Fear or premonition?


I haven't ever acknowledged fear, not since I was a child. Because all emotions are confusing to me, I have little faith in my own instincts. I hesitate to trust when I feel premonition or trepidation. I assume I'm just being too anxious, and push through it.

For the past few days, I've known I needed to return to Mayo Clinic in Rochester to have an injection of steroids into my inner ear, a needle piercing the eardrum to fill the inner ear with medication that could restore my hearing suddenly lost in one ear two weeks ago. I felt an immense amount of fear about this procedure. It just doesn't seem "natural". But after two decades of callousing myself to the ways of Western medicine in order to become a nurse supportive of cares I find barbaric, I just pushed the fear aside. It seems pretty normal to feel afraid of having something injected into your ear drum. I assumed I was just afraid of the pain.

Yesterday, I had a hearing test that confirmed I had lost another 20-40% of my hearing in my bad ear. I am lucky enough to have the chief of the ear/nose/throat department as my physician. He strongly recommended the injection. And so I climbed into the chair, obligingly tilted my head and held still while he made three injections of dexamethasone into my inner ear. The pain was as intense as I imagined, and I was immediately dizzy and nauseous. The medication was ice cold, and the reflex to pull away was almost unbearable. He and the nurse assured me the symptoms would subside once the medication was in my ear. So, I lay still, following the instructions: do not swallow, do not talk, do not move your jaw to pop your ear, and keep your head tilted so the medication can dwell in the inner ear for 30 minutes. The pain did not go away. By 25 minutes, I couldn't stand it any longer. He returned to suction the excess medication out of my ear, and the nurse gave me a glass of ice water to ease the burning and stinging that made me feel like I might pee my pants.

I was ushered out to the waiting room to return home, assured again and again that the pain would go away. But three hours later, it was still a 10 out of 10. The worst pain I had ever endured. Worse than labor, because it was constant instead of washing over me in waves like contractions. Worse than my ectopic pregnancy when my Fallopian tube burst inside of me (that's supposed to be the most painful event in a woman's life, worse than broken bones, burns, or traumatic injury). I called my team of physicians back at home, telling them we were on our way home from an intratympanic injection and I needed to be seen for this crippling pain. They panicked and sent me back to Mayo to go to the ER there. I called my Mayo doctor back, and he said no one ever has this persistent or severe of pain following the injection. He had no idea what had gone wrong. He's injected tens of thousands of people. And I am the one who gets the worst pain. He prescribed strong painkillers and directed me to try them first before heading to the ER.

I took the painkillers, plugged my ears with swimmer's ear plugs to prevent air from entering the ear, and found some relief in the next hour. The pain decreased to about a 6, and we finally headed home at 7 p.m.

In hindsight, I wonder if that fear I felt was a premonition. Did I know somehow that something would go wrong? Should I have listened to my instincts instead of the experienced physician who reassured me that my fears were not factual?

How about you? How do you react when you have intense fear and a sense that something isn't a good idea? Are you able to trust your instincts? Or do you buckle, assuming your fear is irrational?

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