The other day I wrote about Kate and conversation and mentioned that I wondered if she might not have a buildup of wax in her ears. This has been a persistent issue for her since childhood. Yesterday seemed like a perfect time to find out if wax had been a primary source of her hearing problem. On one other occasion, I took her to a local clinic (Doc-in-a-Box) to have her ears washed out. Since then, I had learned that you can go online and book an appointment. They will call you thirty minutes before they are able to see you, so that’s what I did. It was interesting that they ask if this was something that would require a nurse or a doctor. I indicated a nurse figuring that would make it easier to get in.
Except for a brief sign-in procedure to update our/their records, we waited only a few minutes. In less than ten minutes, they checked Kate’s vitals and put us in an examination room. Shortly thereafter, a physician’s assistant came into the room to take a look at Kate’s ears. She quickly discovered a good bit of wax in both ears. She left and someone else came in to handle the task of cleaning it out.
The interesting part of the experience was Kate’s response. After the PA came in and introduced herself, I introduced myself and said, “This is my wife, Kate.” To my surprise, she said, “And I am smart. <pause> That’s what my mother and daddy tell me.” Later, during the examination, she repeated that she is smart.
Once she was on the examination table and the PA started to look into her ears, she became anxious. She wanted me beside her and to hold her hand. Both the PA and the person who did the cleaning were very gentle and non-threatening, but the exam itself scared her. This has to be another consequence of her Alzheimer’s. Even though I told her where we were going and why, she couldn’t remember where we were or why. This was only the second time we had been in this office, and that was three or four years ago. In addition, she didn’t seem to understand the instructions she was given. For example, when she was asked to lie down on her side so the attendant could put drops in her ears, it was very difficult for her to understand. I wonder now if part of the reason was that her ears were blocked up.
After she had gotten the drops in one ear, she had to lie on her side for fifteen minutes. Then the attendant came in to “irrigate” the ear and put drops in the other ear. Once again, I could see the power of music. She wasn’t fully at ease yet, so I got my phone out and played one of her favorite songs, “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music. She loved it and seemed to relax. I was surprised that she was able to mouth some of the lyrics before they were sung. From there, I played a variety of songs from folk to opera.
It took a little longer than might have been expected because they weren’t able to remove all of the wax on the first try. Kate got a little restless, and several times, she asked when we could go. While we were waiting, she asked, “Who are you?” I told her I was her husband. As frequently happens, she was surprised and didn’t believe me. A few minutes later, she asked, “Are you my daddy?”
As we were about to leave, the PA asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving. I told her we were going to Texas to be with our son and his family. Kate said, “What’s his name?” I am sure the PA understood the situation. Their records should have shown that she has Alzheimer’s. To make sure, I told the attendant who took Kate’s vitals. As I said earlier, they were very understanding.