Scheduled for Surgery... And Terrified...

by Scott
(Warrenton, VA USA)

I've snored for as long as there's been someone in my life to complain about it. But about 6 months ago, following a particularly severe bout with strep throat, my ENT commented on how significantly enlarged my tonsils had become. Over the next few months, the tonsils remained enlarged and I experienced additional sore throats.

Additionally, at the same time, my wife began telling me that I was stopping breathing at night. She even filmed it for me. I'd be lying there, snoring away, and suddenly it was like I was holding my breath. Then I'd gasp for air and begin breathing again. This took place over and over throughout the night.

I finally saw my ENT. He suggested that I needed a tonsillectomy, but doubted that my insurance would cover the surgery without trying other methods to resolve what was clearly the development of OSA.

I was sent for a sleep study to confirm the OSA. Sure enough. (They told me that I stopped breathing an average of 71 times per hour.)

I was given a CPAP machine. The experience of being fitted and educated in the use of the machine was disappointing and unprofessional, and I believe I was not given the proper mask. They started me on a small nasal mask that actually pinched my nostrils partly closed. Then I moved to a larger nasal mask, but it left daily bruising on the bridge of my nose. I was then switched to a mask that covered my nose and mouth, but it still feels too small (the corners of my mouth protrude beyond the seal of the mask, so it often leaks unless I can convince myself to keep my mouth "puckered" while I sleep). The pressure of this nose/mouth mask often leaves me waking up with my cheeks fully inflated, as if I was trying to blow out the candles on a cake. My face aches every morning.

I've had very low tolerance for the machine. Despite a couple of months of trying to be persistent and patient, I still wake up frequently. The longest I've been able to stay asleep consecutively for the past 6 months is two hours at a time. I've had only one night when my sleep surpassed 6 hours (in several 90-110 minute blocks). My average night's sleep for the past 6 months is about 4.5 hours per night. Needless to say, I'm exhausted.

My original ENT still believes surgery was called for. He referred me to a second ENT, who also believed that surgery is the next step.

I was scheduled for sinuplasty and turbinate reduction, and have now completed those surgeries. My nasal airway is now opened significantly and I can breathe better. However, the snoring and apnea have remained.

During my follow-up appointment, my ENT and I discussed the originally recommended tonsillectomy. He simply looks in my throat and says, "Wow. Those are huge. Yes, they really should be removed." As we talked about the physical obstruction causing the OSA and my intolerance for CPAP, he decided to run a scope down my nose. He had me pinch my nostrils, change my breathing patterns (nose, mouth, etc.), moved the scope around, etc. He said the physical obstructions were pretty clear, and he felt confident that he knows the primary place of my obstruction.

He has now added a UPP to the tonsillectomy. I'm scheduled for this extensive surgery in two weeks.

Frankly, I'm terrified. It's not so much the painful recovery that frightens me; I'm willing to go through a few weeks of intense pain if it lets me return to a better quality of life, and my work is more than happy to give me the month off to recover. But I read horror stories of people who have long-term side effects from the surgery, and especially from the removal of the uvula -- trouble swallowing, food coming up their nasal passage, no diminishment of the apnea, etc.

I realize that people with negative stories are far more likely to post them online that those with success stories, but those negative stories -- along with statistics on the Internet suggesting a fairly low success rate of the surgery -- leave me apprehensive. But I don't see the alternative at this point. I'm on the edge of hopelessness.

Both ENTs I've consulted are recommending the surgery. The one I'm working with now feels confident that it will make a big difference, and we've discussed taking the most conservative approach possible to minimize the possibility of side effects. Still, there can never be a guarantee.

I guess I'm asking for either a huge warning to change this course I'm on before it's too late or else enough encouragement that success really is possible.

I'm very, very scared and uncertain.

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