I loaded up on coffee before I headed upstairs for morning meds. I cradled the cup in my hands as I sat in the health office. I had a moment for silent reflection. ‘Child care’ had taken my three kids upstairs to get ready for their day of indoor instructions. I shivered. The temperature had dropped with the onset of the rain. I needed a sweatshirt. I clutched the hot coffee tighter and put it to my cheek as I inhaled and stared out the window at the falling rain.
I heard the rush of feet approaching. I took another drag on my coffee, put the cup on my desk and stood ready to take on the onslaught. I wondered what challenges this day would bring.
I leaned on the door jamb as I watched the boys burst through the door and then sit on the floor. I counted heads. Fifteen.
I started with my regular daily medication kids.
“Let’s start with headaches this morning. Anyone with a headache?” I asked as I began my triage of sorts. Headaches, bellyaches and sore throats were the top complaints du jour. Temperatures were taken. Throats and ears were checked. Abdomens were palpated.
After the last of that group, I had one remaining camper.
“What’s up, dude?” I asked.
“Ear.” Christopher, a Cord hut camper, explained as he pointed to his right ear.
“Pain?” I asked as I gestured for him to enter the office.
“Nope. Just feels full.” Christopher explained as I grabbed my otoscope and put on the probe.
“Well, let’s have a lookie see, shall we?”
Chistopher nodded and had a seat in the chair. I placed the otoscope in his ear expecting some redness along the external canal and some typical ear wax, also known as cerumen, maybe even a swimmers ear that can result in the feeling of fullness.
The canal was red, for sure, and I noted that in the distance the eardrum was intact but there was a fair amount of debris sitting along the bottom of the canal. It was a mix of dark flakes and black. It definitely was not cerumen.
“Hmmmm…” I said. I was confused. I took the otoscope out and looked at him. “Is there anything you want to tell me, Christopher?”
“Wadda ya mean?”
“About this ear?
“Is it important that I tell you that I used a small twig to itch it?” Chistopher blushed.
“Yes. That is important.” I agreed. That explained the brown flakes. Likely bits of the twig or bark.
As I collected a history the story emerged. After general swim, where Christopher had opted to nap and forego the swimming, he noticed his ear was itchy. It was insanely itchy. So insanely itchy that he took a small twig and used it to scratch in his ear. The itching immediately improved but a portion of the twig broke off inside. Christopher shook his head and hopped up and down and managed to get most of the twig out but now he was worried that more of the twig remained in his ear. He denied any pain.
“Let’s try gently washing out your ear, Christopher.” He agreed.
I had him lay on his left side and gave him a hand full of paper towels to hold at the tragus of his ear. As I filled a Dixie cup with warm water Bobbo and Dave stuck their heads in.
“Instructions begin in ten minutes, Christopher. Are you almost done?”
“Anne is going to wash out my ear.” Christopher explained.
“Oooh! This could be good! Can we watch, Christopher?” Dave asked intrigued.
“Whatever floats your boat.” Christopher shrugged.
“This would totally float my boat!” Dave responded and Bobbo laughed.
“Here goes.” I said as I gently filled Christopher’s ear with the warm water. “Any pain?”
“No.” Christopher responded.
As the ear canal filled with water, up came the tiny bits of bark and twig.
“Lean forward a bit please.” I instructed Christopher. “That way the water will spill onto the paper towels.”
As he did so a waterfall rapidly poured from his ear and the debris settled on the towel.
“Oh snaaaap!” Bobbo shrieked and Dave’s mouth dropped as they got a look at what had settled.
“What is it?” Christopher asked, eyes wide with fear.
“It’s OK.” I said reassuring Christopher. “It looks to be a tiny earwig.”
“Wrath of Khan,” all three guys wailed in unison referring to the Star Trek movie where Khan placed an earwig in a character’s ear.
“Good news is that he’s dead.” I told him as I poured more water into Christopher’s ear and noted that the water draining was clear.
“Bad news is that it was a ‘she’ and she laid her eggs in your ear.” Bobbo added teasingly.
“Bobbo. Stop.” I chastised him. “Not true Christopher. And it looks like the drainage from your ear is now clear, but let me look again.” I peeked in with my otoscope and verified that we had gotten the canal cleared.
I gave Christopher the lecture on not putting anything smaller than his elbow in his ear. I told him to come back if there were any signs of pain, discharge, fever or any other concerns.
“Concerns like maybe baby earwigs emerging from his ear?” Dave chimed in. Christopher and Bobbo giggled. I looked at the three of them.
“You guys really stink at the whole reassurance thing.” I told Bobbo and Dave. “Yes, Christopher, please let me know if a whole stream of widdle baby earwigs start coming out of your ear. I will vaporize them with my ray gun. Mmmk?”
“Cooool!” Christopher responded.