Septoplasty update or so you’re having your splints removed!
I can breathe! It’s a magical feeling when for the past week I couldn’t use my nose at all. Okay, I could breathe out, on occasion, if I were careful, but now I can breathe and it feels so nice, particularly on my throat, which is still a little raw from the week prior. Since I’ve made it on the other side of things (for the second time now) I think we can do a quick update on the lastest recovery, but more importantly I found out the information about the ear graft I needed. As always, sharing is caring, so let’s do this!
Let’s just start this one off right away. If you go into a surgery, and I can’t believe I didn’t implement this rule 12 surgeries ago, ask how do I bathe afterwards? Do it right way, no seriously, do it. I don’t know if the VA just doesn’t care about aftercare, but after more than a handful of surgeries, I’m just going to start asking right away, how do I wash myself after surgery, because they don’t tell me shit. If you’re worried you’re not getting the full story, remember that one key question, the rest of it isn’t so bad and most information can be googled, but washing instructions are very personal and I wouldn’t rely on the internet for post-care instructions since it may not apply to your case.
That said, let’s talk about day eight (counting surgery day as day one). For most people, this is splint removal day! Unlike the usual, I’m most people in this case! Yep, got up extra early this morning to get my splints and packing around my ear removed. Now my ear looks like it’s about to fall off (I was assured it’s healing nicely though) and I can breathe again. I know I keep saying it and will probably continue saying it, but man is it nice to have a mostly working nose.
So what to expect on splint removal day? Well let me just throw this out there right now, whatever size you think they may be, they are larger, much larger. I wish I could’ve gotten a photo of them, but mine were roughly the size of my index and middle fingers together (length and width). They are a hard, but semi-flexible, plastic that holds the septum in place to it heals straight, without them the septum can heal crooked and if you recall from my previous talk, this is my second surgery for this issue so even after repair and splints the septum over time can start to bend back into the awkward shape it was prior to the surgery. I want my septum to be straight, it want’s to be more of a question mark shape. I’m hoping we can compromise on this after yet another surgery to solve the issue.
Anyway, back to what to expect when you’re expecting… a splint removal. The splints are held in place using a single stitch so the doctor will open the nose with his special nose opening tool (the openoserator) and cut the stitch. The first time this happened, I felt a sharp pain in my nose from the stitch being released. Maybe it was tight, I don’t know, but this time around I didn’t feel it (which was nice because previously it felt like someone yanking out nose hairs). Next the splints come out and I wish I could describe the feeling. Imagine giving birth through the nose, but not as extreme. The width of the splints (at least in my case) are larger than the nostril and they are shaped like a parenthesis, basically like this ( and when it comes out you will feel the curve of it. I don’t think I would describe it as painful, because it’s not, it’s just weird. Like one of those magic tricks where they pull neverending handkerchiefs from a coat sleeve. Okay fine, here’s a picture of actual nose splints (not the ones I had in, but close).
You should have two nostrils, if not you may want to see a different doctor, so this removal procedure is done twice. Once both the splints are out you will feel what can best be described as pressure relief. After a week of having them in you sort of get used to the pressure they place on the sinus. Not all the way mind you, or at least I never really did, but it becomes slightly more tolerable as the days go on and the gums start to itch less (again at least in my case). The second the splints are removed you will be able to breathe. Seriously, it’s like magic. You’ll probably be full of snot, but you’ll be able to breathe again.
If you had a turbinate reduction (and even if you haven’t) you may get some suction up inside the nose to pull out clots, mucus, that left sock you couldn’t find, whatever is stuck up there. They may use a scope too, just to check around and make sure it’s all clear. I got scoped and sucked the first time, this time around I got three tissues and told to rinse at home. If you get the scope/suction treatment, it doesn’t hurt and you won’t really even feel it, but you’ll definitely notice if you had a lot of clotting or what not being removed when you take a breath for the first time afterwards.
If that were the end of the story, we could stop, but it’s not. You’re still healing, sorry. You won’t be fully healed for another (depending on what you had done, age, etc) six weeks or so. Don’t worry, you can slowly go back to your normal, but it isn’t all at once. You shouldn’t blow your nose hard for another week at least (hopefully since you just had work done you won’t even feel the need to do that). You shouldn’t lift heavy things, or bend over for another week (at least). And it’s recommended that you sleep at a somewhat angle for another two weeks or so.
Now me, I spent the week on the couch, which reclines so my head is like 60 degrees or so from flat. Probably overkill, but I bleed a lot so I want to keep the blood away from my face as much as possible. Now that the splints are out I’m transitioning back to bed, but I will try to keep my head at a more comfortable ~30 degree incline. Basically double your number of pillows, or in my case, toss a folded blanket underneath to raise the head above the heart since blood is bad and we don’t want it around our head (my brain is thanking me for this now since *points to everything happening in the world*).
Soreness, some swelling, and a river of mucus is normal for a while after the surgery. Okay, fine the river of mucus basically ends once the splints are removed (so much mucus, really you’re keeping your head elevated so you don’t drowned in it), but you will still have a bit of a runny nose for the next months or so (yes I do mean it can last months, trust me on this). Everything should heal somewhat quickly, just avoid bumping the nose, hitting the nose, the nose in general. Swelling and soreness should clear up within the next week after surgery and assuming you’re not blowing your nose super hard, you shouldn’t have any bleeding. Even someone like me, who bleeds like a faucet, doesn’t have to worry about it at this point. Basically if you do notice a lot of bleeding, you may want to talk to someone.
Lastly, let’s talk about the ear.
It turns out my instincts were correct, don’t get the packing material wet for the week you are recovering (basically while the splints are in). Once the packing is removed follow the instructions your doctor will give you for aftercare. Mine told me I could bathe normally now (thank you!), to pat dry the incision because there are several sutures behind the ear that will dissolve over time, and to apply vaseline to the sutures to keep things moist. Apparently we’re keeping a lot of things moist around here these days, so vaseline it is. He also said that if I were to go into the sunlight to apply sunscreen while it’s healing to keep the scar from darkening. That isn’t an issue for me since I don’t see the light of day normally, but if you do and don’t want a super cool tanned scar behind your ear, sunscreen.
My ear is still swollen and about every shade of color it could be from purple to yellow and even some greenish, oh and a bit of blood from where the sutures were removed (told you I bleed a lot). It’s still sitting a little far away from my head (as in very visibly noticeable difference from the other side). I’m hopeful this is temporary and it will even out a little, but I’m not 100% sure that’s the case. So we’ll have to wait and see. It may just be from the swelling, which it is very clearly still swollen.
And that about covers it. I may give one more update just for the hell of it later, but really once you’re through the first three days you should be good and once the splints come out, life is basically back to normal. I for one am thankful for having my sense of smell, taste, and hearing (that left ear was pretty much useless for this week) returned to me. While I’m still feeling drained and will probably feel that way for a bit, the worst of it is done and over with! Hopefully this is the last time I will need to get my nose fixed so I can actually use the damned thing.
If you’re reading this because you just had surgery or are about to get your splints removed, I hope you find some lasting relief!
UPDATE! Because I’m an idiot I forgot to link to the original post, so here’s, “So you’ve had a septoplasty” where you can hear about the first week of recovery from me, someone who’s done this twice now. Good luck!