Breathing! I Should Have Tried This Earlier.

A week and a day ago I had surgery on my nose [1]. I had both septoplasmy to fix a deviated septum and turbinate reduction surgery. Turbinates are in the nose and help to filter, warm and humidify the air before it passes through to the lungs.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been unable to breath well through my nose, and it has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. The good doctor told me that the turbinates swell for two reasons. First, a deviated septum causes more air flow through one nostril than the other so the turbinate on the non-herniated side grows to handle the extra flow. Second, untreated allergies have an effect. I’ve had allergy problems as far back as I can remember and in the 1970s and 1980s there was no good medical treatment except remove the offending allergen. With the rise of nasal sprays in the 1990s it became a lot easier to treat and control.

The surgery was under general anesthesia. I remember them wheeling me into the operating room, I remember him telling me he was starting the flow of drugs and then… it was that fast. I woke up in recovery, very groggy and not thinking at all. I slept on and off for a while, having some problems as every time I’d fall asleep my blood oxygen level would drop too far and the alarms would go off, waking me up. Eventually I realized that sleeping on my back was part of the problem and it stopped happening when I rolled on my side, so they sent me home to bleed in piece.

They gave me all kinds of stuff: gauze for under my nose, a little rolled up mask to keep it in place, pain medication, an antibiotic, and anti-nausea medication. They gave me crackers and breathing stuff (because of the blood oxygen levels) and other things, too. I took the antibiotic but never needed the pain or nausea medications [2].

The bleeding lasted about 24-36 hours, at which point it mixed with and slowly turned to a steady stream of mucus, which did slow up as the week progressed but never truly stopped. It mostly sounded and felt like I had a head cold. I also used a nasal irrigation system throughout the week, spraying a water/mild salt solution up my nose to keep things cleaned out. I thought this would be horrible. It wasn’t.

The biggest problem I had was eating and brushing my teeth. Can’t breath and chew in the same orifice, it turns out. So I would have to hold my breath, chew, chew, chew, gasp for breath as I ran out of oxygen. More than once my family laughed at me. It was pretty comical.

After one week (yesterday) I returned to the doctor who took out a stitch, removed the stints (packing) from my nose and checked things out. He said it looked great in there and immediately my nose cleared up. The amount of air was almost overwhelming. There was so much oxygen that it almost hurt, maybe the best pain I’ve ever felt. It was awesome! I have a little swelling today, which he said is normal and will pass in the next couple of days, but I can breath through my nose better than I could before the surgery even still.

As for work, I took off three days through the weekend and then worked a partial day on Monday. Tuesday, though, was mostly full-time again although I was very tired the next couple of days. For exercise I was able to walk a little but am very restricted. No weights or bending exercises, no swimming, so I am mostly on the elliptical right now or walking, although I don’t have the stamina to go very long or far. I’ve dialed back the intensity, too, and will build back up over the next couple of weeks.

If you are considering such a surgery I want you to know that it wasn’t too bad, especially after the first two days. I can tell you that breathing through my nose decently for the first time in my life, though, was well worth every second.

[1] I appear to only have surgery in years that are divisible by 10. I had cancer surgery at 20, again at 30, and now nasal surgery at 40. Outside of a few extracted teeth, I have never otherwise had surgery, local or general anesthesia.

[2] Except amusement park rides I rarely feel nauseous. And as for pain, I have a high tolerance. I once, after surgery a decade ago, had a stitch put through a nerve. That pain would leave me crumpled on the floor, stars in my eyes, but I didn’t take the pain medication. Given that, I never even felt the slightest twinges of pain with this surgery.

3 thoughts on “Breathing! I Should Have Tried This Earlier.

  1. Thanks for sharing.

    I mentioned before that my wife might be facing a similar procedure.

    She had a productive meeting with her doctor yesterday and will be discussing the next steps soon.

    This post lends some really helpful insight.

    On Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 8:14 AM, Elia Insider

    • I have another friend considering, too. I thought if I wrote it up it might be helpful. Hard to know what the experience is like otherwise. Tell her it isn’t bad at all.

      On Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 9:16 AM, Elia Insider

  2. I had the same surgery twice once 25 years ago and again 10 years later, however sense the last surgery I have had no more problems. My sinus’s would get infected with polyps and would not drain so my head felt like it was going to explode. I was told the polyps were caused by allergy’s. The worst part of the operation was after the surgery. My nose and sinus’s were completely packed so no air could go through my nose. Every time I tried to swallow my ears would pop. My mouth was so dry I could not sleep at all. Now I have no problems with draining, in fact it drains all the time. I got a runny nose like a little kid and I’m 54.

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