Empty Nose Syndrome and Suicide: An Unmentionable Topic
Sunday morning, I fired up my laptop, and logged into my website. Under “Blog Stats,” there is a category called “Search Engine Terms,” further described by the statement, “These are the terms people used to find your blog.” My page listed a single set of terms for that morning: empty nose syndrome suicide. I stopped breathing for a few seconds, transfixed by the words. Who was that person who had made this search?
A year and a half ago, it could have been me.
At fifty-five, I was rock solid in my stand on suicide. Life was sacred. It was out of the question that I would ever consider taking my own. I had that issue covered, for myself, and for other people, too. “No matter what suffering a life entails,” I would have said, “it is still worth living. You don’t know what lessons are yet to be learned, or what purpose is yet to be served.”
Be careful what you think you know. You might just get a quiz.
Following a sinus surgery in October 2007, it dawned on me slowly that my inner nose had been destroyed. The reality gained momentum that I might be struggling for a satisfying breath of air for the rest of my life, perhaps thirty years. This knowledge came at a time when minutes were eternities, and not even sleep provided escape.
For months, I pushed the idea of suicide out of my mind: “Life was sacred…no matter what suffering a life entails…” Until one sleepless night, I broke like a twig, and googled “assisted suicide.” I couldn’t see the computer screen through the sheets of tears. It was the end of my life, as I knew it–the annihilation of my philosophical and moral ground. How could I even think of doing this to my family?
“How” is the reality of Empty Nose Syndrome, a condition that has brought thousands to their knees. Your nose dries up, and doesn’t work properly. You have to irrigate it to clear it of debris. It is miserably uncomfortable. You carry around a nasal spray bottle filled with saline, and surreptitiously spray your nose throughout the day. You cannot draw a satisfying breath of air because the turbinates—the inner organ of the nose—have either been reduced or removed. Turbinates are bony structures that filter and humidify the air we breathe, and create the resistance and nerve sensation of breathing. How horrible, right?
And how does one acquire this horrifying condition? It is an iatrogenic (medically-caused) condition. It is entirely created by doctors—ENT’s—Ear, Nose and Throat doctors, also known as otolaryngologists. In spite of the many studies that warn against turbinate reductions, except in necessary cases such as cancer and cystic fibrosis, turbinate reductions are performed almost routinely, with any nasal or sinus surgery: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BUM/is_2_82/ai_98248242/ , http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1292809-overview, http://archotol.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/133/9/858. My turbinate reduction was performed in the course of removing an asymptomatic polyp. I had never complained of a nasal or sinus issue in my life.
The next obvious question is–If Empty Nose Syndrome is known to be caused by turbinate reductions, why are ENT’s performing them left and right, with little or no medical rationale? The only possible answer to this question is—money. They are performing these surgeries for money. One forumer on the Empty Nose Syndrome Association website commented that turbinate reductions are the new “bread and butter” of the ENT business, much like tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies once were: http://www.emptynosesyndrome.org/. Perhaps only a small percentage of those of us used by ENT’s to enhance their incomes are destroyed by their unnecessary surgeries. Maybe those odds aren’t too bad, in their view.
Under the Posting Rules and Guidelines (now locked from view) for the Empty Nose Syndrome Association forum, a rule was once posted that no one could mention suicide. When I first arrived there, in November 2007, some of the older forum members would occasionally refer to forum members who had committed suicide. The mention was often followed by a shushing comment. I did a search on the forum for “suicide” and came up with numerous threads, including one from January 2006, entitled, “good-bye and bless you all.”
Of course, there are no studies investigating the numbers of people who have died as a result of suicide linked to Empty Nose Syndrome. Who would finance such a study? The AMA? Maybe the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.
Whoever you are—you who found my site by searching “empty nose syndrome suicide,” and all you others who have thought about it–hang in there. I won’t promise you a rose garden, but it does get better. It is the body’s will to heal itself. Promising technologies are being developed, in the form of stem cell technology, and tissue regeneration.
I want you to stick around and talk about this. Make as much noise as you can. If enough of us refuse to be silenced, maybe the ENT “business” will be forced to pay attention.