Three Lives Derailed
My ENS friends and I are not doing so well. I am close to two others. We met on the Empty Nose Syndrome Association forum: http://guest.6.forumer.com/index.php. S and I were on the forum at the same time, and L contacted me, later, because we live in the same city.
We are three cases of lives derailed by turbinate surgery. Each of us represents a different decade of life, and life challenges gone awry.
S is the youngest at thirty-four. Before her surgery, three years ago, she was full of plans for her life. Right after the surgery, she was off to the Far East to curate an art show. She returned a few weeks later, in a fetal position, when the symptoms slapped her down in Vietnam. S was beautiful, talented and vibrant, a part of the New York art scene. She had a lot of friends and was physically active. Now, she works part-time at a nursery school, and is struggling to meet the demands of the job.
L is forty-three. He is married and has a young family. He was a top realtor in our city before being felled by three sinus surgeries, each successive surgery intended to correct the last. L hasn’t slept for more than a few hours at a time in almost a year. Initially, he went into high gear, determined to overcome his challenge. You don’t become a top realtor by accident. L possesses more than his share of motivation. He spent hours on a treadmill, and tried every conceivable product to manage his stifling dryness. L hasn’t sold a property in a while. He told me recently he is only living for his family.
I am fifty-seven. My story is a little different because I had physical challenges before Empty Nose Syndrome. I had autoimmune disorders, and shortly before the surgery, I suffered a carbon monoxide exposure. Like my friends above, I am well motivated. In the two years before the surgery, I studied for and took the GRE, and applied to a highly competitive Master’s program. I didn’t get in. I was preparing to take a course, and try, again. As for my health issues, I was a near vegan. I walked, meditated and did yoga daily. I worked part-time. I was determined to reach my optimum level of health and success. I don’t even think about the Master’s program, now. I think about my nose.
How did we all get here? S had a deviated septum. She breathed through one nostril more than the other. It was a minor annoyance. There was no reason for the ENT to cut her turbinates while straightening her septum, but the turbinate reduction would have added a lucrative fee to the job. L had sleep apnea. His ENT thought surgery was the answer—three surgeries. “You haven’t maxed out on your surgeries, yet,” he told L (referring to insurance maximums), every time he returned in worse shape than before. I had tinnitus—ear ringing—a result of the carbon monoxide exposure. The ENT ordered scans allegedly to check if I had a tumor near the inner ear. Scans are rarely ordered for a tinnitus case as a tumor is virtually never the cause. The scans, however, did enable Dr. S. to find a sinus polyp, and an excuse to do surgeries. Since about 40% of the population has sinus polyps, Dr. S had an excellent shot at making that basket.
And so here we are. Three lives derailed.