Hope

We had to fly to Honolulu on Tuesday.

It seems odd to write that.

We had to fly to Honolulu.

In my experience, most people rather want to fly to Honolulu. But it’s true. We had to. The Big Island’s small population cannot support the range of medicine one might wish for, so we had to fly to Honolulu to see an ear specialist.

If I had ever had illusions of an exotic island-hopping lifestyle, the trip squashed them pretty flat. In addition to the usual travel arrangements, I got a special dispensation from the Ministry of the Plague to be exempted from Covid testing and/or quarantine, with the understanding that we would go directly to the appointment and come directly back home, which was fine by us. We had to go. We didn’t want to, and a thoroughly putrid lunch at the food court across from the medical center sent us hightailing our way back to the airport, begging to be put on an earlier flight back to Hilo

The news from the doctor was all good. He was not fazed in the least by Rochi’s history or current symptoms. In fact, he said, “When these things happen…”

…and I fell out of my chair.

When these things happen…

After Rochi had had an endless series of ear infections starting in the spring of 2019, and because of the absurd situation with health insurance in the US, we had gone back to Japan last fall to seek treatment. Health insurance was granted without question and he received treatment from supposedly the best doctors in the best hospitals. But one after the other, they scratched their butts and said, “Gee. I’ve never seen this before. Let me pump you full of drugs and see what happens.”

As it turns out, that was the right thing to do. When these things happen, the only treatment available is antibiotics and steroids, which he received in abundance. And in time, they worked. The inflammation and infection both passed, leaving his body 40 pounds under weight and his head full of glitches and quirks. If he wasn’t so gosh darned stubborn, we wouldn’t be here, now, napping under a pile of sympathetic cats. But after months of treatment, in and out of three different hospitals, not one doctor ever gave us a clear diagnosis. All we ever got was a lot of sympathetic nodding accompanied by butt scratching in three part harmony.

When these things happen… The Honolulu doctor didn’t try to give it a name, but he also didn’t act like he’d just this moment started medical school and didn’t yet know the difference between a stethoscope and an enema bag.

When these things happen… The tender skin in the outer ear can get dry and then bacteria can get through, especially the kind that thrives here in the jungle. It makes its way to the inner ear and then hops an express train for points further inside the skull. The doctor gave us a steroid ointment, saying Rochi should apply a tiny amount to the external ear if it ever feels itchy and that should solve the problem. Also, he said that when these things happen, they rarely recur so there is very little likelihood that it will ever happen again.

Golly.

So if he had moisturized his ears, none of this would have happened? I am by nature wary of easy answers, but if dry skin was the culprit that led to so much misery, I wonder what that might say about Covid. If a butterfly in Harare hadn’t flapped its wings, or little Johnny Slobsky hadn’t dropped a Snickers wrapper at the corner of Main and Elm, or the whales had migrated east instead of south, or I had decided to have ravioli instead of lasagna, would Covid never have happened? Would the world be a different place? A better place?

I have no answers for unanswerable questions. Instead, I will leave you with this: Wash behind your ears, not inside them.

And this: Never give up hope, but don’t expect too much.

Tread gently into the new year, dear reader. Keep your heart and mind open to possibilities. Sometimes we have to, but if we’re lucky, more often we want to.