My visit to accident and emergency

18 06 2010

A story about a visit to the accident and emergency ward of a hospital should be a fast-paced and dramatic tale, detailing inspiring psychological resilience to overcoming physical pain.

It should be a heart-warming portrayal of how one hurtled through the doors of the hospital, considering asking a vicar to deliver one’s last rites, but with the help of doctors and nurses, one being able to overcome the cruel downturn in luck that led to one being rushed to hospital.

However, my first ever trip (and I would be happy if it was the last) to accident and emergency (A&E), on Saturday 12 June, 2010 was not fast-paced. It was not dramatic. It was not inspiring. It was not heart-warming. Goodness, it didn’t even involve pain.

“I was cleaning my ears, and then…”

What were you doing at about 11:30pm on Friday 11 June, 2010? I was closing my laptop, and considering going for a shower. It was getting late-ish and I was tired from a very busy week. Yes, a shower would be lovely, I thought.

So I trundled into the bathroom. I decided I should clean my ears.  Cleaning my ears has always been something I’ve secretly quite liked. It’s satisfying. It’s nice to scratch that itch that, with your index finger, you simply can’t reach during the day.

So, with cotton wool bud in left hand, I cleansed my left ear. I then rotated the cotton wool bud, and, with my right hand, cleansed my right ear.

I gave it a good wiggle, and then pulled the cotton wool bud out.


In my hand, I held the cotton wool bud. The plastic stick was there, as was the bud of cotton wool that had so successfully cleansed my left ear. But the other end, the end which had just been in my right ear, was bare plastic.

Evacuation attempt

It was now about midnight. The rest of the family were all asleep. I was on my own, in the bathroom, with a cotton wool bud stuck in my ear.

After a good half hour of searching every cupboard in the house, I found some tweezers. Now, I’ll be honest, I got a cotton wool bud stuck in my ear a few months ago (it was a cheap, poor quality cotton wool bud), but it was near to the opening of my ear, so I could easily get it out.

This time was different though. This time, I clearly hadn’t learnt from experience, and it was nestled a lot further into my ear.

In went the tweezers. I tried to grab whatever there was to be grabbed in my ear. Unfortunately, all I got was my skin, and tiny hairs.

This was going badly.

I then stuck my ear under the tap. I decided that if the cotton bud got wet, it might get heavier, in which case I should be able to violently move my head from side to side, and the present centrifugal forces would dislodge the cotton wool bud.

Instead, I was left with a wet right ear, and a temporary mild headache from the severe head shaking.

Flushing it out

The tweezers had been unsuccessful. But, I believed the water idea had potential. So I had a shower.

With my right hand covering my right ear, I aggressively tried to create a vacuum in my ear (like how one may plunge a blocked toilet or sink). This lasted roughly 10 minutes.

The cotton wool bud was still contentedly lodged in my ear.

So I had my shower and went to bed.

Seeking medical advice

When I woke up at about 10am on Saturday, I felt happy. It was Saturday and I could have a lie-in. And then I remembered I had a cotton wool bud in my ear.

After sharing my brave story with my family, I went into Lancaster in search of some medical advice – my parents had told me to go to casualty, but I deemed it unnecessary.

I thought that the doctors’ surgery might be open, for emergencies and stuff. It wasn’t. It was closed. However, there was a number for NHS Direct. I knew I wouldn’t need it, but I wrote it on my hand anyway.

Despite this hurdle, I was optimistic that someone would tell me that all I needed to do was bla bla bla bla and I didn’t have to go to hospital. So I went to Boots – they do plasters and toothbrushes, so I knew they’d have answers for me. They didn’t. The slightly confused-looking lady at the medicine counter suggested I go to A&E.

No, I refused to go to hospital. I walked back to the car, and decided to ring NHS Direct. After five minutes of me telling the not-medically-trained person what I have said above, I was told I MUST GO TO A AND E IMMEDIATELY. He also said I MUST NOT DRIVE, and I should get someone else to drive me to hospital.

I was already in Lancaster. I was on my own. I was in the car while he was telling me all this. So I drove, against medical advice, to the hospital.

“The problem? Oh, erm…”

After being robbed of £1.70 by the hospital’s car park, I entered Lancaster Infirmary’s A&E doors.

The nerves and mild embarrassment of my problem meant I was subconsciously smiling a lot. This probably made me look a bit arrogant, and probably a bit of an arsehole. Regardless, the receptionist was pleasant enough, and didn’t laugh at me. I would have understood if she’d said: “You’re in A&E for that?” But she didn’t. So that was nice of her.

After five minutes of waiting for computer systems to recognise me, I made my way into the waiting room.

I had a vast choice of seats. I opted for the one slightly hidden by a vending machine. That way, people wouldn’t be able to see that I was in perfectly good health.

The waiting room started to fill up. My conclusion of this is that people damage themselves more around lunchtime than at breakfast.

In the waiting room, my attention flicked between looking at other patients, trying to work out what was wrong them, and looking at the massively depressing posters telling me that speeding on the road would result in death, or thoroughly painful surgery. Nothing beats warnings of death to keep one optimistic while in hospital.

When observing fellow patients, most of my time was spent looking, with considerable disgust and hatred, at the grumpy and moody teenage lass who was taking calls and writing texts on her Blackberry, defying her mum’s requests for her to switch off the phone. Yoof of today, eh?

