I’m going to warn you now – this story is personal and a little gross in parts. But it’s been a part of my life for long enough, I figured it was worth sharing.
While I’ve been alive, I’ve been pretty blessed – no broken bones. No major illnesses. No organs removed. No cavities, last time I checked. I have consistently had a clean bill of health; even my blood pressure is on the low side.
But I have had two very small, very strange problems. One is that a couple times a year, my hands would get very peel-y, and it’s kind of gross. We used to joke in high school that this was caused by typing too fast. I’m happy to say this has gone away in recent years – this story is not about that problem.
The other problem was that from the age of about 10, I was very susceptible to nosebleeds. I think I was getting them about once a month, if not more.
Not from like getting hit in the nose or anything, but just from random other stuff – sneezing. Blowing my nose. Standing. Walking. Anything.
As the legendary story goes, when I was 13, I had two nosebleeds that were particularly bad – so quick that they filled my sinus cavity and the blood then began to very slowly come out of my tear ducts, turning my vision red. That really freaked the crap out of the school nurse – but it was a freak occasion and hasn’t happened since.
In any case, when I was 19, and a sophomore in college, I had one start one day that didn’t stop. It was a real slow bleed, but all the tricks and tactics I had learned over the years for handling them just would not stop it, even when I hit what my body knew was a stopping point.
I went to my doctor, and he gave me two options: go to an ENT specialist the next day, or go to the ER now. I opted for the ER. You get tired of this shit after a while.
Got to the ER, the doctor explained they were going to cauterize my nose. Not nearly as thrilling as it sounds, it’s essentially a Q-tip being stuck up your nose and the substance on the end being rubbed on the affected area, toughening up the tissue. There’s a real quick burning sensation, but other than that it’s painless.
Now, that day I had the left nostril cauterized, which my memory recalls as being the majority problem nostril. From that point on, for about 3 years, I didn’t have another nosebleed. Not a one.
But then, I started to get them out of my right nostril, on rare occasion – on days with sharp weather changes. Then eventually they started on days with sharp humidity changes. Last week, I had *two* in the same week. One was while I was at lunch with Katie when it was really warm; the other was at work because I was going under my desk, then above, then below repeatedly and I guess the elevation change just screwed things up.
Realizing full well that I work in a hospital (or at least, a college connected to a hospital) and that I have medical insurance, I immediately found an ENT specialist and made an appointment for Wednesday this week. The hope was that they’d be able to cauterize the thing, although my impression was I had to be bleeding for it to happen.
On my way up to the doctor’s, I realized this was my first real doctor’s visit of any kind in about 5 years – more or less, since the last nosebleed. I get there, I fill out my paperwork, I wait patiently even though they told me the doctor I was seeing (Dr. Carew, who is primarily a head and neck surgeon, I found out) was in surgery and would be running late, and then got sat in an examination room and asked a few questions.
So eventually the doctor comes in, and the conversation goes like this
Minute 1: Explain what the problems are
Minute 2: He examines my nose and ears
Minute 3: He examines deep in my nose to make sure there’s no major problems
Minute 4: He cauterizes my right nostril
Minute 5: He gives me some general instructions about what’s going to happen and not to itch my nose too much for 24 hours
And that’s it – suddenly I am making my co-payment and out the door, heading back to my desk.
It’s really sad that a lifetime of irritation, strange looks, and ruined shirts can be fixed in 5 minutes for $10. Wish I had known that sooner, though.