Nasal Cauterization — a.k.a. the most “fun” I’ve had all week!

Underneath the extremely irked feeling I have been experiencing for the past day or so (not to mention the pain pretty much all over my face), I am feeling a strong resurgence of sarcasm. Hang on tight, people. We’re about to experience some turbulence, here.

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Ever heard of having the blood vessels in your nose cauterized? Yeah, me either. Never even remotely heard of the term “cauterized” until this past Tuesday when I made a quickly planned visit to the ENT for a week-long bout of nosebleeds spanning between one to three or four episodes per day.

To my immediate knowledge, I went my whole life without experiencing a nosebleed until I was somewhere around the…third trimester, I believe…of pregnancy with my son. I grew up aware of kids getting them in elementary school. No biggie. To some people, it just happened and usual did not warrant any sort of extreme panic. Let’s just say, the first time I experienced blood coming out of my nose, the words “don’t panic” were nowhere to be found in my vocabulary. Eventually, however, I did accept that for some women this was a normal side effect of pregnancy and that it would stop after giving birth, which it did. Therefore, I went five and a half more years before experiencing any more significant nosebleeds (not counting any of the times I had sinus infections and blew slightly bloody snot out of my nose…I’m talking a real bright red nose bleed here, folks).

Maybe I should have warned you that this post might be a little gross…Oh well, too late now…

So–long story, short (technically long story made short then abruptly made shorter, but who’s really keeping track of that…)–when I felt a tickle in my nose while sitting at my desk at work and wiped my nose with a tissue only to find blood(…and then more blood…oh, and some more from the other nostril, too), I only slightly panicked.

“What on earth, sinuses? What is going on with you guys now?! Can you please stop causing me so many problems?”

So after a little over a week, I left a message with the nurses at the ENT’s office to explain to them what was going on. Next day, I received a call asking me to come in later in the afternoon. So, I went in. I talked to the nurse; the nurse took notes. Mentioned something about me wearing jewelry and that if the doctor mentioned something about having my nose “cauterized” then I wouldn’t want to have any metal touching my skin. “Okay…why not?” No further explanation was given. She prepared some supplies, all the while saying that she wasn’t telling me that he would do one, but she was letting me know and getting the stuff ready “just in case.” Apparently nurses aren’t supposed to tell you what the doctor is going to do, so they have to throw that “just in case” thing in there.

So, are you feeling the effects of my sarcasm yet? Don’t worry, it’s normal to chuckle or even roll your eyes. I’m pretty much used to it by now.

The nurse promptly left the room, leaving me in a chair with a paper pinned to my shirt that was reminiscent of the paper (or whatever it is) that they pin to your front at the dentist’s office to protect your clothes (and I soon figured out so they would have something to easily wipe all the gunk on that they scraped off of your teeth…gross.) As I sat there, my eyes couldn’t help but shift over to the tools laid out on the table next to me: “Oh God, what are they going to do to me?”

The doctor came in, just as cheerfully as ever. After a quick look at the nose, he mentioned seeing a few blood vessels that needed to be sealed off and promptly put on his headlamp. Yes, ladies and gents, the doctor was wearing a headlamp. Again, I couldn’t help but wonder just what on earth I was doing in that room at that exact moment.

He stuck a cotton swab covered in gel up each of my nostrils, explaining that it was lidocaine(sp?) and that it would numb the area. Okay, I knew what that w–“Wait did you just say NUMB???”

All I could do was close my eyes at the bright light from the doctor’s headlamp. At first, I tried breathing slowly in and out through my nose. I am a little sensitive about my breath and was afraid he would smell it. At the same time, I was wondering why I wasn’t smart like he was and chewing gum or something, knowing that somebody would have to be pretty close to my face… And at that moment, I understood why this doctor was always chewing gum: because he knew he would be right in his patients’ faces (and he was probably hoping the same thing from some of us).

Immediately he switched the cotton swabs for some kind of thin stick with a silver end. “Oooookayyyy…what the heck is this thing?” Then he stuck it up my nose and started pressing and rubbing. “God Bless America, what are you DOING to me?!”

At first, it was just a slight pressure then it really started to hurt. Twice in the left nostril, then he got started on the right. By then, my whole body was suddenly starting to feel very hot. I wanted so badly to take off my jacket. I felt slightly lightheaded, but I was afraid to open my mouth to say anything. I was afraid to even move or to convey any sort of discomfort. I just laid there with my eyes squeezed shut and my hands crossed tightly over my stomach.

And just like that, it was over. The doctor removed the headlamp from his head while the nurse removed my paper bib and promptly raised the chair. Upon standing, my legs felt like jell-o. Immediately, I had to remove my jacket. I felt warm. Too warm. Like the time I was thirteen weeks pregnant and I was in the mall and all of a sudden started getting hot, then I got lightheaded, then next thing I knew I was on the floor with a sharp pain in my head from hitting it over a shelf and a crowd of people surrounding me–one of them being an employee offering me a cup of water.

