“A ruptured eardrum is a perforation of the thin membrane that separates the outer ear from the inner ear. Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include severe pain, hearing loss, discharge from the ear, or ringing in the ear. A ruptured eardrum may be uncomfortable but will usually heal on its own within a couple of months.”
As you may know, I suffered an ear injury about 8 months ago, before I came to Korea. The quote above says that the eardrum usually heals within a couple of months, but my hole was too big to heal on its own. It was actually about half the size of my eardrum. I got used to it and it didn’t cause me any problems other than a slight hearing loss in that ear and I had to protect my ear when showering.
The surgery back home would have cost me several hundred dollars (maybe up to a thousand) so I opted to wait until I got to Korea. I found a great doctor that speaks perfect English. He only performs surgeries on Wednesday mornings so it was a while before he could fit me in. Last Wednesday was the big day.
The doctor gave me a mild sedative to take the night before and the morning of the surgery. I went in at 8:20 and was given some scrubs to change into.
Next, I waited in the recovery room until they were ready to take me into the operating room. In the operating room before the surgery, the doctor made small talk with me and held my hand for a bit to make me feel comfortable. He asked me if my parents were worried and asked if we were Christians. He said he was too. They then attached me to a valium IV and it was go time. The doctor said a prayer for me. It was in Korean so I didn’t really know what was going on until he said, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
The surgery was simple and involved grafting some of my own skin, taken from the tragus part of my ear and attaching it to my eardrum.
(this is not my actual ear)
I was awake during the surgery, but very relaxed thanks to the sedative and valium. As I was getting up from the operating table, I realized that I was pretty out of it. With the help of the nurse, I walked like a drunk person back into the recovery room and laid down. After the nurse left, I realized I really needed to go to the bathroom, but I was still connected to the IV and knew that I needed help walking to the bathroom so I laid there and contemplated what to do. Finally, I decided to reach up and knock on the door to the operating room where I could hear the nurses cleaning up. It took 3 times for them to realize that I was knocking.
When the nurse came in, I tried to explain that I really need to go to the bathroom, but the nurse didn’t understand. I pointed to the bathroom door and she thought I was pointing to the other bed and tried bringing me a pillow. You’d think after being in Korea for 7 months that I, of all people, would know the Korean word for bathroom, but I never learned it because it was kind of long and difficult to pronounce. I did learn to read Korean and fortunately for me the Korean word for toilet was written above the English word on the sign on the door. It read “화장실” so I slowly sounded out “hwa-jang-sil.” She quickly understood and she unhooked my IV bag from the stand and I was able to use the bathroom.
I was very nauseous after the surgery. I tried telling the nurse I felt sick and might need some sort of bowl or something just in case, but she was completely lost. That’s when my awesome charades skills came in handy. I got to act like I was getting sick and then motion like I was doing so into a bowl of some sort. She brought back a plastic sack… and the doctor. The doctor said it was probably due to the temperature difference in the gel packing he put in my ear. I think it was probably the valium. The nurse gave me a shot in the bum for the nausea and they took me off of the valium. It helped.
I had a difficult time sleeping because I was in a lot of pain. I dozed in and out and might have though a lot of expletives to cope with the excruciating pain. I was given another shot in the bum around 3pm. This one was for pain and it did the trick. I laid there for a bit longer and then I was able to change clothes and wait to see the doctor in his office. He knew I had planned to walk home (about 7 minutes away) and asked me if I felt well enough to do so. I said yes and he cautioned me to hold on to the handrail very tightly as I was walking downstairs. I paid at the front desk on the way out. The surgery was 84,000 won, which is just about $75.
I was pain free most of the day on Wednesday, but found that I was in a lot of pain that night and that carried on into the next few days. The doctor prescribed me antibiotics, an anti inflammatory and pain medication and also gave me a sedative to sleep better the next day.
Finally by Saturday I felt well enough to get up and do some actual cooking and today (Monday) I am back at school teaching. I feel so much better. The only problem I’m having is that I really can’t hear out of my left ear, but that’s probably due to the fact that I have gauze packed in my ear and my ear is covered by band-aids. I have seen the doctor almost every day since the surgery (except Satuday and Sunday) and he’s going to keep a close eye on me. I pay 3,800 won each time (just under $3.50).
The success rate of the surgery is 80% so everyone send positive thoughts my way. I do not want to be one of the 20% that has to do this again.
The doctor gave me a picture of my eardrum after the graft. I have made the size really small in case you’re squeamish. You can click on the picture to see it in full size.
If you found this blog post because you’re looking for an ear doctor in Busan, here is my best attempt at giving directions: