Me: "I'm itchiinnnnnnn to cut my hair. I need to go NOW."
Kim: "Last time you were 'itchin' you pierced your ear in Hongdae..."
So I've been told that I have an unhealthy habit: not happy unless I am doing something to alter my appearance, create change, or stray from routine. Truth be told. I don't like the feeling of normalcy, bland routine, uneventfulness, or confiment related to any one thing. On the flip side, anything that promotes feelings of spontaneity, change, or adrenaline, and you can count me in. So, four tattoos, multiple piercings, jumping off cliffs into water, riding on the back of motorcylces & encouraging the driver for more speed (even when mom forbids it), moving to the other side of the world, cutting and dying my hair excessively, jumping over scary fences on horses... done. Most of these things have served their purpose: leaving me feeling refreshed, brand new, untouchable, and free to do as I please. Then there was the one instance where it surely DID NOT serve it's purpose and instead caused me agony and hatred for strangers with needles (minus the good kind that my doctor used to make me better)... so let's rewind, or as Dane Cook says, "let's Martin Scorsese this shit... let's go back, let's go back."
It all started like this...
One night, after getting my fortune read in Hongdae for fun, I spotted a piercing establishment upon exiting through the doors. BINGO. I struck gold. I turned to my friend Grace, "LET'S GET PIERCED!" Of course she motioned me forward, encouraging it while making it clear that I could put as many holes in my body as I felt appropriate but she was just there as an audience. So, as it goes, I left with not one piercing but a double piercing (with a spider hanging from it... ?? What the hell was I thinking? Perhaps it's one of those moments when my mother would answer that question back with... "you weren't.) Regardless, I was very impressed with the new piece, even if not for long.
A few days went by, and I started to feel my heart beating in my cartilage: throbbing shooting pains. The top of my ear was bright red and swollen. I started reading online, freaking myself out, and decided I should go see a doctor. Aftering checking in with my local doc, he perscribed me some antibiotics. At that point, perhaps I should have taken the damn thing out already but I was in teenager, "i don't wannnnaaa," mode. If the piercing itself was the first mistake, then leaving it in another couple days was the second. The following Friday, I decided I had enough. The antibiotics didn't seem to be doing much, and finally I had reached my tolerance for pain (or so I thought). I thought I would sit in on that Friday night basking in my pain, but then at last minute and without thought I was sprinting for the door in all my ugliness, no makeup, and no style. The next thing I knew I was on a bus crying and making my way to Aileen's place. Trying to hold back my tears the whole way there, when I burst through her door, I lost it. "Get this fucking thing out of my ear," I exclaimed! "I don't care what you have to do, or if it's going to hurt, please, do something, do anything... I literally cannot take it." I was sobbing. Aileen looked at me, and I could tell that she knew nothing mattered at that moment other than taking that thing off. We decided that even if we had to haul ourselves an hour to Hongdae to have it removed, that is what we would do. After several failed attempts and me curling into a ball in the fetal position crying, we were out the door and on our way. In addition to the fact that I had been crying and looked a mess, I was also sitting on the subway with a grape ice pop attached to my ear like a two year old with a boo boo. Classic.
When Aileen and I got to Hongdae, we practically sprinted from exit nine to the piercing shop. When I walked in, I looked at the man, pointed to my ear, and said... "out... take it out." He looked at me, then back at his boss, mumbled something something, "infection," and sent the store owner my way. The man first attempted to take out the piercing with his hands, as I screetched in pain, and realizing that he couldn't, he then took what looked like a wrench to my ear. It was so swollen that the back almost looked as though my ear was growing around the little metal ball. Once the piercing was out, the man looked at my face, wiped away my tears, and patted the sweat off my forehead, reassurring me in Korean that it was okay. For a small second I thought he was decent, and just then he tried to offer me another piercing and suggested I put a different earring in the hole. Again, my frustration with the pain got the best of me as I looked him dead in the face and said, "are you crazy?? Do you SEE my ear?? FUCK NO." He looked at me again, with the small amount of English he knew and replied back, "oh fuck? fuck?..... no no... you TRUST ME. I am good, trust meeee!" Trust me... the most fatal words ever spoken by man. "No fucking way, don't touch my ear," I snapped back at him. Aileen and I dipped out and now every time I pass by I want to throw a grenade into that place and wipe out his business.
