For the last several weeks I’d been having problems with my jaw. The lower right side of my jaw was always hurting, sometimes even within the teeth. So I did the natural thing and went to the Orthodontic Clinic here in Erlangen. They checked me out and said that there was nothing wrong with my teeth, but they were concerned that I might potentially have some problems with the positioning and muscles of my jaw. To that end they asked me to make an appointment with a specialist, who would check on my jaw. The appointment was made for 7 weeks after my initial examination. So, that’s not really great.

After about 2 weeks things got worse.  In addition to the pain at this point, the right side of my face was swelling pretty ridiculously. This all started on Sunday and gave me a sleepless night Sunday night. We went to the emergency room at about 4am on Monday, and they said I should go to the orthodontic clinic immediately and have their emergency service take a look at me. After waiting about 45 minutes for him, he showed up and told me that I might have a problem with my jaw or stones in my salivary gland or a problem with my facial nerves. In order to check that out, we would need to do a nerve test (in the clinic), an MRT (like a CT), and an ultra-sound, and that I should come back to the clinic during the normal hours and go directly to the surgical center. So that’s what I did. They started over from the very beginning and ran through all of the various tests that they could think of in order to rule out problems with my teeth and bones. All of those tests came back negative. That meant that I may have a “pathological maxillary problem” or an abscess at the root of one of my teeth, which the X-ray eliminated as a possibility. Also the swelling isn’t indicative a jaw problem. So that just opened more questions. What they did what give me an appointment to get the MRT (the first one available was May 26, but after the doctor said it was an emergency they were able to squeeze me in on May 19; I was sitting in the dentist’s chair on May 11 when they told me this) so that he could look at the fleshy tissue of my face and discuss the possible therapies with the chief of medicine and the chief of surgery of the clinic. It looked like something was happening, albeit very slowly.

I went home somewhat annoyed, but with a prescription for some stronger pain medicine and hoped to end the pain. I cancelled my Tuesday course, since I knew that I wasn’t going to be in any shape to teach it with the entire right half of my face swollen (I couldn’t even open my right eye more than about 40%). Monday night I tried to go to sleep again, and made it until about 2am, when I woke up and couldn’t not get the pain to stop. We had a friend drive me back to the emergency room about 445am. They still wouldn’t admit me, but they told me that they talked to someone in the surgical clinic and that I should go there between 730 and 8am. They are apparently only the clinic for internal medicine and quit looking where the neck begins. They then gave me some pain-killers so I could pass out for about an hour. We went to the surgical clinic at the prescribed time and of course no one had every heard of me. The surgeons then made a big deal about how everyone just sends all their patients to the surgeons because they are the best doctors (they were just acting like stereotypical surgeons in doing this) and then told me that I should go to the Ear-Nose-Throat clinic here in Erlangen. We walked there about 805am.

When I arrived, I was given a number (16) and told to wait. I also had to pay the 10 Euro fee, since the emergency time had expired (at 7am…meaning had we come straight here from the emergency room, we wouldn’t have had this problem at all). I finally got in to see a doctor about 845am I guess and she told me to get an ultra-sound after carrying out some pretty painful examinations. I waited at least 90 minutes for that and then they brought me and checked everything out. The technician asked the doctor to join him and take a look at it, which she did. After waiting another while, they brought me back in for the consultation, where the doctor told me that it obvious that I was having some inflammation problems, but there was no recognizable reason for them. She wanted to admit me. I broke down in tears at this point, not because I was worried about what that meant, but was finally just so relieved that someone was taking a minute to consider the kind of pain I was in and was going to take care of me. The circumstances had also fundamentally exhausted me to the point that I was about to break down. When I started to cry, the doctor seemed worried that I was flipping out and tried to comfort me, completely misinterpreting the situation. While she was getting everything read to admit me, she told me that I would be in the hospital for 24 hours. We finished the registration process and everything about 1pm (the duration sent me to the nurses’ station in the mean time to get some more pain-killers) and I went upstairs and they gave me a little lunch while I moved into the room with my roommate, another young man. The anesthesiologist immediately hooked up the IV (the doctor tried 3 times and failed; I told her not to feel bad, it happens to everyone who tries on me), took blood samples, and sent me back to finish my lunch (soup, since I couldn’t open my mouth more than a few centimeters). They got me on cortisone and antibiotics immediately and the results were good. The nurse let it slip at some point while she was in the room that I would most likely be there a few days, and not just 24 hours.

They also gave me something that looked like half of a bikini to where on my face with some gauze soaked in goo to keep it cool. That is the picture above. I told them that that really wasn’t the worst place for the pain, so they taped some to the front of my face. This was also uncomfortable, so the next day I made a mask out of some netting and put it around my face to hold the stuff in place. That worked the best, but looked the worst. Therefore, there will be no pictures of it.

My roommate was in there to have a stone removed from his salivary gland (it turned out to be two stones) and he left on Thursday morning. Then I got a new roommate, who snored so loudly, you might think the world was ending. That was one reason he was there. He spent Thursday night in the room with me and then was taking to surgery about 1 pm on Friday, but was not brought back into the room. The operation must have been more intensive than originally planned. At any rate they told me that he was doing well and at some point one of the nurses came and got all of his medications out of the room, implying that he must have at least been able to take meds. What that meant is that I had the room to myself for the last night in the hospital. About 10pm last night the nurse came in and gave me my last IV, which didn’t really work, so he took it out and said that I would just continue the therapy today with pills. It was nice to have that thing out of my hand, especially since the last time was pretty painful. What that meant for me is that they were actually letting me go.

This morning I got up and hectically tried to take care of everything to make sure that I didn’t show up late for the last doctor’s appointment that would get me out of the hospital. It was easy to get everything resolved pretty quickly since I didn’t have a roommate that I needed to regard. They gave me a letter for my GP (who by the way told me that my problem was that I didn’t exercise enough, when I went in there with these pains…but before the swelling; I’m curious is she’s going to have anything to say) and told me to go home. Since then I have been kind of bumming around here, primarily because I’m not really at 100% yet and still get tired pretty easily. I wanted to go watch the soccer match today, but it was just too risky for me. I stuck around the apartment and snoozed.

Overall, the visit in the hospital was a positive experience. Everyone made a very competent impression and the nurses were friendly (even though it was awkward the first time that one nurse came in, having never spoken to or seen me before, and asked “have you had a bowel-movement today, Mr. Robker?”). Seeing the people in there really makes you wonder about smokers though. I was just about the only person on the floor who didn’t smoke (I don’t count my monthly pipe) and everyone was in there with crazy throat cancers and such. It was horrific. My first roommate asked the nurse if he would have time to smoke and go to the bathroom before his operation when they called him or if he would just have to run down there as fast as possible. She told him instead of smoking a last cigarette before the operation, he should take a look at all of the other patients in the hospital.she wasn’t kidding. Some of them were seriously gnarly. In spite of this, many of them would still go out and smoke, through their stomas sometimes. That is just crazy.

Anyway, I’m pretty glad to be back in my apartment, but sorry that I won’t be getting food prepared for me every day. The pain and the swelling are also essentially gone, so that is great. I am hoping tomorrow or at the latest Monday that I will have the wherewithal to finish preparing my course for Tuesday so that I don’t have to cancel it again. Today I’m just not back up to capacity, but that will hopefully be better by tomorrow.

We’ll just have to see…

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