Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Best Laid Plans...

     My sense of smell has always been a little "jacked up."  Sometimes I can smell dinner cooking from across the house, other times it's on my plate and barely registers.  My wife will claim that our dog's blanket has a horrible stench, and I don't even notice-- but when she lights a scented candle, I can't handle it; its aroma is too powerful and I feel like it's suffocating me.  If this weren't an actual medical "thing," one would think I was just playing a long, unfunny prank.  But it has always been this way.  Throughout my entire childhood, the most common reason I needed antibiotics was sinusitis due to CF.  My pediatrician probably wrote that more times than he cares to remember.  My pulmonologist noticed that I had nose polyps around 7th grade and she sent me to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist to determine what, exactly, was going on up there.  After a few visits to this doctor to monitor the polyps, he told me that I could elect to have them removed.  The benefits would outweigh the risks, he assured me:  my olfactory sense would likely be improved, and I would have fewer sinus infections.  The only downsides were that I might end up with two black eyes from the surgery, and there was a chance that they wouldn't be able to get all of the polyps.  Those were the physical implications.  The emotional one was that I had never been in the hospital before, so the whole process was a bit scary to me.

     Being a middle schooler, I made some very 13 year old plans for what to do leading up to the surgery.  Perhaps, unknowingly, I did this to help distract me from the fear.  I decided that I should read the entire Bible before the procedure.  You know, just in case something went wrong.  I had already kissed a girl, so that base was covered.  I figured while I was recuperating, I would learn to shuffle cards properly.  It would be nice to build that skill and feel less shame during games of rummy and Euchre.  As the date approached, I realized the Bible is a dense read, whether you're 13 or 31.  After Genesis, I skipped ahead to the New Testament.  That would be good enough, right?  But school, video games, life in general, got in the way, and with a week to go before the surgery, I realized finishing the Bible wasn't going to happen.  I remember being okay with this-- it was a minor procedure anyway.

     Then, the big day came.  My brothers were going to spend two nights at our aunt's place, and my mom, dad, and I were going to stay at the Ronald McDonald house in Detroit.  We arrived, checked in, and got settled in the cozy room.  None of us can remember very clearly why we spent two nights there, one before and one after the surgery, and I myself have no recollection of the procedure itself.  It's funny how memory works, or, in some cases, doesn't work.  The two things I recall with clarity are that at some point the movie Twins was playing on the TV in the common area of the Ronald McDonald house, and on one of the mornings, I was out there using my newfound card-shuffling skills to set up a game of solitaire.  When I sat down, I noticed a man with a long beard and archaic clothing lying asleep on the couch, but with his feet still on the floor.  We had heard that an Amish family had arrived after one of them had fallen off a roof and been hurt very badly.  Apparently, there was not room for everyone to have a bed, so this gentleman was making the best of it on the couch.  As I dealt myself a new game, the man suddenly sat bolt upright, looking right at me.  I thought he would regard me as a heathen for playing cards.  He could probably tell I'd never read the whole Bible just by looking at me.  I sat there, frozen, until he wished me a hearty good morning, and I did the same.  Buy one nose polyp surgery, get your first interaction with an Amish person free.

     Though the procedure itself was not memorable, the aftermath of it notable for what it lacked:  I did not get two black eyes.  Nor did I gain an enhanced sense of smell.  As far as I could tell, it was like the surgery had never happened.  My mom was also disappointed, because she didn't realize that the follow-up visits to Detroit would be every two weeks.  We found ourselves making frequent trips to the clinic, where they explained that my fragile, narrow nasal passages restricted what they were able to do during the procedure.  They would "debris" my nose, removing, as my mom says, "ungodly amounts of junk" from it.  This I also don't remember.  Probably for the best.

     My takeaway from this experience was that CF doesn't come with an instruction manual or guarantees written in stone.  I don't regret having the surgery, even though it seemed to have no impact on my health.  Perhaps I ended up with fewer sinus infections, but who can say?  The one tangible thing that came from the entire process was that when I deal cards, those at the table no longer have the desire to wrest the deck from my hands to speed up the process.  So, even though the results of the surgery didn't go according to Hoyle, I, and my playing partners, put the experience in the "win" column nonetheless.


  1. Oh how I giggled at this one!! So much familiarity in some of your stories. And some things are cringe worthy now a days. A cf'er staying in a Ronald McDonald House!!!! Oh my gosh. Today that wouldn't happen. Do you ever feel like, gosh I feel old because of certain memories and how much they have changed things in the cf community? And, if you do, that's pretty cool!

  2. I do feel old (which is cool!) especially when I can't remember things that seem like they should be memorable. I'm not aware of what you mean by CFers not being able to stay at a Ronald McDonald house any longer, which is not only a sign of how much things have changed, but also how things often change without me (or others) being aware of it.