Septoplasty – Correcting my Deviated Septum Part 1

I haven’t been around in a while, I know. I got really busy with work and with doctors’ appointments and even with my social life that despite all the interesting stuff happening in my life, I couldn’t put them into words due to lack of time. Today, though, is my third day of a two week break from the activities listed above (except for the trips to the doctors’) because of my corrective surgery last Monday and I will try to talk about it as much as I can.

So what’s a deviated septum and how did it come to be?

Nasal septum deviation or deviated nasal septum (DNS) is a physical disorder of the nose, involving a displacement of the nasal septum. Some displacement is common, affecting 80% of people, most unknowingly. – Wikipedia

My doctor says it’s either you were born with it or it is caused by trauma. I’m not sure which has caused mine, because back when I was five years old, I was in a car accident where I hit my nose on the hard shell of the front seat. I don’t remember it being checked back then, but it might have just made some permanent damage. All I remember was walking around with a swollen nose for like a week.

Fast forward 20 years, it finally bothered me. It started last summer when I was feeling a constant post-nasal drip, causing me to clear my throat every so often. I went to my GP and they gave me some medication. By then my throat was really sore as well. While the soreness and swelling stopped eventually, the post-nasal drip didn’t and I kept sounding like Dolores bleeding Umbridge the entire time. I remember it catching people’s attention whenever I clear my throat in public, the same sound you make when you have been watching someone doing something they shouldn’t be doing. It gave me a hard time especially at work where I can’t help but make those sounds a few times  in a day.

So when I went back to my GP, he then prescribed me with allergy medication, blaming my condition to the weather. Simultaneously, they drew some blood and I was asked to come back for the results. A week later, I came in and said the allergy medication didn’t work and he explained that it can’t work because they didn’t find any signs of allergies in my blood tests. So he then sent me to an ENT.

Getting an appointment at the ENT took a few weeks. When the day came, I was having bad luck because the ENT’s equipment broke and he couldn’t look through my nose. So anyway, he asked me what I had been doing with this condition and handed him the blood test results from my GP. I told him about the allergy medication and he kept asking why I took them when, according to my blood test, I wasn’t suffering from any allergies? I had no answer to that question and I just brushed it off as doctor politics. WTVR.

He gave me another appointment for another allergy test, since I was still experiencing the symptoms, but this one was a skin-prick test, just to exclude the allergy theory for sure. I didn’t get the appointment until after a month later, though, so imagine my frustration at not knowing what’s going on and just prolonging the illness. But the test went by quickly and I got the results right away, and I came back to talk to the ENT about it another week later. The last angle he wanted to look at was the deviated septum. Unlike for most people with this disorder, it can actually be seen in the mirror if you tilt your head far enough back and look through your nose. Well, mine looked pretty symmetrical so I never would have thought this would eventually be the problem. He sent me to get an MRI done and when we looked over the results together, this came out:

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This is an image from above my head and this was one that showed a pretty obvious displacement in my nose, which apparently is the main source of my problems. He explained to me how it can be fixed, which is by surgery, and we discussed a few pros and cons. After giving me enough time to decide whether to go through with it or not, we set an appointment for the surgery itself and for the preparatory measures.

The Surgery –  Septoplasty

Despite being on probation period at work, they let me go through with it as soon as possible instead of waiting for my regular contract to kick in, which won’t be until this summer – peak season in our industry. So I took my two weeks off from work and went under the knife. It was an outpatient operation so I had my wife and mum wait for me at the waiting room to bring me home after. I was called to the operating room, I was given general anaesthesia, and the rest was history. The surgery was supposed to take about 25-30 mins and I woke up about two hours later, which was later than I had expected. The anaesthesiologist came in again to tell me about my blood pressure dropping mid-surgery, and that while everything went great, I should maybe talk to a cardiologist about what happened. I guess that’s why I was woken up so late.

The nurses asked me about how I felt and I told them I had a headache – normal, and that my teeth were hurting – apparently, also normal. I remember feeling this way back when I was recovering from my tonsillectomy, where my gums were being pulled by the tissue to cover the wounds from the removal of my tonsils. Why I experienced the exact same pain this time, I wasn’t sure. My throat also felt really dry and sore which was due to the tube put in there to help me, I guess, breathe. I was given pain medication which we had to wait a few minutes for to kick in. The nurse came back asking again how I felt and when I told her I was still in pain, she asked for permission to give me another shot. I then felt a bit dizzy and tried to fall asleep, which proved hard having to breathe through my mouth and I was scared that I wasn’t breathing enough. I also remember drinking lots of water through a straw and eventually I had to pee like badly and I was escorted to the toilet to make sure I don’t collapse. My wife was then called to help me get dressed so we could finally go home. Only then was I able to start checking out what’s really going on inside my nose: both holes were stuffed with tamponades so far up that I could barely see them.

Post-operational Experience

Day 1

Before leaving the outpatient center, I still had a gauze under my nose to catch the dripping blood. I was advised to remove it once I got home, for hygienic reasons, and use Kleenex instead from then on. It felt like a never ending nosebleed from one nostril, and runny nose from the other. I had icepacks on my forehead and the nape of my neck the first night. I couldn’t sleep well that night because I could only breathe through my mouth, and I had the feeling that every time I dozed off, I would just stop breathing altogether and I woke up in panic. Some time in the night I eventually took the stronger pain medication they gave me to at least help me with my discomfort but it only really made me dizzy and didn’t help with my inability to fall asleep.

Day 2

In the morning I had my doctors’ appointment to take the tamponades out. I went there with my mom and she was just watching close by. The doctor first took out the one from the side he didn’t cut from, and it was really uncomfortable. Tears were streaming down my face involuntarily but he explained, more for my mother’s sake than my own, that it’s caused by penetrating the insides of my face and not by pain. He then took out the other one, which was a bit painful but it was soon over. I looked at the tray I was holding below my head where he placed the tamponades he took out just at the same time he asked me whether I wanted to see them or not. “I guess it’s too late now”, I told him. And I’m not gonna lie, they were about 7cm long. He saw how the blood drained from my face so he reclined the chair I was sitting on while he typed up his protocol. He had some pleasant bedside manners on him and he kept reassuring me that I was a strong woman and that I had been through a lot in the last 24 hours. He then let me transfer to a stretcher in the other room so he could see other patients and asked me to come back again in three days to do some more vacuuming in my nose. I rested there for another ten minutes before we called a taxi to take us home.

I still have the splints inside to keep my septum in place and they will be taken out on Monday, that’s exactly a week after the operation and it should be easier than the removal of the tamponades. At night I was able to sleep rather well, I was even breathing through my nose while asleep.

To be continued…

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