An Unnecessary Surgery: A Devastating Result
October 30-November 15, 2007
October 30, 2007, I went to an outpatient surgery center to have a sinus polyp removed. I hadn’t known that I had a sinus polyp until the ENT I was seeing told me that I did. I had gone to see him for tinnitus (ear ringing). He had ordered some scans and had found a polyp. He had said that he’d fix that “deviated septum” while he was removing the polyp. I had not known that I had a deviated septum, either. I thought the septum was just that divider between the nostrils. I had envisioned Dr. S. clipping the polyp with a long wire snaked up my nose, as I slept on the operating table. Dr. S. had removed a cyst from my scalp the previous week, in the same surgery center, without knocking me out, or even cutting any hair.
Though Dr. S. had not mentioned it, there had been something on the surgery order about a turbinate reduction. I had tried to look that up on the Internet, and had not found a definition. The term appeared on sites having to do with sinus surgery, so I assumed it was something connected to removing a polyp—probably just trimming of a little swollen tissue right next to the polyp. It worried me enough that I called his office and asked his assistant what it was, but when she sucked in her breath, I said, “Never mind.” I thought I was being difficult. Dr. S. had snapped at me, “Don’t ask stupid questions!” the day that he had ordered the surgery, and I was still shaken and upset about it.
I know. Why didn’t I walk out of his office when he spoke to me like that? The answer is that I had suffered a recent carbon monoxide exposure—hence, the ear ringing. I was not in my right mind. Dr. S. was informed of the CO poisoning.
After the surgery, I was sent home—driven there by a friend–with a prescription for painkillers and an instruction sheet, which I was in no shape to read. The next day, I drove myself back to Dr. S.’s office, in a drug haze, because one of his nasal splints had collapsed. He removed both splints. Normally, they are kept in for a week to maintain the shape of the nose. My nostrils have never matched since the surgery, I assume, because one of the splints collapsed that first night. I called the surgery center the next day because I noticed that my nostrils were pulled up. My nose had a porcine look which I hoped was temporary. Interestingly, when I later acquired my records from the surgery center, this call, and the reason for it, was notated in the tiniest hand printing I have ever seen.
I tried to follow the instructions and I slept. The instructions disturbed me. I was required to buy a bottle of nasal spray and use it daily, for a week. Wobbling through the drug store, I was dismayed to be searching for a product that I had never before, in my life, needed or used. It didn’t seem right.
Sometime in the next two drowsy weeks, I woke up suffocating, my nose parched, my lungs unable to draw a satisfying breath. I called the doctor and made an appointment. He told me that everything looked fine. The next week, I called, again. And the week after that. “If you had atrophic rhinitis,” he said. “You’d smell like a dead moose. I’d be able to smell you clear out in the waiting room.”
Atrophic rhintis? What was that? I looked it up on the Internet, and found this site: http://www.utmb.edu/otoref/Grnds/Atrophic-Rhinitis-050330/Atrophic-Rhinitis-050330.htm. It describes an incurable rotting condition of the nasal cavity, involving crusts, bleeding, a purulent discharge and a nauseating stench. “Sinus surgery alone comprises 90% of secondary AR…” People with atrophic rhinitis can be smelled blocks away, but they cannot smell the odor themselves due to anosmia—loss of smell.
I was now in the stage of the instructions wherein I was irrigating my sinsuses with saline several times daily. This, too, unnerved me, when I read it—I was required to what? Make a solution of salt water, and squirt it up one nostril, and then the other, with a bulb syringe, and spit it out my mouth? Why should I be doing this? I had never had a sinus problem in my life! The irrigations were washing out blood, pus and crusts. The sight of this mess combined with my suffering was terrifying. What had this man done?
I was nauseous and weak, and I’d had diarrhea ever since the surgery. It was a struggle to stand up in the bathroom, and get through the irrigations. I couldn’t get the hang of it. I was spitting the saline all over the bathroom mirror. I had to keep resting, and returning to the chore, before it was completed. Then I had to clean the bathroom. I felt that my conditions were unsanitary, and that I should be in a sterile environment. I felt that I should have help.
I was nauseous, and couldn’t eat. I went to the grocery and bought loaves of French bread, which I gobbled down to kill off hunger pangs. A near-vegan before the surgery, now the only other thing I could eat was Wendy’s hamburgers and chili. It passed right through me.
For the first time in my life, I had arthritis pain. It started the week after the surgery. I woke in the early morning hours with excruciating pain in my hips and lower back. My breathing was so compromised that I could sleep only a few hours, but the pain in my bones would have prevented sleep, anyway. When I went to the bathroom, in the night, my knees hurt so badly I couldn’t get up.
I was in agony. The suffocation and nasal dryness were so intense, I felt my head would explode. The pain in my head was horrific. Every day—every minute—was a challenge to get through it. I couldn’t speak for more than a few minutes. After that, I squeaked, whispered, or could make no sound. I cried often, though not for long, because it made my nose feel awful. I could not produce mucous, and my nose felt strained and puny.