Wednesday, January 05, 2011


let's get (un)deviated!

On Thursday (so, 6 days ago) I had surgery to correct a deviated septum, otherwise known as a septoplasty. I also got my adenoids cauterized (doesn't sound pleasant). I'm pretty much writing about this because during my anxious googlings before the surgery, everything I found sounded like it was written by a whackjob.

(Though as I'm trying to write, I'm wondering if I'll give the same impression...)

I first suspected that something was wrong with the inner workings of my nose way back in 2000.... I was working in retail, and my manager's son had a septoplasty. She was describing his symptoms, and said something along the lines of "Poor kid, he could barely breathe through his nose! I guess he was getting about 15% of airflow." I smiled and nodded and whatnot, but I was thinking " that isn't normal?!"

Fast forward to spring 2010. Word on the street was that my snoring had reached an unbearable pitch, so after trying every snore strip, spray, and pillow on the market, I made my way to an ENT. Apparently I have (or had, rather!!) "one of the most deviated septums" my doctor had ever seen, and she recommended a septoplasty, stat. I decided to hold off until December, since my office closes for the week after Christmas, and hell, I'd been breathing this way since 1983. During this time I also underwent a sleep study to see if I suffer from sleep apnea...I don't, so look for your CPAP information elsewhere!

The main benefit of the septoplasty is to improve breathing. There is no 100% guarantee of improving snoring. Other benefits might include an improved sense of smell and taste. Also, if you suffer from a lot sinus infections (I actually don't, weirdly), a septoplasty is supposed to alleviate that.

So while I'm obviously hoping to high heaven that my snoring will be helped - at least to the point that I don't wake myself up with a loud snort on airplanes and long bus rides - I know I can't count on that. Clearly I have no idea what a fully functionally breathing nose feels like, so I'm looking forward to finding out.

Anyway. So on to the surgery. My doctor performed it at one of the top hospitals in Boston, which was important to me. Might as well use the best resources available. My mom and I got there at 6:30am for an 8:30am surgery. Around 8am they called me in, I got into my johnny, and they inserted the IV and applied the little sticky monitor pads to my skin. The anesthesiologist came by and told me what to expect (a breathing tube?!?), and I signed a consent form. I cooled my heels on the bed, thought about that breathing tube and how they're putting it in after I'm knocked out, and taking it out before I wake up, and said some Hail Mary's to calm down. Around 8:30 they added something to my IV (I guess?) and put an oxygen mask on and wheeled me to the operating room. I remember looking around and thinking... "really?" and then...

The next thing I know, someone is taking off a mask and gently saying "Meghan? Meghan?" I felt like crap and all I could croak out was "Mom...Mom...." (Yes, I am 28.) The nurse said that they were getting my mom, and she was soon there, and spooning ice chips in my mouth. My throat KILLED from the breathing tube. My nose felt like a lot was going on there, with bandaging and Lord knows what, but it didn't really hurt, per se. I also swallowed two liquid percocets at that time.

So we chilled in the recovery area while the anesthesia wore off, and the nurse prepared me for the outside world. The nurse was EXCELLENT - really kind, gentle, capable, etc. She took off the bandage and fashioned this little sling thing from a surgical mask. Basically she cut the mask in half so it was just a little sling, then she put gauze under my nose, and the mask-sling kept it there without blocking my mouth.

My mom led me down to the lobby, and I sat in a chair while she went to get the car. Gradually I realized that a little girl (about six years old) was staring at me, wide-eyed and semi-horrified. I gave her a little wave, and she gave a little wave back. Then I realized that her older brother AND her older sister were also staring at me. Guess the bloody gauze wasn't as subtle as I thought. So I waved to them too.

There was a little food stand in the lobby, and when my mom got back, I asked her to buy me a banana, and I ate that in the car. I think that was crucial for avoiding nausea.

Anyway, I'm sure the level of detail has been excruciating thus far, but the next days were a blur. I wasn't in much pain, but I wasn't comfortable either. My mom is really the star player in my recovery - she brought my meals up to me on a tray, gave me my medicine at the appointed time, brought me LOTS of liquids, changed my bloody nose gauze, and bought me great recovery accessories: a humidifier, an icy eye mask, a wedge pillow so that my head was elevated, new pjs, two magazines, and more. Basically I haven't had to lift a hand in the past week.

I'd say I was sleeping about 6 hours out of a day through Sunday. I'd wake up, take a drink of water because my mouth felt dry and NASTY, then fall back to sleep. Sunday night I stopped taking the percocets and transitioned to Tylenol, which has cut back on my sleep significantly. Mentally I'm not really all there still, and my energy levels are still very low. I was hoping I'd be able to go back to work on Monday (as in, two days ago), but considering I hadn't left my bed for more than two hours, I definitely wasn't ready.

In terms of how the whole process went:

- a lot LESS pain than I anticipated. Mostly pressure in the sinus area and a headache, and some soreness at the front of my mouth. I think the percocets were key in keeping me comfortable for the 3-4 days after surgery.

- I have a splint in each nostril, but I literally cannot feel them, unless it feels like a hard booger (of which there are plenty). So, no biggie there.

- I wore the bloody gauze sling until Sunday. At that point my head was hurting from having the elastic around my ears and my nose wasn't gushing, so it was possible to just dab with a tissue instead of having a 24/7 "catcher." It also applied a nice pressure to my nose, which I liked having.

- there is a constant battle between "dry nose with gross hard stiff clots in it" vs. "wet nose draining boogers and blood." Every hour or so (whenever I feel my nose getting stiff), I dab the skin under my nose with "antibiotic ointment" and then vigorously squirt saline solution in my nostrils. The baccitracin is necessary because by Monday, the skin under my nose started stinging and getting really irritated from the saline. When I take a shower, I like to stand under the water with a washcloth over my face...that loosens things up.

- have a "nurse" (in my case, my mom is actually a nurse, but not everyone is so lucky!). Though I probably COULD have gone downstairs and got my own drinks and medicine and made my own food, those tasks felt insurmountable at the time.

- thus far, I have not thrown up - Monday morning I felt extremely nauseous, but nothing came of it. I think this is because I haven't taken pills on an empty stomach. So, make sure you eat! (Soft foods, nothing too hard, spicy, hot, or chewy)

- I suggest stool softeners, maybe a laxative (because of the antibiotics) - just putting it out there.

- plan on being out of work for at least a week and a half. I had my surgery Thursday am, and I've only left the house once (and that was to hang out with my fiance at our house. Basically, I just traded sofas). My nose is still draining shit, I'm weak, and naps are crucial to not feeling like crap. Don't push yourself too hard, or be hard on yourself for taking naps and recovering.

Today I'm seeing my doctor and possibly getting my splints out, which I've heard is a whole other ball of wax. I'll post my experiences on that when I'm feeling up to it. Feel free to leave comments and ask questions. As someone who had never had surgery before, this was a big deal to me. It's probably not a big thing to other people, but it was to me!

Holy crap, Meg blogged! :-D

Word on the street was that my snoring had reached an unbearable pitch,


You poor thing!

Glad to hear everything was successful!
Hello! Yeah, I'm trying... although this blog is a shameful witness to my lack of change/progress:

- blog more! (yeah... uh huh)
- get physically fit! (umm...)

The splint removal process went well - I'll write about it soon in case some poor sap is wondering how it will go for them. :-)
Meg, you can really write!

(I hope the surgery pays off for you and await an update in 2014 to know if you lived through recovery)

I've been better already! So far this is more than all of my posts in 2009 and 2010 combined (admittedly a very low bar).
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