“Mom, I keep hearing a crackling in my ear.”
That is how it starts. My 11 year old son, K, tells me there is crackling in his ear. I remain calm. I ask him all the right questions. Does it hurt? How long have you been hearing it? Is it all the time, or just when you move your jaw? I file the information away mentally in case he started getting earaches or other signs of ear infections. I tell him it was probably just allergies or ear wax and we will keep an eye on it.
Because that is what a normal parent does.
I, however, a parent who thrives on House M.D., Pimple Popper MD, and YouTube videos of gross medical anomalies, am thinking one thing and one thing only.
WHAT if there is a SPIDER living IN HIS EAR!?!?!?!
You see it, you know — on the interwebs. Videos of people having bugs extracted from their ears. Pictures of a many-eyed fuzzy spider face peeking out from inside someone’s ear canal. I can imagine few things more horrifying.
And I spend an inordinate amount of time imagining horrifying things. It’s like a hobby for me. You should see me on an airplane. You would not want to talk to me on an airplane, though.
A couple of days go by. He hasn’t been complaining and I more or less forget about it, consumed by the demands of day to day life.
Then, in the middle of the night, K wakes me. He holds an immense wad of paper towels to the side of his face. I can see blood on his shirt. “Mom, I think I need to go to the hospital. Loki [our cat] bit my ear off.”
This results in the flurry of activity you can expect. I’ve got the lights on, trying to look at K’s ear. He is holding the paper towels to his face, unwilling to let me see even though he wants me to look at it. During the course of all of this, I do determine that the cat has not, in fact, bitten K’s ear OFF. He has, however, bitten it HARD. Hard enough to cause an alarming gash across the top of the ear and to cause a flood of bleeding.
My son, because he is MY son, is certain he needs to go to the emergency room. He has heard somewhere that cat bites get infected badly and you should always go to the ER if your skin is punctured by a cat bite. I assure him that because this is a tear, not a puncture wound, and it is bleeding and we can put antibiotics on it that it is okay to keep a close eye on it and not head to the emergency room at two in the morning.
Once he lets me look at it, we clean the wound. I put antibiotic ointment on it, and we band-aid it up. I give him some ibuprofen and tell him we’ll check it in the morning. He heads back to bed.
Then I panick. All-out freak-out. My heart pounds. My hands shake. I am one hundred percent certain, at this point, that he has a spider living in his ear. It probably emerges at night, and that’s what Loki saw that made him attack K’s ear so viciously. I can picture it. Little tiny spider leg extends out of K’s ear. Loki sees it, pats it, and pounces. I’m so sure this is what it is. I look for our otoscope, planning to sneak into K’s room and try to look inside his ear without him knowing. I CANNOT FIND our otoscope! Where the crap is it?
By now it’s close to four A.M. I find an otoscope that I can order and have delivered that afternoon.
When morning comes, I’m acting normally. I check K’s cut. It looks great – no redness. Meanwhile, I have looked it up and apparently Cat Scratch Fever is not just a song — it’s a real infection you can get from cat bites/scratches.
So now my son definitely has a spider living in his ear and may have a deadly infection.
I am freaking out like nobody’s business. On the inside.
The otoscope arrives. I very calmly tell my son I need to check inside his ear. I do not tell him I am looking for spiders. He’s already going to have a physical scar. I don’t need to give him an emotional one. I steel myself, ready to encounter hairy legs and multiple beady eyes . . .
There’s nothing in there. No spiders. No bugs. Not even any redness. Looks, as far as I can tell from comparing it to Google Images, like a regular eardrum in a regular ear. I’m no doctor, but there’s definitely no bug in there.
Three days later, the cut is already visibly healing.