Friday, April 28, 2017

Sinus Surgery 3.0 Completed

April 24th finally arrived!

It was like I was 8 again waiting for December 25th to come.  To me, April 24th signified a turning point, the day when I would finally, after almost one full year, be on the road to sinus healing and recovery.  I had great faith in my new doctor, Dr. Jordan Pritikin of the Chicago Nasal and Sinus Center.  After just one visit, I left his office feeling confident, and trusted him more than I did the Ear, Nose and Throat ("ENT") doctor from last summer.  I felt hopeful for the first time in some 330+ days.

As recorded here before, the last year was definitely hard on me, perhaps the hardest year I've ever had.  Even worse than Miami, and that's saying something, right?  I felt the symptoms of a sinus infection on May 22, 2016, following a flight back to Virginia for a friend's wedding.  I tried fighting it with over-the-counter drugs, but to no avail.  I gave in and went to my regular physician on June 13th, when he suggested I see an ENT based on the number of sinus infections I've had over the years.

I've well-documented on here my sinus and dental escapades over the last 11 months.  So let me pick up from the last visit with the new doctor, Dr. Pritikin, on March 20, 2016.

Like I said before, I felt hopeful.  And looking at the CT scan, I somehow felt vindicated that it was okay for me to be feeling bad - that I wasn't a hypochondriac or something.  To say that all of this was just in my head is a weak double entendre, but there it is.  I've effectively only been breathing through one side of my nose with nothing draining from the 4 sinus cavities at all.  I shared the CT image with everyone I knew, if only to say, "Look, it's a real thing!"  Everyone already believed me, but I guess I had to do it to reassure myself, or at least to allow myself to feel like crap because I felt like crap.

My surgery was conducted at St. Joseph's in Chicago.  My care was incredible.  I've long been a huge fan of Northwestern Medicine because of my GP and my Cardiologist, both of whom I cannot speak more highly.  But I think I've allowed my respect for them to skew me into believing that ALL the great doctors and the best care can only be found at Northwestern.  No so.  The staff at St. Joseph's was friendly, compassionate, non-rushed, and professional.  And interested in me.  My surgery took about 90 minutes, start to finish, and they were calling Kevin to take me home by 2:30.

This time, I was sent home with a list of instructions about what to do on Day 1, Day 2, etc.  The healing process this time was very different from the surgery in July.  After that first surgery, my nose bled and produced discharge for a week afterwards.  This time, my nose stopped bleeding before I went to bed the same night and hasn't so much as dripped since.  I assume all that will change once they start cleaning out the clots and tissue.  But I'll admit that this has since been a better week than before.

Five days after the surgery, Dr. Pritikin's office called to let me know that the culture taken during surgery showed a growth of alpha hemolytic strep, which essentially means I have strep throat in my sinuses.  So back on antibiotics I went with the hope it will get cleared up.

Today, I went in for my debridement, which is the vacuuming of tissue and blood clots inside my nose.  Dr. Pritikin assured me that this will not be the horrible experience I had while at Northwestern.  And I trust him when he says that, but just in case, I took a valium anyway.  The procedure was conducted by his assistant, Amy, who was already well-aware of my situation.  She, too, promised that this would be nothing like what I had experienced previously.  And they were both right.

After some numbing spray, Amy inserted a camera and a vacuum device in my nose.  She allowed me to watch the entire procedure on a monitor.  She cleaned out one blood clot and I could actually see into my sinuses, which means there is now a direct, clear path from my sinuses to my nose - something I've been lacking for several years.  I'm also allowed to blow my nose now (thank God) and go back to the gym starting on Monday.  According to Amy, I am healing very well.

For now, the rough headache I've had since July is gone, but I will continue to feel some pain as my system gets used to being clear and the tissue falls back where it belongs..  I can breathe through both nostrils for the first time in almost a year.  What little congestion I have is due to the swelling and the tissue being displaced, but that's to be expected.

I told Amy that at some point, I need to sit down with Dr. Pritikin for advice on how to approach the ENT from last summer.  I've never been shy about confrontation, but I need to speak to him about what went wrong.

But for now, I feel amazing.  My energy is returning and I am confident Dr. Pritikin did all the right things.  I honestly believe my sinus problems are now over.  But I'm crossing my fingers anyway, just in case.

Mischief, managed.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Maryland Wildlife

Having grown up in the Appalachian mountains, I'm used to seeing wildlife around where I live: groundhogs, bats, deer (LOTS of deer), field mice, snakes, turkeys, and yes, even bears.  But last week while visiting my family in Maryland, I came face to face with an animal I've often heard about but (I don't think) ever saw in person until now.

Mom and I had exited the house at the same time: she out the front door to get in the van to go visit my Dad, and me out the backdoor to Dad's old workshop to look for something Mom couldn't seem to find.  After a few minutes of searching, I could hear Mom honking her car horn.  So I walked around the house to find out what was going on.

When we came into each other's view, I yelled, "What's the matter?"  She was sitting in the van with the window down. "Do you see a raccoon," she asked?

"A raccoon?!?!"

"Yeah, do you see it?  It's under the van.  And GET IN THE HOUSE!  It could have rabies!"

I entered the house and closed the screen door behind me.  Mom and I continued to talk until, suddenly, out waddled the raccoon from under the van.  This is where I think I've never seen on in person before because it was MUCH larger than I expected it to be.

Several things are weird about this whole scenario:

1.  Seeing a raccoon in person.  They are bigger than I thought.  I think I put them in the same category as small rabbits.  But these things are large - bigger than a typical housecat.

2.  Seeing a raccoon in person in the daylight.  Raccoons are nocturnal mammals, avoiding human interaction as much as possible.  This little fellow (I just assume it was a male) was not the least bit intimidated or afraid of me.  He slowly sauntered over towards me at the door, despite my repeated warnings for him to walk in the opposite direction.  Raccoons never listen.

3.  The raccoon was injured.  He moved very slowly, not that I know the speed with which a raccoon typically moves.  But this little guy seemed to be nursing a back left foot.  I figured he had either fallen, was nicked by a car, or was in a spat with a dog or other creature.  Every few steps he would stop and just sit down, in no hurry to get anywhere.

Mom had backed the van out of the driveway and had moved on.  I tried keeping an eye on the raccoon without him knowing I was there.  He seemed dazed and confused.  I felt sorry for him.

I eventually closed the front door and left him alone.  I probably should have called the Department of Natural Resources at that point (we eventually did, later), but it didn't occur to me at the time.  About 20 minutes later, I went out to my car and kept an eye open for him.  I saw him about 100 feet from the house, sitting along the side of the road, just looking around.  Not sure where he eventually ended up.