Septoplasty, a shady ENT, and thankful for masks

A black and white photo of phoney nose and glasses with big bushy eyebrows.

These days, looking at TV or the internet, all I see are noses. Everyone has a beautiful nose that is unique to them. Big, small, humped, crooked, they are all beautiful, hereditary, cultural, shaped from injury, but they all are beautiful. I used to not pay attention to noses much, other than wonder if I had a boogy on mine, when I was in a anxious situation.

It was late 2019, you know, before the world was turned upside down? I had been noticing for a few years that if I laid on my right side pulling my cheek back with my pillow, I could breathe clearly through my right nostril. I went to see an ENT, feeling my destiny was a giant tumor blocking the air passage. With his hand, he pulled back my cheek, as I did with my pillow, and called it a Cottle Maneuver. This helps to diagnose a deviated septum. Turns out, mine was. This can happen naturally or from injury. He said if it’s bothering me, he could straighten it. I mentioned a small indention on the left bridge or septum, where I injured my nose while wearing sunglasses. The doctor said that when he straightens the septum, he would shave a bit of cartilage and build a spreader graft (a little patch) to place over the dent. This sounded like a win-win. I’ll breathe great and that little dent will be smooth again.

Side note, septoplasty is a medical procedure to help you breathe. Rhinoplasty aka a nose job, is where you have the appearance of your nose changed. I was going in for septoplasty only. I loved my nose. It’s the nose of my biological mother, and the nose I handed down to my daughter.

My surgery kept getting pushed from this bizarre pandemic that took over the world. For a minute, okay a lot of minutes, I thought it was a sign not to get the surgery. It sounded like torture, cutting the piece between my nostrils, flipping it inside out, straightening things, then sewing it back. In July of 2020, it was getting down to the wire. In fear, I emailed the doctor’s office canceling the surgery, even though I’d done my pre-op physical. A week later, I got a call from the nurse to go over some things. She didn’t get my email. Okay, maybe this was a sign I should have it done.

The surgery went well. The week of recovery was hell. I refuse to take pain meds to avoid constipation, so I cried a lot, while trying to keep my nose very still. Six months later, all swelling was gone, and my lovely family nose was back to normal. Except, there was a sharp, pointed object in the floor of the left nostril. I don’t know when it started, because for a while when you blow your nose, you wipe it with a Q-tip until the swelling goes down. When I chewed or moved my face a certain way, it felt like the point was going to come thru the skin. The surgeon insisted it was scar tissue, and to let it heal. It can take up to a year for complete healing. I went for a second opinion, who said there was no longer a spreader graft, but to leave the area alone. But where was the spreader graft? I felt my nose, and the dent on the bridge was back. I saw a couple more 2nd opinions.

Just after the 1-year mark, a self proclaimed ‘Best Plastic Surgeon/ENT in Beverly Hills’, we’ll call him Dr. Tornado, made the diagnosis that the spreader graft had displaced itself and that was the pointed object. His office is really in Century City, which isn’t even Beverly Hills Adjacent. Dishonesty. There’s one red flag. However, he saw what all the others didn’t see, and diagnosed it immediately. He was so sweet, made eye contact, and really listened to my frustration that no one had found this before. He said he could remove the spreader graft, put it back, and sew it in extra tight. This was fall of 2021. I just wanted the pandemic to be over and to run into the streets and celebrate normal life again. Therefore, I decided to get it over with right now. He said my nose looked ‘twisted’, which I didn’t think so, but he could see what I couldn’t, right? He pitched loads of other cosmetic procedures, that I declined, saying, “I like my nose. I don’t want to look different. Just remove the spreader graft and if it’s not much trouble, put it back where it goes”. He said my insurance would only cover septoplasty, but because this was a revision, he had to take cartilage from my ear to put over the septum to make it stronger – something I had read briefly about. He told me this is considered rhinoplasty and I needed to shell out $thousands. I couldn’t understand why my insurance wouldn’t cover it, since it was correction of something that went wrong from a necessary procedure. His office kept calling for scheduling. I paid for half of the ‘rhinoplasty’ that I wasn’t having. He didn’t stick around after surgery to talk to me, which I found odd. That night at home, once I had all my marbles back, I looked at my nose in the mirror. The cast on top was crooked. The columella (the long piece of skin between the nostrils) was slanted and stitched diagonally. The left nostril was huge, round and out to the side. The right nostril was tall, narrow and pretty straight. Thinking back to the the first surgery, everything was symmetric, even with all the dried blood and swelling. So, I took a few selfies to monitor the changes.

The surgeon had me coming in every week for follow-ups. Cha-ching. As with the first surgery, swelling dissipates sporadically on either side, so you expect it not to be asymmetric for a while. By the six week mark, I was sitting near a suny window one morning, looking in the mirror. That’s where I see best. It hit me. My nose is not going to look better. It is going to look like the way it did that first night I was home. And it does. I was crying, I called the office to ask if this was the final result, do I need to change careers – I’m on camera a lot. She told me it would be okay, and worked me into the schedule. I didn’t even get to say what I thought. Dr. Tornado, the ‘expert’ stood on my left side defending his botched work, ‘this side looks great! I did such a great job! You were CRYING when you called this morning?’ He made it seem like I was totally overreacting and imagining all of this. And I fell for it! I apologized and said maybe I’m PMS-ing (it was that time) and that I guess I’m just exhausted from all this nose healing and I want things to go back to normal. I apologized. Yes, I did. When I got home and looked in the mirror, it was still jacked. What a fool he took me for, and I fell, hook, line, and sinker. Again.

The columella was stitched low on one side and very high up and inside on the left, making my nose look like a major slant, small button nose-nostril on the left, and long narrow nostril on the right. The left now appears missing in photos, and on video it’s on the side of my nose. Inside, the septum is caved to the left and it meets the skin at the edge of my nostril. The right side is bowed out. I can feel the inner skin laying against the septum on the left. The little bump just inside either nostril? Huge on the right, missing on the left.

I got the surgical notes to take to another doctor. I had no idea he had put a PDS plate and strut graft in the tip of my nose? I thought the painful ear cartilage was the only thing he was putting in my nose that I wasn’t there when I was born. I don’t even know if the original spreader graft was put back where it goes, because my nose is now curves to the left and I’m having nosebleeds. The slightly hanging columella that I shared with my mother and daughter, is now upturned.

It’s six months post-op. I have been following up with a female ENT. Her first reaction, ‘Oh no, why would he do that?’. I’ve gotten a couple other opinions, one being, ‘You need your entire septum rebuilt from the top’. Hopefully that was an exaggeration. Whatever I do, I have to wait for a full year of healing. Do I want another surgery? Hell No. Do I want to look in the mirror and be reminded of what that man did to my face? No. Am I hoping for another mask mandate? Yes. The world just started to open up again. People are having fun. I’m still sheltering in place, hiding my once beautiful nose under a mask. My self esteem has plummeted. I’ve lost trust in physicians. I’m afraid to lose my sense of smell, which is extremely important for blind/low vision folks.

My advice to you, think long and hard before undergoing any procedure. Only go to physicians recommended by someone you know. Online reviews and Best Of articles are often paid advertisements. You’d be surprised at what you find if you click the tiny section for ‘not recommended reviews’ on Yelp. Most people don’t know it’s there. Research the doctor’s name with ‘vs’ in front of it. There might be old legal cases or aliases. Check the medical board for licensing.

I will update you this fall at the 1-year mark with pics and what I chose to do. Smell ya later.

Big Role Media

Writer, storyteller, comedian, banjo picker, dog petter, potato enthusiast living in Los Angeles, CA.

Spill it, girl.

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