WELCOME TO THE RECOVERY ROOM
My recovery is ongoing, of course. After all, my ENT says it takes a few seasons for your sinuses to acclimate – it’s like you have new sinuses, he says. I guess he’s kinda right. Polyp-free sinuses, is more like it though.
It’s been about a month since the surgery and, well, I’m feeling good. First off, I can breathe. Praise God. Seriously, if you have nasal polyps for any length of time (in my case, 10 years), it’s just nutso to discover you can breathe again – all the time. So cool.
But what’s the recovery been like since the day of the surgery and what can you expect if you do it?
Read on to find out.
THE FIRST FEW DAYS POST SURGERY
This is the worst period. At least for me, it was.
My sinuses were filled with packing (not all ENTs do this, so check. I’ve heard the new gel they use now is great, but not everybody’s situation will allow for it).
They pack your sinuses to keep you from bleeding copiously. So you can breathe, they jam a couple of straws in there too. If you couldn’t breathe before the surgery most the time, like me, well, this probably will feel almost better than most days living with polyps. At least you have the hope of improvement during this time, so it makes it endurable.
These first days I slept like 18 hours out of everyday. You’re on Vicodin and Valium (at least I was) to manage the pain and to keep you chill. You can’t smell much, so my appetite was marginal. But I did eat plenty, just didn’t taste much.
(Above: It looks worse than it was. I was just sleeping here. Promise.)
(A shot of the gauze bandage beneath my nose. You wear this so any nasal discharge drips into this. You change it periodically. It’s no big deal. Kinda gross though, huh?)
I sat around a lot, because, well, you’re supposed to. They don’t want you dead lifting a cow or moving a 100-inch flat screen. So you sit around. Sleep. Take pain killers. Eat. Repeat. You’re pretty woosey so you want to do much anyways.
(See, even with nasal packing and stints shoved up my nose, I’m smiling.)
These first 4 days were the worst and they weren’t even that bad. You hear horror stories about this period if search around online, but for me, if wasn’t that bad at all.
5 DAYS AFTER SURGERY
This is when they removed my packing. This meant, I was going under again. My particular ENT puts you under for the packing removal. In his words, “that way there’s no pain and I can clean you even better cuz you’re not moving around”.
I’ve heard the removal of the packing is the worst part for most people, cuz many ENTs remove it while you’re awake. Sadists.
So, I was happy to go under again for this. This time I was far less scared. It’s like anything, the more you do something, the less fear you have of it.
When I was under he cleaned my sinuses out as well. (You have to continue to go back for cleanings for the next month or two. This ensure that your sinuses heal properly.)
Funny story here about the magic that is anesthesia. As they were about to remove the dreaded packing, I realized, hold on, I was awake and aware of what was going on. So, I let them know, “hey, I’m awake, so before you go any further with this, uh, you might want to give me more sleepy gas”.
“You’re already done. You’re in the recovery room”, a nurse says in response. The cleaning and packing removal was already over. It’s crazy how it feels like no time elapses when they put you under. It’s actually kinda cool.
An hour later my mom drove me home cuz they don’t want you taking out a bus full of school children on the way home cuz you’re impaired still from the anesthesia.
(God bless you, Mom for taking care of me those first 4 days. You rock!!!)
Now, I could REALLY breathe. My nose burned a bit. You still need to wear that gauze to catch the drip from your sinuses and to help keep them moist. But things really start to get better from here on.
6 -9 DAYS AFTER SURGERY
I’m already out in my garage doing little chores. I’m not supposed to be doing anything, but man, I feel so much better.
I take walks with my wife and daughter. Throw the ball with the dog. Talk to neighbors (they’re all curious cuz I look like Hannibal Lecter with the gauze pad under my nose).
(Hannibal Lecter out for jaunt with his daughter in the park.)
My nose burns a bit from all the fresh air. I imagine that all that inflammation from the surgery is what I’m feeling. Again, no big deal. In fact, I’m just loving that I can breathe.
