More Than a Little Wax

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One of my first jobs out of college was working as a physician’s assistant to an ENT. 


Had you been one of our patients, I would have called you into the examining room, recorded your medical history, and assisted the doctor during any necessary procedures.


One day, “Jack Sprat’s wife” came into the office with an excruciating earache that had begun suddenly the night before. A rather mousy“Jack” listened quietly beside his wife as she recounted her symptoms to the doctor with loud exuberance. 


“Never had anything like this before, Doc,” she bellowed. “Feels like my dad-gum ear is gonna explode!”


Non-plussed, Dr. Neal calmly began his routine examination. Without veering from his usual procedure, he checked her left ear first. 


“Left ear: clear,” he dictated, while peering through the otoscope into the patient’s ear canal.


Deliberately, Dr. Neal then shifted to examine the ear in question.


“Right ear: foreign body,” he continued calmly before moving on to check her nasal cavity and throat. 


A little stunned, I could hardly make note of the rest of his diagnosis. Foreign body?” I pondered silently. I’d never heard him say that before. What in the world could be in her ear?


With complete, professional calm, Dr. Neal moved me from my deliberation by asking for a sterilized alligator clamp and emesis basin. 


As I arranged these onto the mayo stand, he surprised me with a question I’d never before heard him ask. 


“Would you like to take a look before I begin the procedure?” he queried.


As the doctor held the otoscope in place, I leaned in to take my first look into one of our patient’s ears. 


There before me, magnified to the grandeur of a 74-foot IMAX image, was an ordinary, household roach. As I gawked to allow my mind to agree with what my eyes saw, the insect’s back leg moved up and down, as if attempting a futile escape.


Within seconds, the arthropod’s movement had ended from the clamp of the hemostat. As I whisked away the evidence, the patient caught sight of the source of her pain. 


With one fell swoop, she viciously smacked her husband with her handbag and roared,  “I tol’ ya to kill-it when it ran across the pilla last night!” 


Now thirty years after this incident, I can never read Psalm 40:6 without thinking of that experience. 


“My ears You have opened (literal Hebrew: “dug”). 


So tell me, what has crawled into your ear lately? What has He been using to dig it out?


(And just for curiosity’s sake, did you hit anyone afterwards?)