After jewlery removal but before I went back to the doctor.
Even though the piercing was out, the infection seemed to be lingering and the pain had only subsided for one night before reocurring. On the following Monday, I went back to see my doctor. I will start this by saying and truly meaning, THANK GOD for my doctor, as well as his English abilities. People that fear going to the doctor are absolute morons, they do nothing but good to help you become well. I remember laying down on the table in his office and he told me that what he was going to do to help me was going to hurt. He had to attempt to squeeze the infection out of my ear through the hole left by my piercing. I knew this could be the case as it had happend to my sister once before and she told me how excrutiating it could be. However, after the squeezing ended, I heard him say, "that's not good enough, I'm going to have to put a small incision in your ear." At this point, I believe I sat up and said, "an incision?" questioning what he had just made clear and then took a minute to cry and mumble something along the lines of an apology for crying, living abroad, and wanting my mom. I took a minute to collect myself. The process that occurred after was something I will never forget. He numbed my ear, put in a small incision, and then proceeded to squeeze my ear firmly again, while trying to push the puss out through the openning. Then, he took a swab of antibiotic gauze and pushed it into the incission, and dressed it. This same process was continued almost every day with the gauze being removed, the ear being squeezed, and the gauze being reinserted for the next 2-3 weeks. After each visit, I had to receive IV's, which ended up keeping me there for another 40 minutes or so. The first week, I think I spent most of that time with subtle tears rolling down my face in the IV room. That week, I called my mom in absolute distress, hyperventilating and not being able to collect myself, telling her that I could not deal with having to do it every day... the anxiety and anticipation of knowing the pain that awaited me at my doctor's office was wearing on me. I have never had any kind of major accident or painful experience, besides breaking my arm horseback riding or having my wisdom teeth removed. Let me just say, I would rather break my arm 6 times consecutively or have my wisdom teeth reinserted and removed 4 times (at least then I'd be rewarded with milkshakes) rather than ever deal with the pain that was associated with this whole process again. Bring on child birth.
This was during the treatment but obviously not the first week, as I was clearly not pained enough to refrain from making stupid faces.
It ended up taking a long time to heal and there were days when I actually believed I was going to have to have my ear removed. My doctor is an incredible man. Having a medical issue such as this can be really stressful while living abroad, if not due to the communication barrier, than just in part because you are so far from the comforts of home and let's face if... you are never too old to want or need your mom. My doctor had lived in America for five years and his English could pass as his first language if you didn't know he spoke Korean. On the first day of treatment, he wrote me a note telling me that he would do whatever it took to make me better and he sure did stand by his word. From offerring me websites to remind me of the comforts of home, to going out of his way to find me special iv treatments, to being far more gentle than most Korean doctors have a reputation for. He not only treated my ear appropriately himself, but even went as far as to personally take me an hour away (after working hours) to be treated by one of his friend's who was an ENT specialist. When I thanked him and told him he didn't have to go so out of his way, he simply replied back, "you are my patient, it's my job to take care of you." Not only was my doctor made of gold but his nursing staff was also very kind and gentle. How funny now after a month of visits with them all, I feel as though I'm cutting out a part of my daily routine. As of Monday this week, my stitches have been removed, and I no longer need IV treatments or regular visits. AMENNNN! It has been the longest month of my lifeeeeeeeee! I owe a big thanks to my doctor and his staff for nursing my precious ear back to health. I solemly swear to never put another piercing in my body again.
Lastly, a picture of my awesome doctor and nurses who I owe my ear! For any foreigners who keep up with me on here, if you live anywhere near my area, I highly reccommend my doctor. His name is Doctor Gabriel Choi and his office is the Samsung Clinic in Wolgye-dong, Nowon-gu. They are open until 6pm on weekdays and 4pm Saturday. Telephone number 02)977-7582.
My next two updates can be expected within the week... Sunday Funday events & my Halloween in Hongdae and with my students. Stay tuned (the costume is worth it)! (Ps- for readers named Mom, Geraldo, and Grammy... sorry about the f word, but it WAS in fact appropriate. EEEEEEEEE!)