It’s 4:30 AM and I’m watching a show on Animal Planet about a guy who had a spiny Amazonian fish swim up his pee-hole. Meanwhile, the bundle of gauze strapped to my upper lip sops up the continuous trickle of blood from my nose. Five minutes ago I coughed up a black tadpole of semi-clotted blood.
Four years ago I noticed that my septum had bent into my left nostril, like a postcard squeezed at the edges. At the time it was trivial, but since that time I’ve run into a host of nose, mouth, throat, and pharynx problems: constant post-nasal drip, difficulty breathing through my nose, sinus infections, hay fever, and poor sleep patterns. Then there were the tonsiloliths, one of those maladies most people never know exists until they’re afflicted.
Things came to a head when I started feeling unable to breathe through my nose while playing hockey. Then one day I felt a persistent urge to clear my throat but seemed unable. The fits of coughing and throat clearing actually strained my vocal chords, leaving me with a scratchy voice and painful speech for several weeks and finally driving me to the Otolaryngologist. We tried some prescriptions, but they only masked the problem – alos, I’ve managed to make it 31 years without needing pills every day and would prefer to keep it that way for as long as possible.
So this morning I spent a few hours at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where my doctor basically bored me a new nasal passage. He straightened my septum, removed nasal bone spurs, reduced my turbinates, removed my adenoids, and fixed one or two other things I’m forgetting. In a week or two I’ll be breathing better than I’ve ever breathed in my life, but at the moment my nostrils house a pair of splints, each about the size of a thumb, and the steady slow flow of blood has me wearing a gauze pad like a feminine hygiene mustache.
I’m taking hydrocodone for pain, cephalexin to prevent infection, and methylprednisolone to prevent swelling. Every hour I send a couple of squirts of over-the-counter saline up each black-crusted nostril, which triggers a renewed flow of watery blood but which my doctor says will speed my healing considerably by preventing scabbing. In eleven days I have an ice hockey playoff game, and while my goalie mask protects my face from impact, proper healing is essential to ensure that my elevated heart rate doesn’t send blood gushing down my face and make me look like the second coming of Clint Malarchuk.
I go back to the doctor in a week to have the splits removed from my nostrils, an appointment I don’t mind saying I’m eagerly anticipating. In the meantime I suffer, but I’m really looking forward to a renewed ability to breathe.