Wednesday, August 03, 2016

My Lovely Sinus Surgery Recovery

Like I said previously, everything I had been told about the anticipated surgery was that it would be routine, in and out, feeling better immediately.  In short, simple and instantaneously life changing.  I had actually scheduled the surgery at Northwestern Hospital downtown when I did because of this information.  And in the beginning, all signs pointed to a successful and speedy recovery.  I even posted a picture of myself on Facebook - looking pretty tired but still giving the thumbs up that everything was A-OK just 24-hours after the surgery.

And then - I guess - all the anesthesia and pain medications started to wear off.  Friday, the day after surgery, started off well.  I was able to remove the blood hammock and my nose was now sensitive enough to know when a drip was coming, so I was able to catch drips as they happened rather than tape a bandage to my face all the time.  What's interesting about this was that discharge, whether blood or mucus or saline from rinses, would pool in my nose depending on how I held my head.  But when I turned my head ever so slightly or looked in a different direction, it all came pouring out at once.  As Friday wore on, so did my nerves.

For the first time ever, I treated myself to Grub Hub, but by the time it arrived, I couldn't eat.  Perhaps it was due to all the stuff dripping down the back of my throat that was causing nausea and a lack of appetite.  So I found myself mostly just laying on the couch in the living room.  Which was also where I spent the entire next day, Saturday, only getting up to take medication.  I didn't eat all day but kept trying to drink as much fluid as possible.  I had gone off of all caffeine, so no tea or my beloved Diet Pepsi since a week prior to surgery (which was directed by the doctor).  I figured that while I was healing, it would make sense to stay off of caffeine as well.  As Saturday wore on, the headaches increased in frequency and intensity.  I'd never had a migraine before, but I imagined that this must be similar to how they feel - absolutely crippling and nauseating.

During one trip to the bathroom, I looked in the mirror and notice that the area above my left eyelid had swollen some.  The headaches I was experiencing seemed to come from behind my eye as well as above.  So I made a ice pack and continued to lay on the couch.  I kept getting bouts of the equivalent of "brain freeze" from keeping the ice packs on too long.  I'm not sure if they offered any kind of relief, but they were as soothing a thing as I could find.  Eventually I slept, either from pure exhaustion or passing out from the pain.  I didn't do a great job keeping in touch with Kevin during this time because, quite frankly, it was too much to do.  I'm sure he was wondering what was going on, but I simply didn't have the energy to even send a text to him.

When I woke on Sunday morning, I instantly knew something was wrong.  I looked in the mirror and my left eye was now swollen halfway shut.  I could no longer look to my left because it was too painful, like needles sticking in my eye and it hurt like hell to move my eye in any given direction.  I mustered up enough energy to take a shower and then called 911.  I called Kevin at 6:30 AM California time and let him know I was making a trip to the ER.  I can't imagine how frantic he must have felt.  But again - this was all not supposed to happen.

The ambulance took me to Swedish Covenant Hospital which is about 5 blocks from our house.  After 2 hours there, the doctors wanted me to go back to Northwestern.

I don't know what "ambulance policy" is, but I assume is it their responsibility to get you to the closest place.  Amiright?  In any event, I'm going to have to pay for 2 ambulance trips.  Still waiting on those bills to come in.  Yeesh.

I got to Northwestern around Noon on Sunday and was pretty miserable by that time.  To add to my pain, I was immediately chastised by a man in scrubs.  He could have been an ENT, a surgeon, or just the ER doctor on duty, but he told me that I should "always return to where I originally had a surgery because no surgeon likes to clean up another surgeon's work."  Seriously, that's what he said.  I simply looked at him out of the one eye I could see out of and said, "I don't care."  Seriously, that's what I said.  He left the room and I never saw him again.  The first nurse I saw apparently taught the doctor everything he knows because her bedside manner was along the lines of Nurse Ratchett.   I'm in pain, exhausted, a little scared that I might lose an eye, and very confused.  Nurse Ratchett came in to talk to me and when I was slow to respond while gathering my thoughts, she barked, "why are you talking like that; what's WRONG with you?" I mean....     I love my Northwestern physicians.  But the hospital......

After that, it was a barrage of doctors, nurses, residents, interns and students coming in to look at me and discuss me as if they were looking into a deli case trying to choose between the chicken salad and the antipasti plate.  Medicine in a teaching hospital is so clinical and void of personal relationships.  There was one nurse who was super sweet and compassionate.  She wanted to hear my entire story.  I wish I could remember her name.  To compound my misery, I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything, not even water, until they could decide if they wanted to perform de-pressurizing surgery.  So from noon til about 7:30 PM, I sat in an examining chair just waiting for something to happen.  The chair was like one that would be at your eye doctor's office.  It didn't recline and the armrests were too low to use.  So I couldn't nap or relax.  I just sat there, my isolation being occasionally interrupted by one or two people who just wanted to look at me.

The powers-that-be decided to keep me in the hospital overnight to watch the swelling.  I honestly don't recall ever getting any medication to treat the swelling.  I was given morphine for pain, but that's all I remember.  I asked for new ice packs a few times because those were the only thing that seemed to make me feel better.  I was eventually put into a private room around 7:30 and finally received food around 8:00 PM.  This was the first thing I'd eaten for two days.

Meanwhile, Kevin had been making his trek back to Chicago from San Diego and was encountering every possible obstacle along the way.  You know how it is when you only want to get to something and you hit every red light.  First, his flight was delayed leaving California.  Then once they got to Chicago they had to stay in the air and circle for a while because of bad weather.  And then once he landed, the lines for taxis to the city rivaled those at Disney World on the busiest day of the year.  All the poor man wanted to do was get to me.  It's probably funny now, but I can imagine his panic during the process.  He finally arrived at my room sometime around 12:30 AM.  Admittedly, I instantly felt better.

At some point overnight, the swelling went away and I was able to move my eye again without any pain.  The doctors had no idea what happened, but Kevin actually diagnosed the problem during his flight home:

On Friday, the day following surgery, I started doing nasal sinus rinses.  I know now that even when sinuses are healthy, the rinse is supposed to be applied gently.  I was a bit more aggressive and blew the stuff up in my nose with such force that the saline lodged in both of my ear canals rather than drip out the other side of my nose.  I told Kevin about it in a subsequent phone call.  It was his belief that I might have blown a clot or surgery debris up into my head which then blocked my ethmoid sinus cavity from draining.  Then, either another rinse or the ice packs eventually dislodged the blocking and everything went back to normal.

I told this to my doctors on Monday morning in the hospital and they bought it.  What can I say, I married a genius.

I was discharged Monday afternoon and spent the rest of the week at home.  I tried going back to work on Tuesday morning, but only lasted about an hour before needing to leave.  The headaches were pretty intense during the week as my sinuses adapted to no longer having an infection or buildup in them.  And the drainage was semi-constant.  To be honest, there wasn't much difference in how I felt AFTER surgery than BEFORE surgery.  However the next step - vacuuming out my sinus cavity was supposed to be when I would finally notice relief.

From here, this story gets better...   and worse.