Sunday, February 24, 2013

Coming back ...

Workin' that shower cap ...

So on 2/12, I checked in to the outpatient surgery center at St. Mary's Hospital in Langhorne, PA for an operation that was over 30 years in the making. For as long as I can remember, I've had breathing and sinus issues. About six months ago, during the late summer allergy season, I started taking Mucinex nasal spray to combat the usual swelling that always made late summer/early fall a particularly bad time of the year. In hindsight, that decision more than anything else led to the surgery. Within a few weeks of starting the nasal spray, I was already experiencing the rebound effect where it would work really well but when it wore off, the sinus swelling would come back worse than before, and eventually, I was reaching the point where I needed to take a "hit" more than once a day. It got to the point where the cure was even more disruptive than the disease, and after I had a particularly bad rebound on the way home from a movie and started hyperventilating, I decided it was time to do something more permanent.

Joanna used some of her physician contacts for recommendations for ENTs, and based on her insider info, I set up and appointment with Bucks ENT for an initial consult. During my initial consult, the doctor told me that I was almost 100% blocked and my only legitimate option was surgery to fix it.

And so it was set. The doctor put me on a new nasal spray to help me ween off the Mucinex, and set up surgery for the first available slot in February. She also told me that I should plan on no less than a week of total downtime after surgery to allow for healing. That was actually good news -- one of the things that had kept me from having the operation for so long was that, until fairly recently, the recovery time was much longer because they usually packed your sinuses with gauze afterward. They don't do that anymore and the surgery itself is much less invasive. What they do now is reset and stitch the septum and shave down the turbinates, or filters on either side (because they swell up when the septum deviates apparently) and that's pretty much it.

Sitting at home with an ice pack the night after surgery

The surgery itself was surprisingly quick and easy (I was unconscious for it so that might have played a role.) I was taken back at about 10:15 a.m. and was in the recovery room, awake and getting ready to leave by 11:30. And it was pretty much pain-free. I was given an Rx for Vicodin, but honestly I had no reason to take them. I really felt no pain at all. It was kind of like the way you would feel after getting punched in the face - unpleasant, sure, but nothing that lasts too long. (Unfortunately, I have some experience with bar brawls in the past, so I actually do know what that feels like.) The bigger problem was the bleeding. My nose was steadily bleeding for the next two days, and after that it was clogged for a few more with all the dried blood. Even now, almost two weeks later, I still wake up with a little bit of blood in there every morning.

But that was really the only thing that lingered in any way. Well, that and the swelling. Everyone -- from my wife to the doctor -- had really played up the benefits of this procedure for me. Since I had been clogged for so long, I was left to believe that there'd be an almost instantaneous and amazing improvement in my breathing. And, to be honest, that just wasn't the case. The "instantaneous" part, anyway. And I suppose in hindsight I should have expected that - I'm still very swelled up, so it's completely unreasonable to expect such dramatic improvements. I definitely have seen improvements - for example, when I try to breathe through my nose now ... it actually works!

So there is that. But within a few days, I was feeling totally stir crazy.

I am terrible at sitting still. Always have been. And while a week recovery may not seem like very long, it felt like an eternity to me. I feel really bad for Joanna. More than anyone else, she knows how tough I can be to be around when I get bored. And she really went out of her way to keep me from getting bored and put up with my general PIA-ness all week. She was awesome! Ultimately, I think I did okay with it, but by the time I reached the end of that week and went to the doctor for my follow-up, I was really hoping for the "all-clear".

And when she gave me the cautious thumbs-up, I was ecstatic. I immediately made plans to get out and ride at the first opportunity. Turns out, that was Saturday. And even though I woke up to a steady rain and temps in the low 40's, I decided I needed to get out and ride anyway, so that's what I did. I spent the morning riding the Perkiomen Trail form Green Lane to Collegeville and back. It was a muddy, soupy, soaking slog of a ride that was slow and totally unpleasant in just about every way. And I couldn't have been happier! My nose was stinging like hell early and I kind of have to teach myself how to breathe again after always having breathed through my mouth when I ride, but I figure tht's a function of time more than anything that this point. The stinging was because I was breathing cold, wet air through a (still somewhat swollen) nasal passage that had seldom seen much use in the past. But it worked and I was really happy when I was done with the whole experience.

Raw, cold, wet and muddy ... perfect morning ride.
And so, just like that -  I'm on the way back. And now training on the bike begins in earnest. My first race of the year is only three weeks away. And if the way I felt on the bike yesterday is any indication, I'm far from ready. So here we go. The downtime of surgery is over. It's time to hurt.

1 comment:

  1. It was nice having you around the house every day and night, even if it was just for convalescent purposes. Now get out! (and ride, of course).