Last May my wife and I contracted a sinus infection while on vacation in Barcelona, Spain.  It was a nasty creature and it took us several weeks to get rid of it.  A few weeks later, we were off to Maine where we had rented a summer home.   By the time we arrived, my wife was free of the infection, but I was still having problems.  It must be the wild flowers in the front yard, I decided, or perhaps the mold growing on the walls of the old farmhouse we were staying in that’s causing the problem. At any rate, I was convinced that I would be getting better very soon. I was wrong.

Fast forward to early October.  When we arrived at our home in sunny Florida, the sinus infection was still with me, and getting worse.  It was time to visit the family doctor.  The news was not good. He ordered a CAT scan, and the results clearly showed a serious infection in one of the large sinus cavities in my face. He prescribed an antibiotic, nasal spray, and Allegra, and sent me off to my Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist.

 My ENT doctor was not impressed.  I don’t treat patients based on test results, he told me, waving aside the test results dismissively. I base my diagnosis on what I see, and what the patient describes; and quite frankly, the symptoms you describe don’t indicate a sinus infection. He took me off the antibiotics and Allegra and told me his office would schedule a hearing test in a few days so, “I can find out what’s going on in your ear.”  End of visit!

I was convinced that there was something wrong with this picture, so the next day I scheduled an appointment with a different ENT doctor. A thoughtful, analytical man, he listened to what I had to say, and during a relatively simple examination, confirmed that I indeed had a serious sinus infection; and it had spread to one ear, as well as in lymph nodes on one side.  He put me back on antibiotics and another medicine that I can’t remember, and sent me home to rest.  It was a start but it was too late.

Three days later my temperature reached 103.2° and I was admitted to the hospital.  What followed was three scary and confusing days; during which I could not stand up without falling over, my hands shook so badly that I couldn’t hold a cup, and my temperature refused to go much lower than 101.5°.  Then, after more tests than I can remember, all concerned agreed that the sinus infection was indeed the main culprit.  When my temperature subsided they sent me home to undergo fourteen days of antibiotic therapy administered once a day by IV.

By now, most of the infection has been cleared up.  But there’s more to the story.  Two days ago my new ENT doctor spotted something on the latest CAT scan report that no one had noticed before.  There on the film, in plain sight, was a very badly abscessed molar.  Poison from the abscess had leeched through the bone that separates the cheek cavity from the tooth area; and from there, the infection began to spread.  It was truly an “Ah Ha” moment!

It was all so simple. Specialist had been pouring over images of the sinus and ear canal areas, but no one was paying attention to the teeth.  No one that is, but my new ENT doctor.  He tried to make light of the moment with the weak joke, saying he’d rather be lucky than good.  I told him luck had nothing to do with it. I told him that he was good at what he did and that he was practicing medicine the way it should be practiced.  I also told him I was glad he was my ENT doctor.

I am hoping that next week an oral surgeon will remove the offending molar and clean up the mess it left.  Meanwhile, a friend of mine texted me with the following quote meant as a playful jab, “mother says brush your teeth and floss every day.”  I agree but would add the following, “dentists should look very carefully at the x-rays they take after each teeth cleaning. After all, that’s what we pay them for.”

my picRon Standerfer is a novelist, freelance writer, book reviewer, and amateur photographer whose articles have appeared in numerous news publications including online editions of the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and the Honolulu Star Advertiser. He is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance (ITWPA) and American Writers & Artists Inc (AWAI). He is a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew 237 combat tours in Vietnam War. His novel, The Eagles Last Flight, chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during The Cold War and Vietnam years. He also publishes an online magazine, The Pelican Journal.

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