Playing It By Ear

18 Oct Playing It By Ear

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 25.10.21


The label on one of the pills I’m taking says I’m not to operate heavy machinery but I’m not sure if my laptop qualifies as “heavy” so I am diving in regardless.

Also, full disclosure, two of the medicine labels warn drowsiness is a risk so forgive me if I wander off mid-thought. Though wait! We’re not doing this in real-time so I can go back and fix things before you read it, right? I’ll just keep in a stream-of-consciousness moment for effect. There, that one will do.

I had a spot of ear surgery a few days ago – initially delayed by Level 4 Lockdown then rescheduled at Level 3. By now I expected to be firing on all cylinders but I’ve done that thing women often do which is to underestimate the gravity of a personal health situation. You’ve probably done it yourself – waved some procedure off with a cheery, “I’ll be fine, it’s nothing!” and then found yourself stuck in your pyjamas days later with your head fairly nailed to the pillow, while people with expectations (and let’s be fair, expectations based on information you provided) tap their watches and ooze impatience.

I can report that a hospital at Level 3 is even more like itself – staff only, all masked all the time. No visitors looking lost or delighted or anxious in corridors because there are no visitors at all. My husband and I had waited in the carpark at dawn for the “Come on down!” call from reception and waved each other good bye.

So it’s all business, but they cannot be kinder, and that’s the usual thing we say about healthcare people but I’m still saying it here because we should remark on remarkable things. They let me make jokes and make some of their own, and one of the post-op carers says when she sees me stand up for the first time, “I thought you were taller – you have a tall personality” and without wanting to disrespect short people everywhere I take this as a massive compliment.

In the operating theatre, a nurse tells me her kid was at school with my daughter 20 years ago and suddenly this gathering of surgical staff feels a bit like a school fair and we get so chatty the anaesthetist says something old-school about women talking and I suggest the only way he can shut me up is to drug me, and he does, and I drift off wondering if that was a terrible thing to say and it probably was.

I don’t know why I am surprised that, after someone has been tootling about in my head with a drill for three hours, I wake up feeling a bit sore. It’s like that time I had a baby and had focused so much on the birth that I was surprised this wasn’t the end of the event, just the very beginning, and I think that’s what the Day Three Blues can be about sometimes but I’m not actually a doctor.

The people who are doctors are very pleased with my ear, and now that it is over I am reading up on the literature and I am impressed with them, too. Mostly, though, I am enchanted by my bandages which come with a bow set off to the side, giving me a flapper-vibe which goes nicely with the white compression stockings and honestly if I could stand up I’d do you a Charleston but right now it is time for nap, normal transmission will resume…