My doctor’s office gave me a list of pre-surgery instructions before my septoplasty: I needed to take a shower the morning of my procedure to help reduce the risk of infection; I needed to make sure I had someone to drive me home afterward and stay with me for the rest of the day; and I needed to fast. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before, which was tough because my appointment was at noon–I wouldn’t have anything to eat for more than twelve hours.
I was pretty worried about the fasting part. My metabolism is weird, and I usually have to eat a small snack every 1-2 hours or I don’t feel right. Luckily, the surge of adrenaline I got that morning from freaking out about the surgery kept me from feeling hungry. Thanks, adrenaline!
I also kept myself distracted (from both hunger and freaking out) by cleaning my kitchen and bathroom. Normally I hate cleaning, but that morning I was convinced that I had to finish tidying up the whole house or something was going to go wrong. I also blow dried my hair, which I don’t often do, because I was worried about getting bed head while I was under anesthesia. Panic does strange things to people’s brains.
I started feeling better as soon as my sister drove me to the surgical center. Everybody at the center was super friendly and took very good care of me, especially Sharon and Steve, the pre-op/post-op nurses.
They gave me a gown and surgical socks to change into, which made me wish (as I always wish when putting on a hospital gown) that they’d make hospital sweatpants for people who were only having procedures on their top halves. I just feel like I’d be more confident if I had pants on–especially since I was between gown sizes and looked like I was playing dress-up in someone else’s gown. At least Sharon had a blanket waiting for me when I got into the hospital bed. It had been warmed up and felt lovely.
Sharon and Steve checked my height, weight, pulse, and blood pressure, and then Steve hooked me up to an IV while Sharon checked my list of medications with me. After that was done, Sharon had me spray some Afrin up my nose. They asked me about my work and were very interested to hear that I taught Irish dancing. Steve told me about visiting Ireland with his rugby-playing brother. Both of them were so calm and friendly that it really put me at ease.
Once I was prepped, they brought my sister back to sit with me while I waited to go back to surgery. We played Scrabble on my phone (she won), and occasionally one of the doctors or nurses would come back to check on me and see if I had any questions. They all made sure they had my name and date of birth right, and also that they knew if I had any allergies. That turned out to be a really good precaution, because the lady going in ahead of me was allergic to latex and they had to reset the operating room with non-latex gloves before her procedure.
One of the doctors who came to talk to me was the anesthesiologist. She introduced herself and told me about the different medications she would be giving me before and during the operation. She also made sure that I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink that day. I really appreciated her telling me about her part of the procedure; it always makes me feel better to know what’s going on. Like all the staff at the center, she had a warm and professional manner which made me feel like I was in good hands.
When it was my turn, the surgical nurse came by, did one last check of my info, and then wheeled me into the operating room. Steve told her that I was an Irish dancer, and the nurse told me that she’d learned an Irish dance at school once and loved it. While she talked to me, she put some patches on my chest that I took to be monitors, and then she had me scoot myself over onto the operating table.
The anesthesiologist came in and told me that she’d be putting the general anesthetic into my IV. I’d be asleep during the procedure (THANK GOODNESS!) and would wake up in the recovery room.
“Before I inject the anesthesia, I just want to give you some oxygen,” she said, putting a plastic mask over my nose and mouth. “Breathe normally, with nice even breaths. Now I’m going to add the anesthesia. You might feel a kind of buzzing as it starts to work; that’s normal.”
I didn’t know what she meant by “buzzing,” but a moment later I felt a strange sensation, like my IV needle was filled with fireflies. “Oh, yeah!” I said. “I feel the buzzing! It feels like beeeeshzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..”
And then I was unconscious.
While I was out, they put a breathing tube down my throat, since I wasn’t going to be able to breathe through my nose. Then the surgeon came in for the procedure itself. He made an incision in the lining of my septum and then removed enough of the cartilage to straighten out my airways. He also reduced the size of the turbinates, which are spongy bones inside the nasal passages. In deviated septum cases, the turbinate in the larger side can enlarge, which is why I couldn’t breathe well through either side. He fixed that and then inserted splints into both nostrils for support during the healing process. The whole surgery took less than an hour and apparently went off without a hitch.
I was blissfully unaware of anything during this process. The first thing I remember was a voice saying, “You’re in the recovery room.” I don’t know if I’d asked where I was, or if the nurse was just talking to me to help me wake up. She must then have asked how I was feeling, because I said, “I’m cold.” I was freezing. She brought over one of the warm blankets and put it on top of me, and it was one of the most wonderful feelings ever.
I really need to get one of those special blanket toasters they have.
It was hard to keep my eyes open, and the urge to just shut them and go back to sleep was very strong. I’m not sure why I didn’t, actually, since being awake wasn’t especially fun right then. My nose felt like it had been scoured out by two wire brushes, and my throat was so raw from the breathing tube that I couldn’t decide which part of me felt worse. But the nurse asked if I was hungry, and when I said yes she brought me a graham cracker and a can of apple juice. They were like the ambrosia and nectar of the gods, and having them made me feel much better about being awake.
After a bit, Steve came by and asked how I was doing. He checked on my pain level (about a 3 out of 10—thanks, drugs!) and said that was exactly what they wanted. I told him about the pain in my nose and throat, and he said that was all normal. I also told him that my upper teeth hurt, which he said he hadn’t heard of happening before, but I later read online that some people do experience tooth pain (since the nerves of the upper teeth are very close to the sinus cavities).
They brought my sister back to sit with me again, and she had my bag of clothes. Since I seemed to be coming out of the anesthesia well, they took out my IV and let me get dressed with my sister’s help. I couldn’t see myself, but my sister said that I had giant red hickeys on my chest where the monitors had been stuck. Luckily for me, she did not take a picture of them.
I also had this nose sling on (which my sister did take a picture of). It was very similar to one of those blue hospital masks that doctors wear during surgery, only it was less than two inches wide and sat right under my nose, held in place by elastic loops over my ears. Its job was to hold a gauze sponge under my nostrils, since I was having the most epic nosebleed ever. Steve had to change the gauze once while I was sitting there, and then I had to change it again myself right after I got home (and about every two hours after that). They gave me a box of spare gauze and an extra nose sling, just in case. The sling looked so funny that I drew a Groucho Marx mustache on it with a marker.
I was not allowed to sign any papers (or drive, or buy real estate, or make any important decisions, since people coming out of anesthesia are not known for mental sharpness), so my sister had to sign the papers to discharge me. Then Steve took me out to the car in a wheelchair.
I thanked him for a great experience, and he laughed, but I was serious. Having surgery on my face could have been very traumatic, but the team at the surgical center was fabulous, and I felt cared for from beginning to end. I just hope that if I ever have to have surgery again, I have an experience exactly like this one.
Up next: Recovery!