Before I stood up to leave the room, the doctor instructed me to not use the nasal spray for about a week and to apply some KY or another water based lubricant (my immediate impression of this product was that it was not marketed for the nose) to the insides of my nose gently with a cotton swab to keep the area from getting dry.

And that’s pretty much it.

“Okay, that was no big deal, right? He just mashed on the blood vessels and all and made them stronger and I won’t have any more nosebleeds. I randomly have this weird gray stuff on the outside of my nostril that I can’t seem to wipe off with a licked finger alone, but no biggie, right?”

And with that, I returned to work and went about my day. Eventually the small amount of initial numbing began to wear off and my nose started to get sore, which was to be expected after I had several sticks and metal objects shoved up each nostril.

Next day I woke up with this awful crud stuck in my nose. It was driving me nuts. I couldn’t help but pick at it because I wanted it out. It made my nose itch and made it hard to breathe. So the whole way to work people that passed me on the road probably thought I was disgusting for picking my nose. Yes, I was rubbing with a tissue and using my finger to try to get this crap out. By that point it had overstayed its welcome and I wanted it evicted immediately from my nose.

If you were one of the people reading this that knew what a nasal cauterization is, I know what you’re probably thinking: something along the lines of… “Moron!” or “You idiot!” or if you’re Japanese, you might use the word “Baka!”. Unfortunately, I did not know any better as this procedure or the complete “recovery details” were not explained to me.

Sometime after arriving at work, I thought I had finally removed the biggest chunk of gunk only to find that all I had succeeded in doing was making my nose bleed worse than it had ever bled before. Blood was really dripping out, staining the knee of my jeans. I grabbed a tissue and hurried to the bathroom, pushing past a co-worker returning to his desk. Blood dripped down my nose and into the sink. At at moment, I realized I had made a mistake. I needed to figure out what it was that really happened.

So I consulted my good pal, Google. Unless you’re just dying of curiosity and really want to click that link, I will spare you the shocking details. Not only did I find out what cauterization actually means, but I also discovered a whole host of recovery instructions, side effects, complications, and other details that were…how should I say this…left out of my visit last Tuesday. Like I said, the only thing I was informed of after the procedure was to apply the lubricant to keep the area moist and to not use my nasal spray for several days, then return again at my regularly scheduled appointment time.

Fast forward to today…(or rather, yesterday being that it is now after midnight). I woke up feeling less than stellar. I won’t say horrible, because that didn’t come until about an hour later. Then, it really hit me. I felt completely, totally, terrible. I mean, I had started to get a slight headache the day before that progressed as the night went on, but really didn’t expect the sudden onslaught of pain, congestion, and pressure to hit me all at once. So after a little more research, I discovered that feeling such symptoms (those that mimic a sinus infection) after a nasal cauterization was apparently quite common.

I mean, it would have been nice if I had known what I was getting myself into. So, needless to say, I am a little bit irked.

In the past two months, I have been on three different rounds of antibiotics and two rounds of prednisone. But this crap still keeps coming back. So I find myself back at the starting line, where I was at this time last year…and the year before that…and the year before that…(as I have so been reminded by the Facebook “On This Day…” feature). Apparently, I post a lot about being sick. Which means I am getting sick…a lot. I’ve been under the care of an ear, nose, and throat specialist since last May and I am back to square one.

Needless to say, my husband is less than thrilled and has instructed me not to return to this doctor. Deep down, I am starting to feel the same way. Maybe I do need a second opinion? If I am unhappy with how am I progressing, why am I continuing on the same treatment plan?…….OHHHH because I like the option of not having to drive around thirty miles to the second-nearest ENT facility when this one is literally less than five minutes from where I work.

Unfortunately we get too comfortable with convenience nowadays. So after much contemplation, I believe it’s time for a second opinion. Because I know that if this was my child, I probably would have whisked him away for a second opinion three months ago, if not sooner. If it were my husband, I would have pitched a fit quite similar to the one that he pitched.

But now I know that given the options between the not-so-severe nosebleeds and having THIS done again (Warning: you faint of heart folks should not click that), I would choose the nosebleeds. I feel like I have gotten nowhere. I mean, at first things were going pretty good, then I started regressing again and I currently feel like no improvement was ever made at all. I don’t have the luxury of spending tons of money on the “very best” treatment just because it might work. And I’m sick and tired of taking pills.

So, something is going to change. And in the meantime, I’ll be inhaling Vick’s Vapor rub and eating Luden’s throat drops like candy (because, they pretty much are because they taste so good.)

 

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