When I was nineteen, I had a car accident at an intersection. The back of my car got hit. It wasn’t a big accident – I wasn’t going very fast and neither was the other guy. Still, it was either a slow night or the ambulance guys wanted to take extra care when they saw how young I was, because they slapped me into a giant cervical collar, strapped me to a gurney and sped me to the hospital.
Once there, I had to wait a long time. (the hospital staff was unmoved by my youth). They wanted me to get my head x-rayed, and there was some delay about getting into the x-ray room.
Finally, once the film was taken (it was back in the dark ages before digital), the technician emerged from her little cave, looking at me on some point about two inches above my eyes with a mix of concern and horror.
“So, can I go home now?” I asked.
“The doctor has to review your film,” she said, still weirdly looking above my eyes, not in them. “Let me ask you a question.”
“Do you get a lot of… headaches?” She said, still looking at the spot on my forehead.
“No,” I said.
“No migraines, nothing like that?”
She snapped out of it, finally looking away, “No, nothing. The doctor will be in in a little bit.”
Now, when someone who has just looked at the inside of your head asks you whether you get headaches and looks at you like she’s trying to control herself from asking you to please donate your brain for study upon your imminent death, you worry. Thoughtfully, they gave me plenty of time to ponder the cruel irony of my upcoming death. The doctor took his sweet time.
Finally, he came in carrying my x-rays, looking from them to that same spot on my forehead, presumably where the grapefruit-sized mass was about to burst through bone. “So, you get a lot of headaches?” was his greeting.
“Doc, you guys are freaking me out. What is it? What do I have?”
“Have? Oh, no, it’s nothing like that,” he said, snapping the film into the light box. “See here? You know what sinuses are? They’re air cavities in your facial bone. You have some of the biggest sinuses I’ve ever seen,” he said, outlining them for me with the back of his pen. “Yours are here,” he said. “Normal ones are here,” he said, making a much smaller circle. “I’ve never seen sinuses like this even in a textbook.”
“So I’m an airhead is what you’re saying,” I deadpanned.
“No, see here,” he said, making the outline again, missing the joke. “Huge sinuses. You’re sure you don’t get a lot of headaches?”
“I have a really hard time on airplanes. Bad pains in my forehead and on my cheeks.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet.”
“Is there anything I can do about it?”
“Do? No. It’s just fascinating.”
I was underwhelmed by my medical freak attention.
I was reminded of this incident tonight on an airplane. As we made our descent into the Orlando darkness, I started to get excruciating stabbing pains all over my forehead, left to right, then radiating down my face. My prodigious sinuses were taking their time letting the air of different pressures rumble around in there, teaching me in an instant what people mean when they say they’d rather die than bear pain any more. If that had lasted more than five minutes, I’d be Kevorkianing the hell out of my head. It was explosion after explosion of stabbing pain, each over the line of how much pain I thought I could stand. Mixed together and migrating all over a huge portion on my skull, they were as unbearable as I remember them being when I was little.
As it was, surrounded by strangers, I tried to not look too weird while softly pressing my knuckles under my eyes to try to relieve the pressure. (Fellow hyper-sinus-ers, be aware that this does absolutely nothing). Doing the nose-hold, pop the ears thing does nothing, chewing gum does nothing, Ear Planes do nothing, voodoo does nothing. The only option open is dealing with the ice picks to the face.
Now it’s an hour since landing and the vacant spaces in my head feel like they just went through an MMA bout. If prior experience is any indicator they will be sore for days.
The stuff I can’t see in my body fascinates me and makes me wonder. What does my liver look like? What are the special quirks of my elbow joints? Perhaps I’ll never know. But, thanks to that long-ago fender bender, I know I have some world-class sinuses. So I am more of an airhead than most!