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Throat Surgery Part I

October 03, 2009 By: nooccar Category: health

The last two springs, I have had some odd irritation in my nostrils and have also developed respiratory issues over the last five years, so I hit the ENT. The first one I went to said to not worry about the nose thing because, as Murphy’s Law would have it, my nose was not irritated THAT DAY. Ugh.

When I began having issues again two months later, I went searching for a different ENT. Several friends had used Dr. Charles Orozco downtown Phoenix, so I figured that even thought it was a hike from South Chandler I would try him. He ran several tests, explained I more than likely had an ongoing Staph infection in my nose that an antibiotic ointment would hand, and asked if I had any more issues.

I explained that I had excessive snoring (to the point that my wife would sometimes sleep in the guest room) and I was always tired. He said to err on the side of caution that I should do a sleep test. I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea since any test I could do where I get to sleep more would be awesome.

Within a week I was at East Valley Oximetry hooked up to all sorts of electrodes, and preparing to go to sleep. The woman told me she’d come in to put a CPAP on me if I had “episodes”. I wasn’t sure what any of that meant but I was tired and went to sleep. Over night she instructed me to do several things like roll over and lie on my back, and I woke with this weird mask over my face. The CPAP is a mask that goes over your nose and blows humid air down your throat continually. As she unhooked everything in the morning, she said I had episodes so I asked for clarification. Her response: “You stop breathing when you sleep.” Beyond that she was vague since she wasn’t the ENT. He’d have to read my results. I was pretty sure he’d want my tonsils out, which I was ok with since so many people had them out anyway.

A few days later I was back in his office and he explained that true, good, restful sleep was REM sleep, and that I on slipped into REM sleep about 1/2% of the time. Yes, you read that right. Half of 1% of my sleeping is restful. He also said I stop breathing on average 60 times an hour at night. So, yes, every minute.

I asked him what we do now, and he said we had two options. 1) wear a breathing mask like the one during the sleep study every time I sleep forever, or 2) surgery. At first he was relatively vague with the surgery, but I cam to discover he recommended removing my tonsils (no problem), shrinking the back of my tongue (kinda odd but less evasive than it sounds), and cutting out m uvula and part of my soft palate in the back of my mouth (OMG, ewww ouch!). After we discussed each of these procedures for awhile I asked if perhaps we could try the CPAP to see if it helps, and if not, then I could move on to a discussion of surgery. This was in mid-July, I was returning to work right away, and I figured I could do surgery over October break if it came to that. He agreed wholeheartedly, and I asked what would happen if I just did nothing. His response: “You could die”.

365-275 (Oct 2)See the dangly uvula back there hanging down? It’s gonna be in a glass jar soon enough.

I was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea that could lead to strokes (I am 34 for God’s sake!), heart attack (runs in my family!), or arrhythmia (yuck!). I made an appointment with East Valley Respiratory to be fitted for a mask and to pick up my CPAP machine. The day I went the woman had several different styles of mask and I picked the one I thought would work the best. A couple people I’d talked to said that they can’t sleep with them, but I can sleep pretty much however/whenever so I wasn’t worried. The lady said it would be $400 for the machine, which was my part after insurance; I forked over the money and took it home.

Immediately I realized there was literally no way to snore on a CPAP at all since you have to sleep with your mouth closed. It is physically impossible not to. I got use to the mask very quickly and have slept with it almost every night since late July. Of course, I expected to be wider awake, have more energy and not be tired during the day. This didn’t happen. I also didn’t like the whole “you need to wear that mask for the rest of your life” attitude, especially since I travel all of the time. I began to research surgery.

Doc tried to give me the layman’s terms of what he wanted to due, but I would’ve preferred the medical terms because, as we all know, I am not a dummy. Eventually I discovered he wanted to perform a uvulopalatoplasty, tonsillectomy, and a somnoplasty. As I research, more and more I couldn’t find anecdotal materials, and I sort of put it off because I knew I couldn’t even bother go under the knife err…. laser until October when my fall break began.


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