During my junior year of college I broke my nose in a friendly scuffle, which caused a nasal septum deviation, otherwise known as a deviated septum. I was able to partially realign the peripheral for aesthetic purposes; however, the internal configuration was out of sync, impairing my ability to breathe through my right nostril. Without knowing the extent of the internal damage, I let the wound heal itself and once the bruising subsided effectively forgot the injury ever occurred. While not evident at the time, the restricted breathing became more apparent as it led to unforeseen complications that would affect my daily life. The frequency with which I was catching colds was increasing and the severity of the symptoms was worsening; persistent sinus congestion would lead to post-nasal drip which, in turn, would cause a sore throat.
It was roughly three years after the injury when I noticed a particular cold-induced sinus blockage was lasting longer than had been typical. My girlfriend suggested that I make an appointment to meet with Madeleine Schaberg, an ear, nose and throat specialist, to address these issues. I had not realized at the time, but after speaking with Dr. Schaberg, I was informed that my deviation was likely affecting not only my immune health but also my sleep cycle; the deviated septum was likely triggering sleep apnea, a disorder caused by interruptions in normal breathing patterns, thus negatively affecting sleep habits. After I presented my pertinent medical history, she proceeded with a nasal endoscopy and examined my left nostril with relative ease, but before she could get the endoscope past the hairs of my right nostril she began to chuckle – “I think we’ve found the culprit…the deviation in your septum is causing a 95% blockage on your right side, making it nearly impossible to breathe through.” Since the cost of that appointment covered half of my annual deductible and rates were expected to increase with the ACA legislation, my decision to elect for surgery became that much easier. Dr. Schaberg referred me to a different specialist who focuses on rhinoplasties, which are often associated with plastic surgery procedures, so technically I got a nose job. I had heard a lot of bad things about this procedure and began to do some research of my own. Despite the dissuading testimonials, I was ready to go under the knife.
The procedure itself was nothing to worry about; however, the recovery was far less than enjoyable. I was told 2-3 days would be adequate time to recover to the point at which I could return to work, yet this was far from reality. It was not the pain that created cause for concern but rather the vast amounts of blood-saturated gauze that was taped to my face that made it extremely difficult to breathe with my head upright. Both nostrils were ‘packed’ with gauze while my septum was kept stationary with plastic stents, each nearly the size of a credit card. Frankly, I was unaware these were even in there until I went for a follow-up a week or so later and the doctor told me to look away while he used pliers to yank them out. Throughout the recovery, I was concerned even the slightest of contact to my nose would again dislodge the septum. It was necessary to sleep elevated on my back and I recall attempting to roll over one night and tapping my nose to the pillow, thinking to myself that I would need to go back and redo the procedure, but according to my doctor, this turned out to have been extreme cautiousness. I took a generic form of sleep aid (without a decongestant per my doctor’s orders), which offered some nighttime relief, and I indulged in terrible daytime television throughout the day, intermittently napping, drinking lots of fluids and eating soft foods. After the third day, the recovery started to become easier as I could tackle more solid foods and sit upright for longer periods of time without too much blood rushing to my head, and after a week, once the stents were removed, other than the residual bruising, all that was left of the recovery process was occasional sensitivity and daily sinus rinsing.
It’s been almost a year now since I had the procedure and the benefits are definitely noticeable. Part of the reason I decided to move forward with the procedure was that much of the research I had found suggested that the results were life-changing and while that term is rather strong, the surgery resulted in remarkable improvements in my daily life: the quality of my sleep is noticeably better, I do not become tired as frequently during the day, and I’m now capable of breathing through both nostrils and am no longer classified as a ‘mouth-breather’. If you are contemplating getting a septoplasty to improve your nasal passages, I would highly recommend it.