On Your Health

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A First-Person Account of My Septoplasty

31 March 2016

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Today we have a post from our guest blogger, Sarah Johnston. Sarah is a social media specialist at INTEGRIS.

Hi! I’m Sarah. I work for the INTEGRIS Health marketing department.

I recently went through a surgery that was a huge help to me and I want others to know about it! Many people suffer from a similar condition, so I thought you, the readers of I On Your Health, might appreciate a layperson's perspective.

I really noticed a problem when I was a teenager, although congestion issues troubled me my whole life. I couldn’t go more than a few days without repeated sneezing, painful sinus headaches or serious trouble breathing out of my nose.

Many years ago,  I saw an otolaryngologist about the problem. By the way, don't be scared of that long word -- "otolaryngologist" is just another name for an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist. The doctor said I had a deviated septum. I needed surgery to completely fix the problem.

Immediately, I had horrible visions of that unfortunate someone I knew in high school who had a "nose job" (otherwise known as a rhinoplasty), complete with a silver nose brace and tons of face bruises. I imagined a painfully broken nose. I imagined taking off many weeks of work to let it heal. Needless to say, those thoughts freaked me out.

So, rather than address the problem and ask more questions, I decided to avoid the whole thing. I, like so many other people, just adjusted to my condition. If I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, I'd train myself to breathe out of my mouth. Problem solved right?

Fast forward to six months ago. I couldn’t sleep. I woke up over and over throughout the night. During the day I felt sluggish and foggy-brained and I had no energy. I couldn’t concentrate. Basically, I felt dreadful all day long. I feared I had a sleep disorder. So, I made an appointment at the INTEGRIS Sleep Disorders Center of Oklahoma where I participated in an overnight sleep study. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea. The sleep specialist said wearing a CPAP machine would greatly help me, but there was one problem: you have to breathe through your nose for the machine to do its job! And I couldn’t.

I said to my primary care physician, “Um... I’ve actually never been able to breathe out of my nose.” Her response? “That’s not normal! Let’s get that checked out!”

She referred me to another ENT, who examined me and said the same thing I was told many years ago. “You’ve got a deviated septum. It’s deviating to the left a bit.”

Basically, a deviated septum is when the nasal septum (the wall of cartilage that divides your nose in two) has shifted away from the middle, blocking the nasal airway. This common malady can cause trouble breathing. In my case, the treatment for my deviated septum was a surgical procedure called a "septoplasty,"where parts of the septum are removed or readjusted and reinserted back into the nose.

You might think with nasal surgery you’d have to miss a lot of work, and wear that dreaded metal brace for weeks while you healed, but think again! The surgery was on a Tuesday, scheduled for 8:30 am. I woke up in recovery at 10 am, and by noon I was home in my own comfy bed.

I only had to take off three days of work to heal. After the third day of recovery, to my great surprise and joy, I found I could successfully breathe out of both sides of my nose with no obstruction. After years of stuffiness and hindered breathing, my wonderfully open nasal airways and clear breathing made it a GREAT day.

Now, just a month later, I look back on this whole experience and wonder why I waited so long. All it took was me asking for help. My breathing has improved dramatically, I feel so much better and the quality of my life has substantially improved.

If there is a moral of this story, it is this: if some part of your body isn’t operating correctly, tell your doctor immediately. Your health depends on it. Don’t settle for living your life feeling anything less than your best. The solution could be much simpler than you think!

If you think you might have a deviated septum and want to visit with a specialist to learn more, check out the INTEGRIS Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic  in Yukon. Or else, here is a list of INTEGRIS otolaryngologists across Oklahoma.