By the 7th day, I’m restless. Hey, I don’t sit around well. I want to go to the gym. I want to take a hike. I want to play golf. But I don’t. I mostly relax and follow the ENT’s orders.
(Note: In total, I take about 2 weeks off work. I think that was a good thing, cuz you really are run down and you do need the rest. And you don’t need stress since you’re healing from what is a pretty major surgery.)
10 DAYS AFTER SURGERY
I see the ENT for another cleaning. This one wasn’t as fun. I was awake to see him stick these little vacuum instruments – deeper than you’d like to think any one should stick a metal instrument – in my head.
He also need to remove my “stints”. The “stints” are like plastic things that are the shape of a guitar pick, but 3 times bigger. They’re there to keep your septum straight and open. I had no idea they were even in my nose cuz you couldn’t really feel them.
What I did feel was the ENT removing them. First, he had to remove a stitch. This was the most painful moment of the whole experience. I’m 39. I’m a man. My eyes watered. Okay, fine, I was crying.
After the stitch was removed, he pulled these mega-guitar picks out of my nose. That wasn’t exactly a pleasure cruise either. But not that big of a deal.
Thankfully it was over quickly. And the pain subsided quickly too.
10 DAYS AFTER SURGERY AND BEYOND
The one thing that does happen as you recover is you produce some pretty disgusting drainage from your sinuses during this time.
One evening (evenings seemed to be when I always noticed “it” happening), I thought, is that a polyp I’m feeling up in my nose? A polyp he missed? Cuz somethin’ is flappin’ around in there. When “it” dislodged and slipped down the back of my throat I realized, no, that’s not a polyp, that’s a chunk of mucous/coagulated blood from hell. Insane.
That kept happening and keeps happening for 6 weeks, I’m told.
One other night, I felt something big in there. This about 14 days after surgery. So I blew my nose, which my ENT said was fine to do at this point.
Again, the most insane thing came out of my nose. Was IT a booger? Was IT a forgotten, excised polyp that the ENT missed? Was IT a chunk of coagulated blood? And most importantly, was IT alive?
I’ve never had anything this big come out of my nose. IT stretched my nostril opening when IT slipped out and onto to my Kleenex like a new-born moose being birthed by its proud mother.
My first instinct was to flush IT. But then I realized, I couldn’t just flush IT down the toilet. I wanted the world to see IT. Otherwise no one would believe me. Here IT is below. Forgive me for showing you IT, but I just had to. IT’s too awesome to be kept in obscurity.
(Penny is there for size reference. But you can’t help but notice that even Old Abe is in utter awe as he stares down the beast that lived in my nose)
(Another view, in case you hadn’t seen enough.)
1 MONTH + AFTER THE SURGERY
Well, things seem to just be getting better and better.
Breathing great. Haven’t been sick yet. Seems like my sense of smell is returning.
My ENT says things will just keep getting even better over time.
Of course, he also said that when someone has polyps as bad as I did, there’s a good chance they’ll come back. But I’m just trying to not think about that right now. And I’m hoping that perhaps I’ll defy the odds, which according to studies, there’s about a 50% chance I’ll be getting them again. Oh well. I’ll take those odds. It’s better than a 100% chance the polyps will return.
I’ll update with any posts if anything new worth sharing turns up.
6 MONTHS LATER. WE HAVE HEALTHY SINUSES, HOUSTON. Update: Wednesday 6:06pm, July 6th, 2011
To say my life has changed would be an understatement. I forgot what normal was because now that I’m normal I can’t believe I lived with that horrible sinus condition. I can’t believe I put up with that condition for so long.
I would say, before I had this surgery, I was sick every month for 10 days. Miserable. Stuffed up. Couldn’t breathe. And I think I was actually really damaging my health because I couldn’t get out of the vicious cycle of sinus infections, constant colds and a compromised immune system.
