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My First-Hand Experience Recovering from Surgery

By Joel Hunter, MD | 6/11/15 3:15 PM
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Four days ago, I was in the operating room, and while normally that would just mean it was a LASIK day (the best kind of day), it was different this time because I was the patient. I found out a year and a half ago that I needed to have surgery on my nose to make it work, and this week—planned way back then—the day finally arrived. I assumed for half my life that most people can’t breathe out of both nostrils, but then I found out that was just me. I’ve also taken 8 or 12 ibuprofen a day for the last few years because of constant headaches, and I found out a year and a half ago that it is because I have (had, I guess now) big, gross polyps in my sinuses that have given me bad sinus headaches for a long time. It seems ridiculous now, that I never stopped to think “wow, I take an insane amount of Advil,” but I never really thought about it one way or the other. Once you do something for a while, it becomes routine, and once it is routine, you don’t really stop to think about it much.

Anyway, I got my septum straightened out, my big, weird turbinates (shelves of mucosal tissue in your nose) shaved down, and my sinuses de-polyp-ed. When I was planning the time off, I said, “Well this will be great! I’ll be able to write a lot with all that time!” Some day, if time travel is ever possible, then right after I said that a gray-bearded, grave-looking version of my future self will walk in the room and say, “I’ve lived half a century of your life, Younger Me. What you have just said is the most incorrect thing you will ever say. Even more incorrect than when you will say the Orlando Energy Beams will win the 2036 Future Sports Games, even though they lose by eleven billion points.” I know this is true because I have had a lot of painkillers and they’ve given me some insight into it. And in any event, I know that it is the most incorrect thing I will ever say because it has taken me 24 hours to write these two paragraphs. I mean that—literally 24 hours.

Since I don’t want to spend the next four days writing the rest of this blog, I’ll keep my reason for writing this brief. Being in this much post-surgical pain for this long has been helpful to me because it has shown me that empathy matters. Inevitably, LASIK or other refractive surgery patients will have worries, and even though pain isn’t usually one of them with laser eye surgery, I will still get the “is this normal?” calls sometimes. And until now, those problems were a country I’d read about but never visited. I’ve always tried to be reassuring, but now I know. I’ve lived there. And the next time I get a call I will be able to answer it like I never have before, “I am so sorry you are worried. But just remember, no matter what problems we face in this life, we can take comfort in knowing that nothing can ever be worse than surgery on your nose.” And I think people will feel really blessed by that.

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