Diagnosis: Murder Stuck cotton wool bud

I was abruptly snapped from my contemptuous glare when I heard: “PETER ADAMS?!” For some reason, I felt embarrassed. Now my waiting room comrades could put a name to the patient who seemingly had nothing wrong with him.

The nurse took me to a room within the waiting room (there were partition walls, but not up to the ceiling). There, I told her what I’d told the receptionist.

I then returned to my seat in the waiting room. Another patient was directed to the room I’d left. I heard every word. His issues were more serious than mine. I felt bad. I was here for a far more trivial reason. But what’s worse is that it meant everyone in that waiting room had heard me too. Damn.

A few minutes later, my name was called again. This time it was called by a short, friendly faced, blonde nurse with a slightly softer tone than the previous nurse.

The operation

I was asked to perch on a seat in a room, and my nurse (she may have been called Victoria. Very friendly) said she would be right back.

As I sat there on my own, my mind was envisaging what serious medical action may need to be taken. What if I required surgery? What if I needed a local anaesthetic (which would have made me sad), so they could drive a scalpel into my ear to rip the stranded wool bud from my ear?

After all the build up in my mind, it turned out that my shower/vacuum strategy had brought the now-12-hours-old cotton wool bud nearer to the opening of my ear, and the friendly nurse plucked it out with some scissor-esque tweezers.

I felt like I had been given a second chance at life, a chance to right my wrongs, to live in a clear-ear world. This was good. My ears were clear and I was happy.

Such was my trust in the nurse following this miracle that I then asked her about all of my health concerns (occasionally mildly shaking hands [anxiety/adrenaline-related], clicking/grinding knees [normal], clicking joints [normal], my fear of needles [common fear]), and every question was kindly answered.

I thanked the nurse, then proudly and healthily strolled out of the hospital.

So there we have it, my A&E story. Through my stupidity I had ended up in A&E. There were people in pain, with serious problems, who needed urgent medical attention. I had a cotton wool bud stuck in my ear. It was embarrassing (and very guilt-inducing), but it was likewise humbling to see the kindness which was shown to me, despite how trivial my issue was.

But please, learn from my lesson.

Cotton wool buds. Don’t do it, kids.




15 responses

14 08 2010

I Just read your story. Beautifully written made me laugh loads. I am also stuck in that dilemma cotton stuck in my ear I can’t hear from it it’s so annoying.wish me luck x

5 12 2011
Peter Adams

I meant to reply to this yonks ago. Sorry that I didn’t. I hope the offending bud was removed, and you made a full recovery.

16 01 2011
1 12 2011

A heartwarming story – I’ve just had the same problem – getting a cotton bud stuck in my ear! Managed to track down sone tweezers and had the ’emergency operation’ done. Cancelling the Docs appointment as have the all clear – an just glad I survived the ‘Big C’ lol 🙂

5 12 2011
Peter Adams

Thank you very much for reading and commenting. Feedback’s always welcome – especially when it’s positive! Also, on this story in particular, it’s actually a relief to get comments (and also to see how often people find it through cotton bud-related Google searches) – it reassures me that the cotton-bud-in-ear nightmare happens to a lot of innocent people.

31 01 2012

i also have this problem and think its in deep and im in a bit of pain i suffer with bad ears anyway just hope the hospital can help me cant remove it myself so up to a and e for me not sure what they will do with it hurtin so much

18 08 2012
Peter Adams

Sorry for the late response – I hope, more than half a year later, it’s been removed.

15 08 2012

Peter,this is amazing! Just stumbled across your story after a similar experience myself …not yet resorted to a & e,hopefully tweezers will do it! Just wanted to say you have a fantastic writing style & really made me laugh. Your story is oh so believable! Thank you for sharing 🙂 good luck to all fellow sufferers! Emma x

18 08 2012
Peter Adams

Thanks Emma! Very kind comments – and I thought tweezers would do the trick, too. Hope you managed to avoid A&E.

5 11 2012

hello peter just done the same thing but reading your story has just stopped me goimg to a+e,will now sit and think what to do, was going to use a turky baster to try to suck it out.thanks again.

26 05 2013

Thanks for sharing your experience.
There is a Question that always struck my mind
When it comes to cotton bud stuck in ones ear.
Can one survive such an experienced without seeing the doctor?

Warm Regards

2 06 2013
Peter Adams

Dear Curios,

Thank you for your comment.

I think survival is highly possible, even without seeking medical help, even contrary to NHS Direct’s frightening instructions. You just need someone who has a steady hand, and has access to a decent pair of tweezers.

Kind regards,

14 06 2013
Helpful hints

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can you offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn’t mind writing a post or elaborating on a number of the subjects you write in relation to here. Again, awesome website!

12 03 2014

Great story man. I just stuck one of this stupid bud in my ear and was looking for answers on the net before going to the doctor when i came across your story or should i say experience. I hope new technology is available to date to deal will that.

6 01 2017

Your story was very well written.made me chuckle..sat here at 2.30 am with my 18 year old waiting for medical services to ring back.she stuck a cotton bud in her ear and the bud is lodged. Not risking damaging my offspring’s ears further by using tweezers.she said use a vacuum cleaner till we read it was dangerous.have 9 year old too in bed so can not drive her nearlly an hour to A and E. Wish us luck.

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