Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nosey About Surgery

I try to post here every week, but I'm a bit behind due to some recent surgery.  I'm well on the way to recovery now and thought I should probably update.  Be warned - while none of the following content is exactly graphic, there's a certain amount of ewwww!  That's simply to be expected with Things Surgical, so let's be grown-ups about it.

The surgery itself was considered routine, but let's face it.  Thanks to amazing advances in medical technology, "routine" is used to describe heart bypass surgery.  It is a mistake to confuse "routine" with "no problem."  Even if the procedure has been done to the point of boredom by the surgical team, your body is still undergoing assault and trauma and you're not likely to feel that great afterward.  In my case, I was dealing with two separate and distinct procedures involving two doctors (no, there was no volume discount on the billing, but at least we could double up and not do this twice).  First, Dr. Gullet, my throat specialist, would go into my trachea with a tiny li'l light and a tiny li'l camera and a tiny li'l laser to cut a star pattern in the scar tissue in my windpipe.  Then he'd gently spread the cut tissue and laser away as much excess as possible, thereby widening the airway.  Scar tissue always comes back - the goal is to (pardon the pun) stretch out the time between surgeries through medication, exercise, and diet.  But I'll keep seeing him always.

Now that's the "routine" part to me.  The surgery involves general anesthesia, but it's short - usually less than an hour.  And it's miles better than it would have been say, thirty years ago when the solution was a tracheotomy and I'd have been breathing through a tube forever.

So let's wave a thankful goodbye to Dr. Gullet and let him go off and do other work on vocal disorders.  Next up to the plate, we have Dr. Nostrildamus, whose specialty is nose stuff.  This is the guy who was going to break and reset the deviated septum that had slowly smushed half my sinuses, then painstakingly rebuild my mutant sinuses which had openings that needed to be closed and closures that needed to be opened.  He would be doing very delicate work from inside the nose, just under the eye sockets.  This was going to take time.

And it did.  Both procedures took approximately five hours. We started a bit later than expected - operating rooms are booked, but things sometimes happen and I don't want anybody pounding on the door and rushing my docs, so we have to be patient while being a patient.  Still - that whole "fasting after midnight" thing is easier when you have to be at the day hospital at 6 am than when it's later.

The surgeries went well - or so I'm told.  As with all good anesthesia, it came with amnesia.  Don't remember a thing.  I could very well have declaimed on literary theory in the recovery room or cussed like a longshoreman on leave - I don't know and they (wisely) won't tell.

But - ow.

I've never had "big" surgery before.  I've never had to stay overnight in the hospital before.  I come from very Calvinist stock and, provided you don't see bone, you simply soldier on.  We were having None Of That.  I was so drugged, hungry, and overall puny that my hands were shaking eating my post-operative applesauce. My feet seemed to belong to someone else entirely for all the good I was having in moving them.

So this is the romantic part.  If you're going to be sick and puny and whiny with pain, it's absolutely marvelous to have someone else there with you.  FryDaddy and I have reached a new level of intimacy that has nothing to do with Victoria's Secret and everything to do with those vows we took more than a year ago.  Face it, my health affects him and his affects me.  So we have to be able to talk about all sorts of things that polite company doesn't discuss and we have to be able to do it without averting our eyes or blushing too much.  (This blog is for public consumption, so let's just say this - anesthesia takes a while to wear off and pain medication has some unusual effects on other parts of the body.  As the book may tell us, everybody poops, but things change after surgery for a few days.)

My nose had "discharge" for two days after the surgery and it was heavy enough to be issued a "nasal dressing" which is a fancy way of describing a thingamabob that straps over your ears and runs under your nose to hold a gauze pad in place so you don't constantly dab at your healing schnozz.  (Yes, the name of the device is real.)  Yes, you look ridiculous.  No, the nurses won't loan you a Sharpie to draw a mustache on the gauze.  It's hard to sleep in, too.  As the nose heals, there is a surprising amount of crusty blood and gunk.  You can't breathe all that well, although stents have been inserted in your nose to help with that.  You just have to tough it out and it'll take longer than you think.  If you have good doctors - they ARE Board-certified, right? - you don't even have black eyes after all of this, but don't think that you're okay.  You're not.  I've been running on about half-throttle for the last few days (due some to the lack of sleep and some to the lack of good breathing and some to the drugs - there was infection in those sinuses) and that's pretty much typical.

But yesterday I had the stents taken out.  (The packing in the sinuses stays for about another week.)  Easy-peasy.  Snip, snip and out come the stitches then gentle pressure and gravity remove the stents which OH, MY GOD, THOSE THINGS ARE HUGE!  AND THEY WERE IN MY NOSE?!? WHAT'S GOING ON HERE??  Yes, I asked to keep one.  I washed it carefully to make it pretty before I posted it here.  The almond is only provided for scale - please don't put either of these up your nose yourself.

Two other asides in this lengthy post - one, when taking out the stents, Dr. Nostrildamus wore one of those Norman Rockwell headbands with the metal disk thing.  I suppose it's intended to reflect light up into the nose, but maybe he's a worshiper of the Egyptian sun god Ra.  Having those stents out feels so good that I don't really care.  Also, that doctor's office has a lady on staff who - seriously - pushes a little treat cart around the the waiting room to provide patients with coffee, candy, and granola bars.  Amazing.  Still plenty of healing to do, but the breathing is already improved.

And that's what I did on my summer vacation.

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