Having an ear infection abroad has been one of the most intense experiences of my life.
It all started with a sore throat. Though my throat was in pain, I was not worried about it at all. I thought I could take care of it with a combination of cough drops, tea and over-the-counter medication. In fact, I thought I did take care of my sore throat when the pain started going away. But that pain was suddenly replaced with what I would describe as a searing, unbearable pain in my left ear.
The days following the start of my ear pain are one huge blur. As far as I can remember, it was the most pain I have ever been in. The first two days that I was in excruciating pain I did not sleep at all. I alternated between lying on different ends of my bed and wandering aimlessly around the house in hopes of exhausting myself and going to sleep. I eventually went to see a doctor, who hastily gave me some medication and said that there was nothing he could do until the inflammation in my ear went down.
Though the medication did bring the pain down a bit, a completely new problem arose. As I was lying down in my bed, I felt something dripping out of my ear. At first I thought it was water of some sort, but then I saw that my pillowcase was covered in splotches of red. My host mom was really worried about me, so she took me back to the hospital and had them see me again. This time they decided to keep me overnight until they could find an ear specialist. At first I thought it would be depressing to be in the hospital overnight, but it actually turned out to be a nice experience. A nurse gave me some strong pain medication that allowed me to finally get some sleep. My host family also came to visit me and brought me good food from home.
From the night that I went to the hospital until now, things have been looking up. After my night in the hospital, I headed to Salvador with my host aunt so that I could go to the hospital with my team leader and see an ear specialist. The doctor cleared the earwax and blood from my left ear so that he could see the infection. He told my team leader and I that it was definitely an infection and that I must have been feeling an extreme amount of pain the past couple of days. He prescribed two medications for me to take and told me to come back in three days for a check-up.
After those first three days I have yet to feel any pain in my ear. My check-up was with another doctor that both checked my ear and explained what had actually happened. According to her, a bacterium that caused my sore throat went up to my left ear and caused the infection. She then drew a diagram of my ear and further explained that the infection inflamed the tube that connects the middle ear to the throat, trapping the liquid that was being produced in my ear. She said that if I continue taking the medication and allow my ear to drain the infection would pass. After the appointment, my team leader dropped me off at the bus station and I headed back to my home in Lençóis.
Though the story continues with more doctor visits (and eventually surgery), I’ll stop here. The point behind sharing this experience was to show my appreciation for my Brazilian family. This whole event would have been a lot longer and more difficult if I had to deal with it on my own. But luckily I have a family that was willing to go out of their way to make it as easy and comfortable of a process as possible.