Grommeted

I was up extra early yesterday to get into the hospital to recommence my hyperbaric treatment. It was still dark when I left home. These days, the only time I’m ever up that early is when I have a hospital appointment.

It was cold and it had been raining. I drove to and parked at Sandringham station to catch a train. At that time of the morning, the train was sparsely populated, but it reminded me of the once ever-so-normal days when I would catch a train to work every day. Just as then, I sat by the window with cans on my ears watching the world go by as I listened to my music.

The sun had just peeped over the horizon when I arrived at Prahran station. This is familiar territory for me. For many years, I lived a decent walking distance from here. I would visit the bars and restaurants not far away when there were more bars and restaurants to attend.

As I walked down Greville Street towards Punt Road the nightlights winked out as the sun made a milky appearance. I passed by the College Lawn, where I’ve had many a pint sitting in the beer garden, and where once I won the door prize. It was all so familiar. Agreeably so.

I signed into the hospital as usual and made my way upstairs. First priority was to have a temporary grommet inserted into my left ear before settling down for another hyperbaric session. Things moved slower than I hoped, then not as smoothly as they might once they did. It wasn’t a great deal of fun, but I finally had a grommet inserted on the second attempt (the first attempt is sitting loose inside my ear canal). Thrilled a delighted.

I had missed my booked session, and they had to squeeze me in for a letter time. I had 40 minutes to kill and so decided to get a cuppa.

Hospital cafes aren’t my cup of tea (or coffee), so I exited the building and walked towards St Kilda road. More memories returned to me. I remembered working at Caltex on St Kilda road in the late nineties. Once a week, a mate and I would walk through Fawkner park towards the Alfred Hospital, where there was a sausage sizzle every Friday.

Back in those days one of the hot nightspots around Melbourne was the Chevron, on the corner of St Kilda Road and Commercial. Spent a lot of time there also, and took the opportunity to check it out. It’s apartments now and has been for about 15 years.

I found a cafe to nest in and ordered a hot chocolate. I sat in a deep, mustard yellow armchair by the window and read The Mask of Dimitrios. In the background French lounge music from the thirties and forties played. By happy not-so-much a coincidence, the pleasant staff were also French. It was a nice half hour I spent there, and I left feeling in a more beneficent mood than I had on my previous visit to the hospital.

I had my session and returned home.

This morning I woke early again for my next session and repeated the itinerary of the previous day, albeit shifted 30 minutes later.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go to plan today either. I woke with my pillow stained with blood from my ear. I reported it when I got into the hospital and it was initially waved off. I think they thought I was exaggerating. Upon examination, they discovered that actually, yes, it had bled quite a bit, and the dried blood had crusted in my ear.

There followed a couple of excruciating hours, literally so for a good part of it. ENT specialists came and went, flushing out my ear initially and cleaning out the blood. They poked and prodded as if I was an inanimate object and not a human being with live nerve endings. In the course of doing that the grommet they had inserted yesterday came out with the clotted blood. That was bad news because they had to replace it.

At first, they tried to do so without an anaesthetic, until they figured that wasn’t a great idea – a view I supported very strongly. They numbed my ear and went away and came back again to finish the job.

Even with the anaesthetic, I could feel it. The eardrum is sensitive. Everyone knows that. What they were trying to do was to squeeze a piece of tube into the hole they made yesterday, but it wasn’t a great fit. Several times as they tried I would flinch from the pain, which was an instinctive reaction – much as you might recoil after putting your hand in a fire. Ultimately, I had to hold my body rigid so that it wouldn’t move, and finally, they got it in.

I’ve had some unpleasant experiences over this journey, but today’s experience ranks in the top three.

Once more I’d missed my session time, by about two hours. I had another half hour to kill before they could squeeze me in. I returned to the same cafe as yesterday and the same chilled French folk for a flat-white and a Bex for my soul.

Afterwards, I had my third ever hyperbaric session. Very boring, but maybe it’s doing me good. I’m hoping it’ll be boring again tomorrow. Too many off-script adventures the last few days.

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