ear we go again

August 6, 2006

Today I was rushed to Doi Saket hospital It started when I was ordered to wash my hair as a few drops of rain had alighted on my head during the morning. Hair washed successfully I was exploring the deeper recesses of my ears with a cotton bud when I found that one of the cotton tips was missing. Sure enough, it had lodged itself in my ear. After a vain and painful attempt to extract it at home I rushed to the nearest hospital. It only took me 20 minutes to find where to park the car as the hospital was extremely well equipped with ‘No Parking’ signs but had not yet indulged in the luxury of a car park. I walked in the main entrance (doors were another luxury deemed unnecessary in this establishment) and found myself in a large hall that resembled Paddington Station at rush hour. It only took me a few minutes of navigating through the melee to find a woman sitting at an inconscipcuous desk and peering over a sign that said ‘Information’. I explained my problem and was immediately taken in charge by the staff who, recognizing the urgency of my situation, sat me down to fill in a 24 page form printed in illegible Thai on brown blotting paper that included questions on the religion of my grandparents, the colour of their eyes and who to contact in case of my demise etc. All essential and encouraing preparation. After my blood pressure, temperature and weight were all measured I explained to another nurse the accident that had befallen my ear, There was then an earnest disucssion with a colleague about the correct Thai spelling of ‘cotton bud’. I felt like suggesting that they should include in their budget, intead of a new ultrasound scanner or something a decent English Thai dictionary. It was, however, pleasing to see that the staff had their priorities right, correct spelling being obviously more important than the welfare of the patient. I was then ushered to wait outside the doctor’s examining room where I noticed thatf the doctor and his patient were sitting completely motionelss. I gazed at these Madame Tussaud figures for several minutes until I began to wonder if the doctor was still alive. Dead doctors? Not a good sign. Fortunately this anxious wait to disocver the mortal state of the room’s occupants was enlivened by a young Thai woman who sat down next to me and with normal Thai tact and discretion quizzed me on my age, whether I was on my own, had a wife, children, why I didn’t want any more, had I been sterilized and did I need a housekeeper. Then somehow the doctor became reanimated or resurrected and I explained my problem to him. With the aid of a high powered torch and an oxycetelene lamp ( I made that last bit up) he located the offending piece of cotton and, after a long lecture on the proper use, maintenance, care and repair of cotton buds, told me I should go to the accident and emergency centre where it would be removed. They had, he lugubriously informed me, better equipment there. So, surrounded by geriatrics with tubes sticking out of their orifices, I was approached by a nice young nurse who said she couldn’t find any cotton and was I sure the doctor had seen it. I said that unless he was prone to illusions or was extremely suggestible he had. So she fetched a bigger torch and a box of what looked like small daggers and toasting forks and had another go. Finally she located it and proceeded to prod around inside my ear. Suddenly she touched something and a thunderbolt of pain shot through me. In agony I grabbed the nearest thing that came to hand which happened to be the nurse’s left breast. She let out a shrill squeal (which I assumed at the time to be one of delight though on relflection it occurred to me that it could have been of surprise) and we both shot up about six feet in the air to the astonishment of the assembled tube collectors and their anxious relatives. Deciding reinforcements were needed she called three colleagues over. Removing the cotton tip turned out to be a simple matter- one nurse held the torch, one nurse wielded the tongs while the third held me down and the fourth shouted encouragement. In no more time than it takes to open a bottle of cheap wine with a broken corkscrew my ear was clear of the obstruction and the nurses were able to continue with correcting each others’ spelling unmolested.

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