Disclosure: This post is not for the faint of heart – there are some graphic details ahead. I will not be at all offended if you skip over this post! ;o)
As I stared at my swollen, bruised reflection the day after my surgery, I wondered if this will all be worth it in the end. I received a text from my boss, checking to see how I’m recovering and encouraging me not to check my work email. I did anyway, and was instantly overwhelmed by the thought of getting caught up. But that was a problem for another day. There were two more hours until I could take more pain meds, and my brain felt like it was about it to explode.
In comparison, the surgery and first day was a breeze. After arriving at and getting checked in at Mass Eye & Ear in Longwood, before I know it, I was heading into preop and getting into a hospital gown. Sidenote: There is little I find more unnerving than stripping down with only a curtain between you and multiple strangers going about their day on the other side. I’m irrationally terrified that at any minute, some random nurse is going to whip open the curtain, displaying me in my underwear for all the world to see.
But, oh! Those heated blankets make it all better….and as soon as one cools down, the nurse ran off to fetch another. I turned my head as the nurse tried three times before successfully inserting the IV. As I’m wheeled into the operating room, I could hear the pumping bass of music. Suddenly I realized that they were playing The Weeknd in the OR – you know the song that goes, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you.” “Is this for real?” I asked the nurse, startled by the connection between the song and what’s about to happen. “Oh, we’ll turn it off when we get started,” she replied as she moved me on to the operating table. I vaguely thought of asking them to play Maroon 5.
Just then, all these huge screens/monitors switched on all over the room, each featuring three high-def, huge pictures of my face from the front and sides. These were the pictures my doctor took of my “before” nose. I started to feel like I’m in some sort of sci-fi young adult movie like Divergent (which I’ve actually never seen) and that’s the last thing I remember.
Suddenly I was in recovery and a nurse is waking me up and I do not want to wake up. I felt as if I was severely hung over with a massive headache. The insides of my nose were burning. I had gauze underneath my nose and it felt as suffocating as a fuzzy blanket over my mouth on a hot summer night. There was an actual cast on my nose – it looked like a white band-aid but was stiff. The doctor showed Patrick the packing inside my nose, which she said was like PVC piping. Sweet. The nurses kept asking me if I wanted a mirror to see. (Why do nurses do this? They do this when you are giving birth to babies too and in neither situation do I have any desire to see what’s going on.)
They told me that they were able to extract cartilage from my own rib and use it to bolster my septum in the right direction. I was so relieved to hear that no cadaver tissue was needed! I mean, I felt like hell, but at least I didn’t have to worry that I was become possessed by a mass murderer, like in the movie Shocker. Fortunately, they did not have to break any bones, either. A little McRib, sandpaper and spackle did the trick.
The first night home wasn’t that bad, other than the fact that the pain became excruciating in the last 1-2 hours before my next dose of pain meds. It was worse than the worst migrate I’ve ever had, the insides of my nose felt like they were on fire, and even my teeth hurt. Oh, and vomiting was extremely unpleasant. I was most worried about the pain in my nose when I threw up, but I should have been worried about what my McRib would feel like, and the fact that I couldn’t bend over. Have you ever tried to vomit while standing up? It was not pleasant. Thank god I took ballet as a child and could still plié in front of the bathroom sink. If there was an award for most graceful vomiting ever, I totally would have won. I still haven’t hit that other dreaded post nose surgery milestone – sneezing – but will report back on that.
I knew eating would be a challenge, but didn’t think about the fact that since I can only breathe through my mouth, closing my mouth while chewing would become impossible and eating anything solid made me feel like I was choking. Each meal time became a choice: will I starve or suffocate? Slurpable foods proved to be the easiest to tackle – yogurt, soup….and I found that using the kid’s mini spoons really helped as I couldn’t open my mouth very wide.
The so-called “mustache” dressing was very unpleasant too. It was basically a long piece of gauze taped under my nose to catch the blood and other “ooziness” coming out of my nose. Horribly gross, but I kept my rib and nose stitches in stitches as I couldn’t stop thinking “I mustache you a question!” (What can I say, pain meds make you loopy). The first day, I had to change the gauze multiple times an hour but finally got to get rid of it altogether before the end of the second day. I’d really like to know how men with mustaches eat! The minute the gauze got wet, even with water, I had to change it immediately.
Day two of recovery was much more difficult, although there was no more ballet vomiting.
I felt and looked like I was hit by a truck. My eyes swelled shut and became black and blue. I could barely get up because of the pain in my McRib. With the kids at school and Patrick at work, it was quiet enough around the house, but it was tough being alone. It was hot in the apartment and there was no one to help me open the window. Every trip to the refrigerator to refill my water was a struggle. I fell asleep at the kitchen table as I was trying to cut up a Luna protein bar into tiny pieces for breakfast. I finally finished that bar around dinner time.
They said it’s supposed to get worse before it gets better, and so far, that has been true!