Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Back from the dead - I can breathe!

For the longest time, my whole life as a matter of fact, I have found it difficult to breathe. I don't have a respiratory problem nor do I suffer a psychosomatic malady. My nose, more specifically my septum, was a twisted as the gnarled roots of Old Man Willow. After some consultations with the top-rated ENT doctor in Andong and a couple noggin x-rays to boot, I was scheduled for surgery January 9th, 2013, days after I came back from my vacation in Minnesota.

Hayoung had to work, it being a Wednesday and all, so one of my best friends, Zach MacDonald, accompanied me to the hospital. I'm so glad he was there. We sat there for about three hours while we waited for the surgery room to be ready. While we waited, we played Ticket to Ride on me and Hayoung's iPads and we talked. I had a lot to talk about, I guess. God, I was so nervous. There is hardly any English spoken at the Andong hospital. There wasn't a single person who could string two sentences of English together. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not going to go to a foreign country, to a hospital there and demand that they speak my language and how dare they fail their end of some kind of linguistic agreement of which they failed to uphold on their end yada, yada, yada. The truth is, they have no obligation to speak English. I am the visitor in their country. I was grateful to any of the staff whom attempted communication with me. But that was the source of my uneasiness. Up to this point, throughout the consultations, etc., I still had never spoken to my doctor. Hayoung, bless her heart, translated for me. But still, feeling like I was unable to communicate with anyone around me, sparing Zach, and have them breaking my nose, digging around in my skull and whatnot, I was scared to death. I just kept telling myself to have courage. And I think I did just fine. 

After a while, they had me dress in my surgery outfit, which I totally rocked.

At this point, Hayoung was able to join us, right before they wheeled me into the operating room. They rolled me into the O.R. The man whom I assumed was the anesthesiologist smiled at me and connected a giant syringe to my I.V. tube. He smiled at me and I thought, "there is no backing out from here" as he emptied his concoction into my veins. I don't remember putting my head back down on the operating table. 

After cutting me up for about an hour and a half, they wheeled me out to be with Hayoung, Zach and Hayoung's friend, So-Young and her son. Never wasting a photo opportunity, Hayoung posed in front of my unconscious body. 

They all spent the early evening with me at the hospital and I fell asleep promptly after their visit. I had plastic splints along either side of my septum and cotton packing stuffed all the way into what I only assume to be my sinuses.

If it weren't for the angels in white who brought me the happy juice in the form of buttocks shots, this would have been excruciatingly painful. I spent 48 hours in the hospital, in the care of people whom I could not communicate with though they took the best care of me.

Hayoung spent the second night in the hospital with me even though she had work the next morning and my buddy Ryan came in to see me hours before his trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong. The last few hours in the hospital, the doctor took the cotton packing out of my face. This was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt and I have had to stick a Q-tip into my own urethra (mandatory chlamydia test for Peace Corps) . It was over soon enough.

I was prescribed a myriad of pills to take while I recuperated at home, watching zombie and old science fiction flicks. I was also told to head back to the hospital the following Wednesday (one week after my surgery) to get the plastic splints taken out.

Well, I'm still taking the pills and yesterday I finally had the splints taken out. While that was painful in its own right (the splints were sewn together through the bottom of my septum), it was nowhere near as painful as removing the cotton packing. Anyway, after the doctor removed the plastic splints, I could breathe, not only for the first time in a week but like, I could really breathe, like I never had before in my life! Both nostrils were operational and I could smell the hospital. I still have to wait for the inflammation and swelling to go down (they also removed a lot of excess skin within my nostrils) but even now as I type this one week after my surgery, I can breathe better now than I ever had before, even when assisted by Allegra and decongestants.
Last night I fell asleep easier than I think I ever had before.

On a very optimistic note, I did a little calculating. I quit smoking just over 5 months ago. That's been a battle in and of itself but this little statistic made me feel like I had not only won the battle but had won the war! Check this out; I saved USD$362.83 since I quite. And that, my friends, is literally $20 shy of how much the surgery had cost. Indeed, by not smoking for the last 5 months, I paid for my surgery and hospital stay. I feel like a mensch, a well oxygenated mensch.