Three out of four leading doctors told me that I have a really messed up nose (my septum is shaped like a hockey stick rather than the more conveniently functional lower case ‘l’ style)… and if I ever want to breathe decently, I simply must get a septoplasty + turbinate reduction surgery.
The fourth (admittedly imaginary) doctor actually insisted the same thing, but also urged me to detail my experience in a blog post. This is my story.
Monday — night before:
11:50pm: I greedily cram in the last bits to eat and drink, ’cause I’m not allowed to swallow anything past midnight. Rather a stupidly written rule, actually. Despite the fact that I wasn’t notified of my surgery time (1:30pm) until the day before, I was given oral and written instructions well in advance with the clearly arbitrary, or at least very conservative no-eating/drinking-after-midnight rule. I mean, I could have been assigned a 7:30am or 3:30pm surgery time. Why not just say “no eating or drinking within 8 hours of your scheduled surgery”?
The kind side of me presumes this is to account for a possible last-minute change in surgery times (“Mr. Lasnik? We’re just calling to let you know we had a cancellation. Would you like to get this crap over with a few hours earlier?”) The cynic in me figures the lawyers & doctors believe we’re too stupid to understand “8 hours prior.”
2:30am: No sense going to bed too early, right? If I go to bed early and get up early, I’ll just have more time to be hungry and thirsty. So a 2:30 bedtime sounds about right…
Tuesday — day of:
8:20am: Lovely. The groundskeepers are turning it all up full blast. Trimming, mowing, huffing, puffing, the works. So much for sleeping in.
9:30am: Against my better judgment I check my work e-mail and get sucked in.
11:45am: My AdamTaxi’ing friend comes and rescues me, drops me off at the hospital and bids me a warm goodbye and good luck wishes :).
12:15pm: I walk into the first building I find and announce with genuine enthusiastic anticipation that I’m there to be cut up. Receptionist exudes an almost comical level of both alarm and confusion. Oops. This isn’t the Surgecenter.
12:20pm: I find my way to the rather non-descript Palo Alto Surgecenter around the corner. Receptionist checks ID, doesn’t ask for co-pay, does ask me to sign my life and finances away. I shudder to think what the final bills (yes, all separate bills — anesthesiologist, surgeon, etc.) will amount to, even though I believe my insurance will cover most of this. Pretty sick (no pun intended) that it’s primarily us folks in one of the world’s richest countries that have to worry about such basic life stuff… being potentially bankrupted by one hospital visit. I’m resisting the temptation to turn this into a rant about how ridiculous it is that so many Americans have no problem with Medicare and such, but are freaked out about sensible ideas like Single Payer / Universal Health Care. Grrr.
12:30pm: Now I’m called into that special room, er, what do you call this? With several other patients, each placed on a gurney behind a totally non-sound-proofed curtain. I overhear talk of cancer and remission rates, making my nose-fixing seem oh so insignificant.
12:35pm: Wait a minute! I ordered the typical sweet, reassuring filipina nurse named Jenny, not a somewhat-imposing big-tattooed nurse named Earl! Oh well. He takes my pulse, blood pressure, and measures my weight with reasonable unscariness, and quizzes me on the type of my surgery and name of my doctor (to see if I’m alert, I presume). Also he goes over a form with a list of drugs they want to doubleheck that I am or am not taking (“Substance D? No and no.”) I’m told that the anesthesiologist and surgeon will stop by shortly. Maybe their idea of “shortly” is the time equivalent of Yao Ming, but I’m getting ahead of ourselves here.
12:40pm: Okay, time to get into my gown, or at least try to. I presume someone will eventually create a user-friendly hospital gown, and perhaps even get rich from this invention. Heck, if a hospital can bill $42 for a small bandaid…
Per instructions, I keep my socks and underwear on, then accessorize with the oh-so-stylish paper booties and hat. I wonder if I get to keep these for mementos?
[FYI: further times listed below are estimates; I didn't have a watch on, and had already shoved my phone and clothes into a bag under my gurney]
1:00pm: Grr. This really does feel like a long wait. Not sure exactly how long, but I have nothing to read, and yet it’s probably not worth grabbing my phone from the bag below, because I’m sure I’ll be attended to Any Minute Now. One of the nurses suggests I make myself comfortable and strongly urges me to actually lay down on the gurney instead of continuing to sit on the edge and impatiently swinging my feet (clearly attempting to magically summon the parties responsible for my surgery via footular momentum and run-on sentences). She returns with a warm blanket, and I figure resistance is futile and dumb.
1:10pm: A different helpful and perceptive nurse on duty notices my impatience and offers to check on my surgery time status. Upon request, she calls my friend who is slated to meet me at the hospital to fill him in on parking & surgery timing details. She also thoughtfully gets me a (current!) newsweekly (“Newsweek — Now mixed with / affiliated with / swallowed by the “Daily Beast”? Oh “journalism,” what hast thou become?!)
