On the morning before New Year’s Eve, I went under the surgeon’s scalpel, undergoing a left septum reconstruction. I had been put under general anesthesia twice before, but was still surprised how I felt very alert and relatively fine one moment, and how the next moment the sensation of consciousness become the interpretation of just one sense—Feeling: an acute pain, dulled by a powerful analgesic.
I could discern that it wasn’t the pain of an accidental trauma, but the intervening efforts of a doctor; that though I was feeling much worse than when I awoke that morning, the great probability was that, in a short period of time, I was going to feel so much better than I had felt previously.
The next sense to come online was Hearing—the beeping of monitoring machines, the quiet rush of the attending nurses, a soft moaning that I turned out to be making. The feeble and unconscious attempts to convey…I don’t know what, let the nurse know that I had returned to the land of the living.
I opened my eyes, which was to be the last of the faculties I’d possess that day. Smell was blocked by the packing that ran painfully deep, down the length of my nasal cavity. And without Smell, piggybacking Taste hadn’t the breath to work.
Once awake, I was far too uncomfortable to even relax, let alone rest. So I kept my eyes opened, sent the nurse for ice chips, brought her back to raise the head of the bed, and tapped out ditties on the bed rails, all to let her know that I was ready to go.
Like the proverbial moss-less stone, I was ready to roll. And after having my bed rolled out of the recovery room to put on my clothes, and having my wheelchair rolled to my awaiting car, I was spirited home to my convalescence bed, with its deep, opiate fueled healing-slumber.
After sleeping for most of the day, I awoke to the terrible feeling of being late with my painkillers. Never again would I miss a dose, as I set reminder alerts on my phone. Urinating Mountain Dew, I was as dehydrated as I could ever remember being. But as I tried to sip water I discovered that it is impossible to complete a proper swallow without your nasal passages open in the back of your throat. To create that pocket to transport food and drink down the esophagus, you have to create a vacuum, and without free-flowing air through your nose, you can’t.
I tried and tried to push the fluids, but they inevitably went down the wrong tube, and I would choke and cough and it caused pain to my poor lil’ nose. I worried about triggering another vocal cord dysfunction episode, where your vocal folds spasm shut, mimicking an asthma attack, and for which the way to overcome it is to take slow deep breathes through the nose. If I have a VCD attack, I thought, I’m done. Trach me fast or tell the life squad to take their time.
Thank goodness I didn’t get an attack, and after taking a strong tablet of oxycontin, I was out for the night. I woke in the morning dry, tired, and swollen. I could barely talk and my throat was hoarse. I was glad to make my way to the ENT and get the packing taken out. When he first removed the right side’s wadding, it felt like he was pulling a magician’s never-ending handkerchief out of my nose; no wonder it was uncomfortable!
After he shoved medicine-soaked cotton pieces up my nose and vacuumed all the nastiness out, I could finally breathe through my left nostril! I felt a cool, wonderful tingling in my left septum, as though my brain and body were saying, Finally, it’s right!
The rest of the week was spent recuperating. I couldn’t use my CPAP machine and expected the exhaustion of crap sleep to creep up on me. But sleeping propped up on four pillow, with significant weight loss and a corrected septum, I felt rested. I was down the next day, New Year’s Eve, and couldn’t mix bubbly with my narcotic, but in the first early morning of the new year, I was back at Five Seasons!
Laurie had a special holiday group training session and although I couldn’t participate, she made sure that a recumbent bike was brought in so that I could be in the midst of the action, a member of the group. I was so thankful to Laurie for this because the Club was as busy as I had ever seen it, and I wanted to be, not with a lot of nice, determined strangers but, with my people. As they conducted their grueling circuit, I pedaled at half effort, not even breaking a sweat but breathing great.
Still on painkillers, I was a little out of it. I felt fine talking to my friends, but could tell by their reactions that I was missing some of their cues in the conversation. In less colorful turn of phrase, I let them know that I was “high as hell,” and they understood. Most were glad to see me back so soon, a few cautioned me about going too fast. But I wanted to minimize any physical regression as much as possible, wanted to stay in some semblance of the routine that helped me so much this past year. And I wanted to be in a position to be ready for the following Monday, for a momentous occasion in my life—the first day of my very first job!