February 26, 2007

Aaron Van Gogh

Important note: Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune devoted an entire 1,483-word column in Sunday's newspaper to essentially saying he doesn't like blogs. It's an odd column full of misguided logic, old-fogey stances, and straw-man arguments, but after reading the following completely pointless and self-absorbed entry you might start to think he has a point. You've been warned.

A few weeks ago I was watching Inside the UFC on Spike TV when I saw a segment on cauliflower ear, which a lot of wrestlers and mixed martial arts fighters get as a result of frequent ear trauma. A couple days after watching the show, the upper part of my right ear started getting sore, which I figured was some sort of weird psychosomatic effect of watching the segment. I thought nothing of it until, after a few more days, my ear started looking noticeably swollen in addition to still being sore.

The ear continued to hurt and throb, and it was getting so swollen and deformed that the outer rim started to actually turn inside out a little bit. I haven't been to a doctor about anything in several years and generally go with the "ignore it and it'll go away eventually" theory of health care, so I continued to pretend that nothing was wrong for another week or so. Then one day last week I looked in the mirror and saw this beauty staring back at me:

That's really blurry, because I'm even worse at photography than I am at keeping myself healthy, but suffice it to say that an ear is not supposed to look like that. In fact, it appears to look almost exactly like the cauliflower ears I saw on Inside the UFC. Of course, since I'm not a wrestler or an MMA fighter and I don't think you can get ear trauma just by watching something about it on television, I was pretty confused about what was going on.

Despite all of that, I still wasn't going to get it checked out until, after showing it to my mom for the first time Tuesday night, she said something like, "You have to go to a doctor immediately!" Since it wasn't really an emergency, I decided that going to an urgent care clinic Wednesday would be fine. After filling out a bunch of paperwork and waiting for about 20 minutes, a nurse called my name and brought me into an examination room.

She asked what the problem was, looked at my ear for about a second, jotted down a few notes, and then proceeded to take my temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. After scribbling a few more things on my chart, she informed me that "the doctor" would be in to examine me in a few minutes. Sure enough, he arrived a couple minutes later, sat down, glanced over the chart, looked at my ear, and began the following exchange with me:

DOCTOR: Are you a wrestler?


DOCTOR: That looks like cauliflower ear. You haven't been wrestling or boxing or something like that?

AARON: No, definitely not. It looked like cauliflower ear to me too, but I have no idea why it would be.

DOCTOR: You haven't been hit in the ear recently.


DOCTOR: OK, well I don't know what it is then. You have to go see an ear, nose, and throat guy.

With that, he half-heartedly asked if I had "any questions?" as he walked toward the door, and my examination was finished in less than two minutes. I had essentially gone to a doctor so that he could say "I dunno" and then tell me to go visit a different doctor. The urgent care clinic said they would make the otolaryngology appointment for me and call me back with the details the next morning. They didn't, of course. In fact, they didn't call me back until two days later.

The nice woman on the phone told me that an appointment had been made for the afternoon of March 5, to which I responded, "March 5, as in two weeks from now?" She said yes, that was correct, and then we hung up. About 45 seconds later, the phone rang again and the same nice woman said, "The doctor says you definitely can't wait that long. Can you go today instead?" I was working, so I said no, but that I could come in over the weekend. "Weekends are no good," she said. "How about Monday?"

Since I had just gone from a March 5 appointment to a doctor suggesting that I should be seen immediately within the span of a minute, I figured Monday would have to work. So, that's what I'll be doing this afternoon, perhaps while you're reading this very entry and being grossed out by that picture of my ear. My hope is that no additional damage was done by me not getting it checked out for two weeks and the urgent care clinic not bothering to call me back for two days.

Actually, the experience with the urgent care clinic got even more amusing yesterday afternoon, when they called "to check on how I was doing." Here's the exchange I had with some guy named John:

JOHN: I'm just calling to make sure you're happy with the service you received from us.

AARON: I didn't really receive any service. You guys just told me to go see an ear, nose, and throat doctor.

JOHN: Oh ... OK. Well, is the issue resolved, then?

AARON: No, the appointment isn't until tomorrow.

JOHN: Right. Well, good luck!

As you might expect, I have a few questions stemming from the call. First and foremost, are all urgent care clinics this clueless? The doctor there finished examining me in literally two minutes and had absolutely zero information to give me about my condition, they failed to book me an appointment with another doctor for 48 hours, initially booked me one two weeks away, called back 45 seconds later to change it, and called back to "check on how I was doing" before the actual appointment took place.

Beyond that, they seemed to have no clue what service they had provided (or failed to provide) while I was there. I'm genuinely curious what would have happened if the doctor hadn't been standing there when the initial phone call was made to me Friday. Would I have simply waited until March 5 to roll around? And if so, would I still have gotten that same call yesterday, wondering if the issue was "resolved" and I was "happy with the service"?

I'm hopeful that the ENT doctor isn't as disorganized and useless as the urgent care clinic. Actually, for him to be equally as clueless, he'd probably have to incorrectly decide that my ear needed to be amputated, schedule me for an appointment in August of 2012, re-schedule me for an appointment Wednesday, and then slice off the wrong ear. Luckily, blogging doesn't require the use of ears, so I'll have something to fall back on when the cauliflower-amputee look ruins my modeling career.

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