Rabid porcupines? No, drowning in a slime pit is more like it.

5 12 2008

It’s not a well-documented rule of blogging, but there does seem to be an unwritten rule that when you have a quality-of-life-improving medical procedure, you need to write about it. So, that’s what I’m going to do this evening.

Almost every year for the past 15 years or so, I’ve had a sinus infection at some point during the winter months. Usually in February I catch a cold that seems to linger on for a week and a half, and then I go to the doctor and get two weeks of antibiotics. When I moved to California, I thought ‘hey, there’s no winter here to speak of, so maybe it won’t happen this year.’ Wrong. Last February I had my worst bout of sinusitis ever, which turned into a nasty case of acute bronchitis on top of it all. I think I missed a good week of work and ever since then I have felt like I have been breathing through two cocktail straws glued to my nostrils.

So after regular, daily blasts of Flonase into my nose and getting no relief I finally went to an otolaryngologist. He looked into my nose and 30 seconds later said “Is one side of your nose consistently more blocked than the other?” Well, yes, come to think of it… “Did you ever have any accidents when you were younger? A broken nose or fist fight?”

Shortly after he said that, the TiVo that is my mind rewound to 29 years ago.

My brother and I are nine years apart. That means I was right around 11 years old when he was learning to walk. One summer afternoon I was lying on the floor in our living room, and he was on the couch. Somehow we decided it would be fun for him to roll off the couch, and then I would catch him as he rolled off, and gently land him on the floor like an airplane. He then climbed back up on the couch and we did this over and over for about an hour.

To this day I don’t know exactly what happened next. The TV may have been on and he got distracted. Maybe his legs gave out and he lost his balance. But the next thing I knew, all 28 pounds of him had sat squarely on my nose, and I ran to the bathroom to see what happened. It didn’t really hurt at the time. In fact, I think I wound up giving him a hug because I saw that one side of my nose was completely clear and I was breathing so well for the first time in a long time. Little did I know…

“You have a badly deviated septum,” the doctor continued, “and your turbinates have swollen to compensate for the change in volume. That’s why you get an infection – you can’t clear out the mucus that collects in your sinuses.”

So, on Wednesday I had a septoplasty and turbinate reduction at Eden Hospital in Castro Valley. I’ve had a number of surgical procedures done over the years, and this one went better than any I’ve ever had. Everyone was a pleasure to work with, I didn’t get sick from the anesthesia, and the anesthesiologist actually put in the IV without (significant) pain on the first try.

That’s not to say I feel great, however. At the moment I feel like I’ve been punched in the nose and teeth. I still need to flush out my nose with saline every hour, which helps a little bit, but what I really want to do is blow my nose, but I can’t do that because if I do so much as graze my nose with anything I’m about ready to jump through the roof, let alone blow out the splints. I have to breathe through my mouth, which after about 2 minutes feels like you’re eating wads of cotton.

The doctor sure makes it sound easy. “You’ll feel awful when you go home, and will be pretty much out of it on Thursday, but by Friday you’ll feel like reading email or even doing some work. On Monday you’ll be back to work.” To this I say HA!! I’m now at Day 3, post-surgery, and I don’t feel dramatically better than I did my first night at home. I’m hoping it’s a case of needing to get worse before it gets better, but right now I’m nowhere near better than before. I’ll see how I feel again on Thursday when the splints come out.

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