Adventure #17–Septoplasty, Part 5

The last major step in my septoplasty was having the splints removed from my nose. My doctor usually does this four or five days post-surgery in cases like mine, but since four days out was on New Year’s Day, when his office would be closed, he very nicely arranged for me to come in on December 31 so I wouldn’t have to have the splints in any longer than necessary.

Boy, was I ready for them to come out by the 31st. They were not comfortable.

When I was shown back for my appointment, the nurse sprayed local anesthetic up my nose just like last time. I don’t know whether I was more prepared for it or whether the splints were making it impossible for me to smell anything, but the taste of the anesthetic didn’t seem as bad. She also put a paper bib around my neck just like they do at the dentist, only she called it “my Superman cape.” I suspected it was there to keep blood from spattering all over my shirt, which wasn’t reassuring.

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This is what I would WANT my Superman cape to look like.

A couple minutes later, after the anesthetic had time to work, the doctor came in. I smiled and said hello, and he said that if his surgery patients were smiling, it meant that they had used the nasal rinse like they were supposed to. If they hadn’t used the rinse, they really weren’t in the mood for smiling.

Gold star! That was the first time I’d been glad I’d used the rinse.

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“Well, let’s get those out of there,” he said, after looking in my nose (speaking of which, I’m sure the money is nice, but I wouldn’t want his job).

First he reached up into each nostril and pulled out some stitches that I didn’t even realize were there. Then he grabbed a tool that looked like a pair of pliers, stuck it up my nose, and yanked. The yanking didn’t feel very nice despite the anesthetic, and I was very, very grateful that they’d given me the spray first.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the ends of the splints came down very close to my nostrils, so I’d been able to see a tiny bit of them in the mirror if I’d tilted my head back to look (which of course I had, being the curious person that I am). The piece that I’d been able to see looked like the end of a straw, so I’d assumed that the splints were basically short breathing tubes.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the doctor finished yanking the first splint out of my nose and it looked nothing like a straw. It looked much more like one of those heel grips you can put in the backs of your shoes to prevent blisters. The splint was made of a clear, gel-like material and was shaped like a soft crescent moon, with a tube running along the bottom surface. What surprised me the most was its size: it was about the same length as my index finger and even wider.

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How had that whole gigantic piece of gel fit up inside my nostril?

“Oh, my God!” I exclaimed as the doctor held it up for me to see. “That thing is huge!”

He laughed and then tipped my head back to pull the second one out. Now that I’d seen it, I tried hard not to think about the enormous gel whale that he was trying to fish out of my petite nose. No wonder the splints had felt uncomfortable!

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“All done,” he said a moment later, tossing the second splint into a dish. “Now take a breath and see how it feels.”

I inhaled through my nose, and my eyes opened wide. The air flowed all the way up my nasal passages unimpeded, and although the membranes inside still felt very tender from the surgery, I could breathe better than I ever had.

“Wow!” I said.

“Your nasal passages are straight as an arrow,” said the doctor with satisfaction. He turned to Ray. “You’d better watch out–now that she’s getting more oxygen to her brain, she’s going to be a whole lot smarter.”

Look out, world!

When we got home, I was so excited that I threw my arms around Ray’s neck and tried to give him a kiss. That was a mistake. I hadn’t realized before how much your nose gets squished when you kiss somebody, and my happy romantic moment ended with me screaming and jumping around while clutching both hands to my nose.

And of course I’m not magically all better just because the splints are out. My nose is still really sore, and I still have a little bit of a headache and sensitive upper teeth. I’m very tired, and my brand-new, arrow-straight nasal passages have mostly been employed in pouring out mucus, which is annoying because I’m not allowed to blow my nose for another week and a half.

But sometimes, when the nasal drip clears up for a minute, I take a deep breath in through my nose and it feels AMAZING. I had no idea just how blocked up my nasal passages were. I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like in another month.

Adventure #17–Septoplasty, Part 4

When Ray had ACL surgery in June, he had to start a physical therapy regimen right away. With nose surgery, there isn’t much PT you can do (“I want to see another 10 nose push-ups!”), but of course there were things that I had to do at home post-surgery.

 

Change the Gauze

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In Part 3, I mentioned that I had to wear a gauze sponge under my nose, held in place by a sling. When Ray got home the day of my surgery and saw the sling, I could tell he was trying really hard not to laugh.

 

It did look funny, but it was very useful in dealing with the continuous nosebleed I had the first day. Whenever the gauze got saturated (yuck), I had to change it out for fresh gauze. My kitchen trash can ended up looking like I was running a battlefield hospital.

 

I did not take a picture of that.

 

Sleep Sitting Up

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I did take a picture of the chair I tried to sleep in Monday night. The post-surgery team told me that I would do better if I slept sitting up for the first couple days, and since I am always a good direction-follower, I gave it a try (even though I’ve never had good luck sleeping in airplanes or cars). I have a kind of lounge chair that tips back, and since Ray slept in it after his ACL surgery, I thought it might work for me, too. The pain medication would knock me out, right?

