in my ear.” I grabbed the otoscope from the wall along with a set of alligator forceps. “Calm down, slow your breathing…I’ll get it out.” I laid her back on the bed and turned her head to the side, adjusted the light, and prepared to come face to face with the vile bag of segmented, antennae-bearing, bacteria-laden, kingdom animalia, phylum insecta. To my surprise, all I saw was the pearly white luminescence of a pristine eardrum glistening on the end of a completely clear ear canal. There was not even a small ball of wax present.

“Uhhhhh, it’s this ear, right?” I asked, backing away from her head briefly.

“Yes, yes!” she screamed. “Get it out…get it out.”

I slowly approached her ear again, looking around to see if maybe it had crawled out prior to my exam. I looked around her scalp to see if maybe I missed shingles or something else. I slowly pulled her ear back and again looked deep into her ear canal. Again, I was met with nothing but a perfect, non-inflamed, completely benign, normal, everyday, good old working eardrum. “Ma’am, I’ve got good news; there is nothing there. I bet it already crawled out.” I figured that she would be completely comforted by this fact, but I was wrong.

“Listen, you idiot; there is a cockroach in my ear…where did you go to medical school? How hard is it for you to see that there is a cockroach in my ear? You are not looking in the right place, dammit. Get me someone else who knows what they are doing.”

I maintained my cool and avoided the trap of getting angry at my patient. “Ma’am, let me look again. Perhaps I missed something, but it’s not like it can hide from me in there. The ear is like looking into a thimble; either something is in there or it’s not…but let me check again.” I slowly looked into her ear, spending a good deal of time so as not to appear rushed, and rattled off the anatomy: “The canal looks great, no rash, no lesions…good-looking ear drum, no fluid, pearly white…that’s good…great light, great…nope…nope…looks really good, ma’am. Great news, I think it probably crawled out.”

“You may be the worse doctor I have ever met…how you cannot see the cockroach in my ear is beyond me. I want to talk to your boss now! You’re a moron.”

That’s when I said it…it couldn’t be helped. “Ma’am, lay back and let me look again.” I turned her head and looked into her other ear.

“What the hell are you looking there? It’s the other ear, you idiot,” she responded.

“Ma’am, I’m just making sure it didn’t crawl through to the other side,” I said with a big, sarcastic smile on my face. With that she jumped out of the bed and stormed out of the ER. A few days later I received a copy of the patient complaint from hospital administration called in by the patient. It described me as being condescending and incompetent, and not taking this patient’s concern seriously.

My dear friend Joe always tells me, “If you never say it, you don’t have to apologize for it.” I truly believe that God has a sense of humor. If he didn’t, why would he have created the anteater, the dung beetle, reality TV, and the ‘thigh-master’? I think we are occasionally thrown curve balls in our life just to see how we will respond. I am sure God would have preferred that I put my arm around this woman and do everything in my power to turn her anger into comfort, her oppositional behavior into love. I am certain that he would have wanted me to embrace the golden rule, love thy neighbor and that whole do unto other mantra. And if I had to do it all over again, I would have taken that path…no, come to think of it…who am I kidding? I would have said the same thing…the letter of apology was worth it.


The Patient in Room Nine Says He’s God

Dr. Profeta learns to see God in the experiences of being and ER doc with both trama, love, birth and death.

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