1:30pm: I’m slightly uncomfortable, increasingly hungry and thirsty, and not particularly enjoying the magazine as much as I hoped I would.
1:40pm: My smiling doctor comes in, discusses the surgery details very briefly, checks to see if I have many questions. I don’t. Just eager to get on with this.
1:50pm: More waiting.
2:00pm: Anesthesiologist comes in. Soft-spoken fella named, apparently, “Dr. Meow.” I wisely abandon all thoughts of making a catatonic (or cat-and-tonic) pun. He asks me to open my mouth wide, very briefly peers inside, and seems satisfied. Always knew I had a nice mouth. He also inquires whether I have any serious health issues, like heart or lung disorders, etc. Dude, you’re asking me this life and death stuff just 15 minutes before I get cut open? Anyway, I silently determine that heartbreak wouldn’t be a particularly relevant discussion topic at the moment.
He advises me that they’re going to put a tube down my throat to help me breathe, but that I won’t notice this while the tube is actually stuck down there. I’ll just likely notice the ghost of it later. Delayed sorification, I suppose.
2:15pm: Finally the surgical nurse comes in. Again asks my name, what surgery I’m in for, etc. Glad they’re being very careful about this. Would hate to be sleepily subjected to something like a breast augmentation. I was getting good-naturedly teased enough by my friends and colleagues about having a “nose job” so to speak, so I can only imagine what hilarity would ensue if I reintroduced myself to society with distressingly larger mammary glands. Or worse yet, a singularly enlarged one.
2:17pm: Okay, I’m in the surgery room now. I’m introduced to some guy who apparently is assisting the doctor with somethingorother. I’ve not yet had even a drop of relaxation juice, but I’m already starting to feel a bit woozy and un-sharp, sort of like how I felt during my procrastinatorial evening textbook readathons in law school.
2:18pm: Baby it’s cold inside. Not horribly so, but definitely chilly. Doesn’t smell like an operating room, or much of anything really. I suppose that’s okay because, well, wouldn’t it be a shame to have one of my “last” smells for a while be an tingly antiseptic hospitally one?
2:19pm: They have me slide into another gurney, and put something (a pillow?) under my shins. Something else under each foot. Gently bind my ankles down with… something? They place my left arm out onto the side of my gurney, and place a small contour pillow under my head. I feel a minorly constrained, but relatively comfortable now. At least the waiting is over. Well, this part of the waiting at least.
2:20pm: The anesthesiologist says he’s going to inject me with somethingsomething, which will feel like a bee sting and which will then facilitate somethingelse. It is, to my pleasant surprise, a very weak bee. And a fast one. He (the anesthesiologist, not the bee) doesn’t ask me to count backwards or recite the digits of pi (oh, wait, that was yesterday), and before I know it…
3:40pm: I’m in a recovery room of sorts. Seems pretty open spacewise, but I don’t notice anyone else other than the presence of my friend, a nurse, and behind her, a small bustling group of nurses. I’m offered, and then happily drink apple juice from one of those rectangular boxes that make you think back to school and environmental waste and dang this isn’t big enough for American appetites!
4:10pm: I don’t even remember much in the way of walking, much less getting into my friend’s car. I do recall being reasonably awake on the way home, and — for a rather unpleasant spell for the last 5 minutes home — pretty nauseous. Laying down with the car seat back for a few minutes thankfully helps. In between the leaving and the successful hurling-avoidance, my friend picks up my prescriptions from Safeway. The nice drug dealer there provides a bottle of codeine+acetaminophen, complete with instructions for guzzling it 15mls at a time, but doesn’t quite get around to including one of those handy plastic mini-cups that lists the oh-so-communist metric-system measurements on it. I guess that costs extra, but ah, what the heck, a couple of big swigs is probably fine. Oh, wait, I have one of those mmcups from my mouthwash? Handy!
4:45pm: Checking e-mail, of course! I love Google Voice and Gmail! I have nice text messages, e-mails, and heck, I’m happy to even receive a bunch of kind messages in that infernal Facebook message format in my gbox.
5:05pm: My friend changes gender. Oh, wait, no, it’s AdamSitting shift-changing time, and another bloody wonderful friend has arrived to make sure I don’t do anything bad, presumably like watching Ricki Lake reruns, painting my toenails, or engaging in stuffy dialing.
