Now I understood why I wasn’t able to catch my breath when working out. It wasn’t that I was that out of shape, I had a physical deformity that kept me from getting the air I needed. So, I dropped all sorts of exercise. Why should I exercise when I can’t breathe? It’s not like I could improve my lung capacity and everything would be better. I made an appointment with Dr. D but wasn’t able to see him for a month. In that month I gained about 10 pounds because I had stopped exercising and given up on watching my food. I had done nothing to grab on to an excuse and used that to explain why I was being lazy and cruel to my own body.
I went and had a CT scan done so I could take the results with me. Finally, the month drew to a close and I was able to go see what the specialist had to say. Dr. D confirmed what my allergist had found and asked me several questions to try to get to the bottom of why I had this problem. I explained about the allergies and asked if that could have had anything to do with it. He didn’t think so, but nothing else fit either. He explained my options to me: 1) I could have my trachea dilated to increase the size, 2) I could have reconstructive surgery, or 3) I could have a tracheotomy and breathe through the tube the rest of my life.
None of those sounded exactly appealing but of the 3, number 1 was my first choice. He explained that I would be put under a general anesthesia and they would put a balloon down my throat and stretch the narrowed portion out. Basically, the narrowed portion was a scar. On your body, a scar will normally have some slight puckering or be raised because scar tissue shrinks up a bit. In my case, the scar is a circle around my trachea so when it shrank it started closing off my airway. The dilation would “break” the scar tissue up and with luck healthy new tissue would grow and the airway would stay open.
“Ok…let’s do it” was my reply. The surgery was set for a month after that and I tried my best to wait patiently. Up to this point, I had never had any surgery. I had never been put under or had an IV. However, I was ready. I was tired of dealing with it.
The day of surgery I had to be at the medical center downtown at 6:45 AM. They walked me into my room and asked me to change into the gown. I was doing ok on the outside but inside I was doing flip flops and wondering how far I could get if I bolted for the door right then. Dr. D came in and said good morning. He was ready to get things started. Once he left, a nurse came in to insert the IV.
All I could think is “OMG…this is really happening…omg…omg…omg…”
The nurse explained that the IV would be used for saline and to administer the anesthesia. As she was getting everything ready the Anesthesiologist came in with her assistant and introduced herself. In my head, this was a whole lotta commotion for me. I had met about 10 different people and really couldn’t remember what any of them said because I was too busy trying to remember to breathe. The nurse did a great job with the IV. It really didn’t hurt much at all.
Soon, the room was empty except for Mike. We talked for a bit and he tried to make me laugh. Thank goodness he was there. He definitely helped me calm down a bit. After about 1o more minutes the nurse came back and said “Ok, we’re ready to go!” She was all cheery like we were going on a ride in Disney World.
Mike was led out to the waiting room and I was rolled into the cold operation room. The anesthesiologist told me I’d feel a little burn then would get tired. I started counting from 10 and before I knew it I heard someone saying “Tammy? Tammy? Can you breathe for me honey?”
I tried to obey the voice but I couldn’t. I wasn’t able to breathe in or out. I opened my eyes but everything was blurry. There was something goopy blocking my vision. Panic was about to set in. “What had they done to me? I can’t breathe at all now…that can’t be right.” I kept trying to grab whatever was stopping me from breathing but steady hands kept pushing my hands back down on the table.
I recognized the anesthesiologists voice and Dr. D. “It’s ok Tammy. You can breathe…just take a breath for me.” What she didn’t understand was I could NOT breathe. I heard Dr. D say “Her lungs may still be paralyzed” then I dropped back off into blackness.
“Tammy? Tammy, honey? Can you hear me?” *headshake* “Good…breathe for me”
Ahhh….this time I had no problem complying with her request. They moved me back to the gurney then took me to a holding room where I was supposed to recover before going back to my room. Dr. D came in and explained that he could hear some wheezing during the operation and wanted to do a chest x ray to make sure everything was ok. They brought in this huge machine and did the x rays, then I went back to sleep.
Mike was waiting for me when they rolled me back into my room. I was a little groggy still but remember seeing Dr. D in another patient’s room and laughing at myself that they had no idea what was coming. When I finally woke up enough to remember to see if I was hurting, I was pleasantly surprised to realize I wasn’t. My throat didn’t hurt at all.
The best part? I could breathe deeply! It felt like I had finally broken the surface of the pool and was able to get a lung full of air. They brought me several boxes of apple juice and told me not to talk for 24 hours. The experience in the operating room was terrifying and I hope to never experience that again, but the results of the surgery were fantastic!
The lung xrays were clean, which is good news. However, now we have a mysterious wheezy noise that Dr. D was hearing and can’t figure out why since I’m not asthmatic. He gave me an inhaler and sent me home.
Mike and I went to a couple of stores while we waited for my prescriptions to be filled. I was feeling fantastic! I even enjoyed not having to talk. It was a little difficult when I was trying to ask questions, but otherwise it felt nice not to have to say anything. We stopped by IHop where I got Strawberry Pancakes then headed home. I never had to use my pain killers or the cough syrup. Interestingly, my allergies were completely gone for a week after my surgery as well.
I went back to Dr. D for a check up a week later. He said everything looked good and explained that I would probably have to have this done 2 or 3 more times for it stay like this. If it kept narrowing each time, then we’d have to consider reconstructive surgery.
Then it happened. He started wiggling in his seat and fiddling with his clipboard.
“You know, every cell in your body requires oxygen.”
“That includes fat cells. I don’t mean to be rude, but the more fat cells you have the more oxygen your body is going to require to function daily.”
“So, if you could lose some weight that would be a big help to you. Your body wouldn’t need as much oxygen, which is good because you aren’t able to pull in as much oxygen as a normal person. I’m not saying you have to be skinny, but you do need to be healthy.”
I was getting the fat talk. I smiled and tried to make him feel as comfortable as possible because he was obviously NOT comfortable with this conversation. Most people would have probably gotten offended, but I knew he was right. I was obese and needed to do something about that.
“I know exercise is hard for you because of your breathing but it should be easier now, at least for a little while. Just do what you can to get yourself healthy.”
This was in September 2009. After that date, I started trying to get serious with my exercising and eating again. I started blogging about my workouts and eating with a friend. That helped some, however I still found myself avoiding pushing myself too much because I didn’t like the way I sounded. It was embarrassing and more times than not caused people to stare at me. Right after the surgery I sounded fine. As time went on though, my throat started closing back up some and I was back to being Ms. Wheezy.
I kept pushing though. I had completed 3 races with this problem, surely I could workout on a normal basis now. It was time for me to let go of my excuses and start taking responsibility for my actions.