The improvement since the surgery? 100%. No kidding. I haven’t had a cold in 6 months. My nose is never stuffed. I can taste. I can breathe. It’s like I got a second chance at life.
One more thing: my doctor is a genius. His name is Dr. Paul Toffel and he’s based out of Pasadena, California. He’s well-known as an ENT. He served as President of the American Rhinological Society. He’s a pro. I had a feeling about him and my feeling was right. He’s a miracle-worker. Here’s his website:
And here’s Dr. Toffel:
Besides removing the polyps, Dr. Toffel also gives me a shot that helps bolster my immune system. It’s called, Gammastan, I believe. I’m telling you, it’s a game-changer. My wife, my daughter – they catch vicious colds – but I don’t. Insane. I used to catch everything – every single virus out there.
Well, that’s where it sits for now. Will the polyps come back? Maybe. But so far, they’re nowhere to be found. If they do, will I hesitate to do the surgery again? Uh, no. The benefit is tremendous. And in the hands of a skilled ENT, like Dr. Toffel, it’s a no-brainer.
If you have polyps and you’re miserable. Don’t be scared. Do the surgery. I promise you the relief is worth it. Find a competent doctor who’s done the surgery 1000s of times, like Dr. Paul Toffel. Remove this blight from your life. You don’t have live with it. It’s pretty painless – forget the horror stories. It’s no big deal. You can handle it no problem.
UPDATE: 1 YEAR LATER
Some people have asked me how I’m doing now, one year later. And the answer is: very good. First, I’ve a had second baby, so that’s good right there.
But my sinuses are what you’re curious about, right? For all intents and purposes, I’ve been symptom-free for over a year. I think I’ve had one cold the entire year. Zero sinus infections. I see my sinus doctor for regular check-ups, receive a Gammastan shot – to boost my immunity – every 3 weeks (when there isn’t a shortage).
As for the polyps, well, all I can say is I don’t see any so far (I used to actually be able to see them in my nose). The doctor keeps giving me a clean bill of health as I am symptom-free.
An interesting aside: I had some teeth removed so I had to do some x-rays and the dentist pointed out an area that seemed inflamed in my sinuses. I asked my ENT about it, he said it was possible that it was inflamed but so far I’m not showing symptoms so we’re good to go for now.
So, do I wonder if there going to come back? Yeah, everyday. And, of course, the doctor has said a million times they very well could come back, given my sinus polyps we’re about as bad as he ever sees (he called it Stage 4). I also know that if they ever do come back I will do the surgery again. It’s just misery living with them. I’d rather go through a couple of weeks of pain and get my life back then live with them when I don’t have to. U
Until the next update, sinus sufferers, hang in there. Hit me with any questions or to commiserate anytime.
UPDATE: 2 1/2 Years LATER – July 2nd, 2013
Figured it was time to post another update, so here it is: I’m feeling great. No new polyps (that I’m aware of). Of course, I also have not been back for a check-in with my doctor in about 6 months. A mix of a crazy work schedule, purchase of a new home and just a crazy busy family life (two kids now) and, well, I’ve lapsed on my check-ins. So truthfully, I don’t have a clean bill of health from the doctor, but as far as symptoms go, nothing has changed. My sinuses are clear, I rarely get sick and I seem to be continuing on good path. I couldn’t be more pleased with where I’m at 2 and 1/2 years later.
I continue to do nasal rinses with a steroid and antibiotic that I add to the saline mix. I do this every other day – well, I’m supposed to, but I admit, I’ve been less than perfect in doing this religiously. I find the saline rinses just help keep me clear in general, so if you can do them – i.e. have clear enough sinus passages to do them – they’re great. I also have oral steroids, along with antibiotics that I have on hand should I need them, but I almost never take them, because I rarely feel I need to symptom-wise.
So, that’s where it stands. Nothing dramatic to report, but that’s really good news. I’ll update again when I get a check-up from the doc. The journey continues, but this has been a pleasant leg of it to be sure.
Here’s to clear breathing.
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