I had this super positive post written up about how I had the surgery done at Hopkins on Tuesday the 20th and it was incredibly painful and the swelling was awful, but that it was all in the name of progress and so I was pushing on just like I always do.
The swelling was bad, though. Like, I looked like I was maybe trying to grow a second head. Out of the side of my head. My friends insisted it wasn’t THAT bad at the time, but now that it’s passed I think we can all agree I looked straight up scary. By Sunday, I was panicking a little. I was potentially restarting class the next day, and my face was enormous. But my neck area was probably the most swollen, and had become more and more painful. Dr. Byrne, my wonderful Hopkins surgeon had set me up to see a former fellow of his, Dr. Oyer at MUSC. The way I like explaining it is that Dr. Byrne (my surgeon) is kind of like Dr. Oyer’s (at MUSC) medical dad. I was to see him Wednesday to get my stitches out, 8 days after my surgery.
Monday morning, I begged Dr. Byrne to get me in to see Dr. Oyer that day rather than Wednesday, so that I could get this swelling checked out. I had sent some pictures to Dr. Byrne and he agreed that it was more than normal, but there wasn’t reason for panic quite yet.
My angel of a roommate went with me to this appointment Monday morning, because at that point it had been 7 days since I had eaten anything besides broth, I was on lots of pain meds, and I was terrified about what was going on with me. I explained my concerns to Dr. Oyer, and he agreed that this thing in my neck was likely a hematoma; a collection of blood near my stitches post-surgery that needed to get taken care of ASAP. He drained it with a syringe, and got nearly 60 CCs of blood out of the side of my neck, and the occasional whoosh of air. Free blood and air are not things people typically want floating around their neck.
I had a CT scan done immediately after the appointment, and it showed that the blood/air collection went deeper and farther into my neck/throat area than what he originally saw. It also showed a small tear in my airway, and that would provide a route for all of this air and blood to escape into my tissue. This tear probably happened during the intubation for the original surgery, and it didn’t cause any problems until several days after.
The most aggressive and comprehensive way to treat this was for me to be admitted to MUSC hospital that Monday, where they gave me a feeding tube through my nose into my stomach and that is how I have been receiving my meals. This allows my throat to completely rest and repair. On Tuesday, only 1 week after my first surgery, they re-opened my sutures and rinsed out all of the blood and infection and air that had been culminating in that area, and so I was given a new, clean-inside face to better recover from my original surgery with.
I was in MUSC from Monday to Friday, successfully missing an entire week of school. Luckily, my mom was able to fly in very late Monday, and was able to make sure I didn’t have to be alone during the scary time before my surgery. My amazing friends, medal-worthy boyfriend, and even one of my professors, made sure that I never felt scared or alone or helpless, and it just really reinforced that I have the most amazing inner circle.
I am now home from the hospital, but I still have this feeding tube up my nose until early next week to allow my throat to completely heal. It’s incredibly annoying and I am hangry ALL THE TIME but it’s been a very effective diet. Maybe not one I would recommend to a friend.
Now that this is all fading into the distance, I WILL say that I have no regrets about going through with this surgery. Maybe it was a lot more difficult than it needed to be, but I pushed through it. I didn’t sacrifice or compromise my end goal, but had to endure a little more hard stuff to get there. Ultimately though, I feel much more confident in the way that I look, and I feel much more like myself.
PS. The image attached here is of me speaking to the high school women of the Porter- Gaud school on how my idea of beauty has changed as a result of my accident. An amazing opportunity and an incredible group of women!