Let’s see. I’m now exactly seven weeks post surgery. I went in with the idea of just getting rid of a small bump on my bridge. The idea was for a conservative change and a new, straight nose. For this, I picked a doctor who was double-certified in plastic surgery and ENT. He has good Yelp reviews (for what those are worth), and his “chair-side” manner is lovely – funny and engaging. Likewise, his staff is very nice. Well, when he looked at my nose, he informed me that my septum was also twisted to the left. I have never had breathing problems, but with my big schnozzola, the idea that something was twisted did not surprise me. (As a matter of fact, going back and looking at photos, I think I can pretty well discern the twist.) While I was in the consult, another woman passed by to get her splint off. She was thrilled with his work, and it did look very natural. So, the surgery was set up. Since I had time off in between teaching, he managed to squeeze me in very quickly! The surgery was to be: septo-rhinoplasty and inferior turbinate reduction. After the surgery - and this is where I know most people actually do write-ups – I must admit I was shocked at the sight of my new nose. It seemed shorter. I have always had a conflicted feeling about plastic surgery (unrealistic beauty standards, especially for women! Etc.), but at the same time, I have come to think that if there is something you’re *really* obsessed with, and that can be changed safely, fine.
I write all of that to say I have years wrapped up thinking about and staring at my nose, so it was no wonder that the change was a shock. There were some dark days there in the first few days, for sure. And I had vomited three times after surgery (once in recovery, once in the cab, once at home…it would have been a fourth time, too, if I hadn’t lain very still), so my huge unexpected shiners didn’t add to things. When the splint came off after one week, it did look nice. Goodness gracious what a load off after that week. I traveled for Christmas. I remember sleeping with my mouth open a few nights (well, mostly I remember waking up with a dry mouth in the morning).
Week 3, I went in to get the sutures out. After this is when I was really expecting to breathe fine again. I was not. I attributed it to perhaps late internal swelling (after all, the sutures came out Week 3 and not Week 2). But since I was starting to have the expectation of getting back to normal, I really knew I was NOT. Week 4 or so I went back in to the office, just to express my concerns, and the doctor put in cotton, pulled it out, and pronounced me “better than ever.” Now, since I was NOT feeling like I was getting enough air, that pronouncement made me even more worried. My sleep was being affected. I was worried that my nose was too small or something. (Cue staring at other peoples’ noses in envy.) It’s hard for me to express that panic to you, of waking up in the middle of the night because you are simply not getting enough oxygen.
Last week I went in again. I was desperate. The doctor gave me a steroid shot to my inferior turbinates. Low and behold, several days later, my passages were more open. (I even had a second opinion doctor already scheduled for a few days later. She said everything looked open.) Well, my reduced fear (and slightly increased breathing) was premature. In the days since the shot, I have really noticed how dry my nose is. BONE DRY. I can’t say with certainty if that has always been a second factor here (I seem to recall that yes, but I was so focused on the swelling), but it definitely is now. I can feel like I’m gasping for air and not getting any.
I don’t want this story to be an alarmist one, but it would be dishonest for me not to tell you the truth. You can take a perfectly healthy person and make them fear for the rest of their life when you mess with their breathing. Give me a leg pain, a stomach pain, anything! Nothing causes so much desperation and despair as every breath you take being compromised. I don’t know how to describe it to you. My work schedule is long up and running again, and I’m just trying to keep my life together and make it through this. Just when I thought I couldn’t go on (I’ve been in tears a lot recently), a yoga class actually really helped my mucus production. That was yesterday. I took it at noon, and I could breathe all day. I was immediately ready to forgive and forget everything – the joy I felt!! – but I hate to tell you, that was premature. I went to bed last night with a humidifier on full blast (and a wee bit of sesame oil in my nose), and lack of breathing still woke me up this morning. Once again. BONE DRY. To the point that your breath just doesn’t sink in to your nose, you know? One might as well try to breathe through an ear. Imagine suffocating. It’s like that.
I don’t know if ENS (Empty Nose Syndrome) is a real thing or not, or if this really will pass with healing, but I encourage any and all of you out there considering surgery to ask hard questions if a turbinate reduction is suggested. There is no going back from a turbinate reduction. Alternatively, if you get a new schnozz through rhinoplasty and you find the new nose is too constrictive, you can always have the turbinates cauterized or reduced after the fact. Why just go in and do it? I’m working through panic and disappointment still. Not with the appearance, which is lovely. With what is most important of all: the function of bringing oxygen into my body. Now and every breath from now. There is no going back. I went to an acupuncturist this morning (first time ever!), just in case. I can only pray that coming months bring this to an end. If not, my life has been changed in a really bad way. Be well, all of you out there, and be kind to yourselves. And keep all your moist parts, if you can.