 

Well, the pain medication didn’t exactly knock me out. It left me in this quasi-sleep state where I dozed fitfully, occasionally dreaming. It was not very restful.

 

Then, at 3 a.m., I was suddenly wide awake, freezing cold and shaking all over. The quilt I’d pulled on top of me was obviously not quite thick enough.

 

I turned the heat up, but I still felt like a block of ice. So I went and put more clothes on. When that didn’t work, I put more clothes on. I ended up wearing:

 

My pajamas

A long-sleeved t-shirt

A hoodie with the hood up

One of Ray’s sweatshirts

Three pairs of socks

A hat

 

When I was still cold after that, I decided that the universe was trying to tell me that I was not supposed to be sleeping in a chair, and I gave up and went to bed.

 

Nasal Spray

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Every hour, I have to use a saline nasal spray (called Ocean, I guess trying to make you imagine invigorating walks on the beach in the sea air rather than sticking a plastic nozzle up your nose).

 

There are only two things I don’t like about the spray.

 

The first is the nasal splints they inserted in my nose during the surgery. The splints help keep my nose stable while it heals, and they also help me breathe, since they are basically tiny straws. Obviously, the splints are good things. But they come down very close to my nostrils, and when I put the nozzle of the spray bottle in there, the nozzle bumps against the splints. This is not only painful, but really weird.

 

The second is that adding moisture to your bloody nose is messy. And gross.

 

Nasal Rinse

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If the nasal spray was all I had to do, it wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, I also have to do this nasal rinse five times a day.

 

The bottle for the nasal rinse looks like a pretty standard 8-ounce bottle made of clear plastic, complete with a nozzle-like cap with a hole in it. A thick white tube runs from the cap down into the bottle.

 

You are supposed to wash your hands before you touch the bottle.

 

To do the rinse, you fill the bottle with distilled water (it has to be distilled, or you risk getting a brain infection, which freaks me out every time I think about it). Then you add a little packet of saline solution and shake the bottle to mix it up.

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Bending your head over the sink, you stick the cap’s nozzle in one nostril and squeeze the bottle, being sure to keep your mouth open. You’re not supposed to hold your breath, so I make this kind of singing “aaaahhhhh” sound to make sure I’m exhaling. I’m super glad that only my husband and sister have heard me do this.

 

The water squirts up into your nasal passage like a geyser and then runs out through the other nostril. If you’ve ever accidentally snorted water while swimming, you have a good idea of how this geyser feels. It’s uncomfortable and strange, especially if any water touches your eardrums.

 

In addition, the water exiting through your other nostril (and sometimes also through your mouth) is disgusting, and it’s a good idea to keep a box of Kleenex handy for afterward.

 

The worst part? When this is all over, you have to do it on the other side, even though the last thing you want to do at this point is ever squirt water up your nose again.

 

And I have to do this five times a day.

 

Then you have to wash the bottle out using soap and distilled water, to make sure that you’re not squirting germs into your sinuses. The directions that came with the rinse kit said that you’re supposed to wash out the bottle after every use, but my doctor said it was safe to wash it just once a day. Thank goodness. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could use tap water to wash it out, but having to use distilled water for washing is the pits.

 

 

Medication

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Finally, I have a whole bunch of pills that I have to take. Some of it I was taking already, and some of it is new post-surgery.

 

Here’s what I’m taking every day:

 

Antibiotic three times a day (in case the surgery stirred up bacteria that might lead to an infection; has to be taken with food)

Probiotic (to try to counteract the negative effects of the antibiotic; can’t be taken within two hours of the antibiotic)

Pain medication every four hours (because it hurts to have cartilage scraped out of your nose; has to be taken with food)

Peri-colase (to try to counteract the constipating properties of the pain meds; oh, joy!)

Acid blocker (for my acid reflux; has to be taken on an empty stomach 30-60 minutes before eating. I used to take it in the morning, which was easier, but now the doctor wants me taking it at night, which requires some more planning)

Calcium (to try to counteract the calcium-leeching properties of the acid blocker)

Magnesium (ditto)

Glucosamine (for my middle-aged dancer joints)

Fish oil (ditto)

And my anti-anxiety medication, which keeps me writing funny blog posts about everything instead of freaking out

 

I feel like I need one of those giant morning-and-evening pill organizers to deal with the 20 pills a day I’m currently taking. It’s also like a logic puzzle trying to figure out when I have to take each one during the day in order to make sure that 1) I have food in my stomach (or not, as the case may be) and 2) it doesn’t interfere with any of the others.

 

On the plus side, this regimen has helped me feel pretty good post-surgery: my nose has stopped bleeding, the pain is manageable with the medication, and I can actually breathe a little through the tubes in my nose! I can’t wait to see how I feel when I get the splints taken out tomorrow.

Adventure #17–Septoplasty, Part 3

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!