5:15pm: Finally getting around to watching that DVD I got from Netflix, “Princess Mononoke.” Oh wow. The opening minutes are filled with… spurting, gooey blood and sticky worms. How charming and apropos! Oh, and I guess I hadn’t mentioned this: I can’t breathe at all from my nose. It’s completely and quite uncomfortably stuffed with, yes, gooey thick blood (though not certain about the worms part). It’s created such an unpleasant sense of pressure that often when I swallow, I feel like I’m going to burst my nose, my ears, or both. Gah. And despite the thickness, the blood is still somehow runny enough to keep saturating the gauze pad under my nose. This leads to a few too many movie intermissions for pad-changings. Who was he fighting? Who is good, who is evil? Oh wait, this is one of those complex Miyazaki films — it’s not supposed to be cut-and-dry or even make complete sense. Whew!
6:00pm: Speaking of intermissions, it’s time for another pee break. I mention this not out of any sophomoric interests in providing immature infotainment (I’ve likely done enough of that!), but rather to highlight something fascinating.
You see, I learned in Portal that “speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out.” Okay, so that invigorating bit of elementary physics my dear is not exactly germane to this current issue, but hear me out! I’ve put only a minimal amount of fluids into me recently, yet I keep peeing a ton. Either something strange is going on, or I’ve unwittingly made some sort of captivating scientific discovery. If my pee were energy, I’d be sought after by the world’s leading scientists. Oh, and all the baddies, too. Darn.
6:30pm: My surgeon thoughtfully calls, asks how I’m doing. Er, understandably crappy but not in pain, I tell him. He verbally nods. Reminds me of my appointment tomorrow at 8:30am to get the nose-splints out. Hallelujah! Oh wait, will I actually be able to breathe through my nose after that? I forgot to ask that part. Oops.
7:00pm: Roomie is home! Other friend not-so-regrettably leaves before the end of the movie. She likes me, but “Princess Mononoke”? Seemingly not too much.
7:30pm: I’m minorly hungry, and know I should be eating and drinking stuff if I want to grow big and strong, er, heal up. But eating at the moment is no fun. When mouth is closed, no can breathe, and that’s truly a bummer. Oh wait! Now I have an excuse to chew with my mouth open! Sorry, roomie. Peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter jelly time!
8:00pm: About The Movie DVD featurette! More e-mail! Web surfing! Hmm… maybe I should blog about my septoplastic experience? Nah, too self-indulgent and kinda gross.
9:00pm: Oh, lookie this! My nose is becoming multitalented; it’s dripping blood out of one nostril and some as-of-yet-unidentified clear liquidy stuff out of the other nostril. Bravo, bravo! But no encore tomorrow, please.
11:53pm: Debating whether to try out that codeine+tylenol stuff. I’m in significant discomfort, but not really in pain, and that stuff ain’t gonna help me breathe any better. But maybe it’ll help knock me out. ’cause once today just wasn’t enough…
1:12am: I’m still editing/writing this silly thing? Really?!
To be (possibly) continued tomorrow. Pictures not included. Hyperlinks included telepathically; you know what to Google!
Wednesday — day after:
Oh! Now it’s tomorrow. Well, sort of.
Didn’t sleep much last night at all. Was afraid sleeping on my side would harm my NewImproved nose, and also figured of bloodying my pillows. Laying on back wasn’t very comfortable, particularly with the not-being-able-to-breathe-at-all-through-my-nose thing. The seemingly 42 pounds of pressure in my nose plus my increasingly sore throat also contributed to the unfun.
But getting the splints taken out this morning by my doctor has made a world of difference!
- I’m bleeding much less than yesterday.
- I can actually breathe through both nostrils! Granted, I’m still pretty stuffed up and am not allowed to blow my nose for the next week (ouch), but… no more awful pressure in my nose and ears! And I got my appetite back :-).
Evening Update, featuring Adam’s Stubborn Nose:
Ah, hopeful optimism, how shortly lived were thee! My nose-blood has reconfigured itself, clearly with hardened resolve. It is now reminding me of its presence with not only little random friendly droplets, but also extensive clotting, nearly perfectly blocking my breathing.
Hmm, maybe this saline mist thingamabob from my doctor will help things.
Oh. Hello light-colored bathroom carpet, meet angrily displaced and splattering blood! (as I once again wonder what that moron interior designer or former house occupant was thinking)
I think I’ll just go to bed.
Clearly my brain has been adversely affected, because I quite stupidly set my alarm for 7am in an attempt to be awake for my 8am meeting. Heck, I have a hard enough time making such meetings without being recently surgeried; what was I thinking?
I re-woke up around 11:35, with my formerly-gauze-holding-nose patch having unpleasantly transmogrified into an eye patch and my spidey sense suggesting something unfortunate.
Ah, yes, I missed a 11:30am meeting. Hmm… groggily reading e-mail on phone… colleague is traveling across campus to meet me…
I should have heeded my boss’ advice and just canceled all meetings this week. Stubborn stubborn stubborn!