Monday, October 12, 2009

What it's like...

Here is a blog (pictures soon to follow) of my experience with the DCR surgery, aka, the "blocked tear duct" surgery. When I was told I'd have to have this surgery, I went searching for everything I could find on it. I found lots of medical journals, stating what they would do to my eye, but nothing about personal experience.

So, here you go... my personal experience with the DCR surgery... The pictures aren't pretty, but they're real. And trust me, it was embarrassing to take these, and to post these, but I thought maybe someone else could benefit from my experience.


The day before the surgery, I was scared, but after the reassurances from my husband and everyone else, I was staying pretty calm. I scheduled my surgery for a Friday, as my doctor told me if I did it on a Friday, I could return to work on Monday, but if I did it Thursday, I wouldn't be able to return until Monday.

The scheduling nurse had told me I would need 4x4 guaze for after the surgery, an ice pack, and I couldn't take Advil or any type of aspirin 4 days prior to surgery. (As a migraine sufferer, this was horrible news.) But, I was still prepared when I went to the building.

I was told to arrive an hour prior to surgery, and that I'd have to stay an hour after surgery. (The surgery itself would only take 15 minutes, they said.) No jewelry from the neck up, and no makeup. Ugh. They also said to wear loose, comfortable clothing, and preferably something that I wouldn't have to pull over my head.


Me before surgery:

Day of Surgery:

I went with a velour lounge set I bought in Disneyland a few weeks earlier that had a zip-up hoodie. With no makeup on, Don and I drove by my dad as we pulled up to the building. He asked how I was doing, and I replied, "Scared."

I handed my dad my cross (which is an heirloom left from my grandmother), and asked him to hold it for me through the surgery. I had tried to figure out a way to wrap it around my wrist, but the necklace wasn't long enough and ultimately I decided not safe enough.

My husband and I in the waiting room... Nice without makeup, huh? =P:

I wasn't kept waiting long after I checked in, and I turned to my dad and husband and must have given them such a look of sheer terror that the nurse, when I approached her, told me they could come into the back with me. Relieved, I quickly beckoned them over, and they came.

We followed her to a back room, with a nurses station centered in the middle. Beds with curtains hanging around them and lots of monitors and tubes stuffed into the mini cubicles surrounded the beds.

The nurse (who was super nice and incredibly amazing) asked me a few questions, then told me how things would proceed. I was shown to a bathroom and given a key on a flexible cord, and they weighed me before asking me to give a urine sample. Then she asked me to put on the robe once I disrobed from above the waist.

My locker:

Me in an awesome hospital gown:


So I changed into the robe, stored my stuff in the locker she indicated, and made my way out to the bed. I handed my husband the key to my locker, and climbed onto the bed. They put this OH so lovely hair net on me, then strapped these little discs on cords to my chest to monitor my breathing and heart rate. She also stuck one of those little clamp things on my finger.

Note: Apparently taking in a deep breath through your nose and pursing your lips as you exhale really does slow your breathing and heart rate. By a lot. Who knew?

Eventually the guy with the IV came over and gave me a shot to numb the pain from the giant IV needle, and by the time the IV was going in, the area was so numb I thought he was still preparing for the IV when he said, "All done!" Then he taped it down to the back of my hand and to my arm so it wouldn't pull or get tangled, and he was gone.

A little bit later the anestheologist came over and stuck something in my IV, saying, "This is just an appetizer, to see how much you need."

I don't remember much after that, except everyone laughing at me when I started getting dazed.

Then I heard, "You're in recovery, and everything went perfectly with your surgery."

My throat hurt. My nose hurt REALLY bad. I opened my eye--the other one was blocked off by a heavy weight of guaze and tape--and smiled up at her, and said, "My throat hurts. Is that normal?"

"Yes," she assured me. "There was a tube in there."

I nodded, and pressed my finger against my nose. It REALLY, REALLY hurt. "My nose hurts," I told her. I sat up in the bed, tilting my head forward as the blinding pain struck again. "Really bad."

"Okay. Let's get something for that. On a scale of 1-10, how much does it hurt?"

"Like a six?"


A moment later, the anestheologist came over and poked something into my IV. The pain in my nose subsided a little, and when asked for the pain on a scale, I answered, "It's getting better... A four or so?"

Satisfied, they took out my IV, which I didn't even feel, and then put tape and guaze over the wound.

Another nurse came over and asked about my locker key. I told her my husband had it, and a few minutes later she came back with my purse and my clothes. She helped me get the robe off, and modestly I held it in front of myself while I changed into the zip-up hoodie I'd been wearing earlier that morning. I laughed at myself while I changed, "Look at me," I laughed, embarrassed, "trying to cover up in front of a nurse when I'm sure you see this all the time."

She laughed politely and assured me it was fine, then I was taken to a seat beside the bed, where the intense pain in my nose started to come back at an alarming rate. They offered me my choice of juice and I selected apple even though it upsets my stomach, and I sipped on it as I pressed my finger against my nose to try and hold it off. My dad and husband joined me in the back, and another nurse came over and asked how I was doing.

"My nose hurts," I told her, trying to stay calm.

"That's not really surprising. Actually, where you're pressing is right where they were working."

I laughed weakly. "So I probably shouldn't press there, huh?"

She smiled. "It's probably not a great idea. Hang on a sec and we'll get you something for the pain. Do you want one or two vicodin?"

"Two," I answered quickly, knowing full well that one never worked. (I used to take Vicodin for my migraines.)

Everyone laughed, and I was brought saltine crackers, which once consumed, was followed by a tiny cup of vicodin. I all-but gobbled them up.

The nurse gave us instructions for post-surgery with a print-out sheet of instructions, and then I was discharged.

"My nose hurts," I complained as we walked, trying not to press on it.

"Well you just had surgery," my dad returned.

"This sucks," I muttered, praying the vicodin would kick in soon.

We went home, and as part of my discharge instructions, I was told that I had to sleep sitting up, with about four pillows behind me to help stop the swelling. So I climbed into bed, stuffed four pillows behind my head (I usually sleep with two anyway), and promptly fell asleep while sitting up. For the rest of the day I dozed in and out of sleep. I was amazed I could sleep sitting up, but it actually worked better than I thought it would. At one point I woke up and tried to eat soup, as the instructions say to eat a light diet for twelve hours post-surgery, but I promptly threw it up, making me feel worse than I had before I'd eaten.


Day Two: Day After Surgery

The pain was excrutiating. My stomach wouldn't stop churning. I could feel gunk sliding down my throat, and when I coughed/squeezed it up, it was all blood. The sight of it made me sick, but my husband was quick to remind me that they said this would probably happen. Still, hearing it would happen and seeing it happen were very different.

I was popping one-two vicodin every hour or two to keep the pain at bay, but that only made the nausea worse. It was absolutely miserable. I sat up in bed and moaned while clutching my stomach, trying not to press on my nose/eye (which felt like someone had blown air into my cheekbone), and just trying to stay calm.

It was also the day I could take off the patch they'd put over my eye. Eagerly I went to the mirror, and made my husband sit with me while I peeled the tape off.

The horror that looked back at me in the mirror would have made me thrown up if I'd had anything in my stomach.

I was grotesque. Under my eye was black and blue with deep shades of red, there was a nasty, jagged line of stitches about an inch long (so much for a centimeter-long incision!), and my eye looked mis-shapen from the swelling. I was a monster.

I actually swallowed a scream. I held back my tears (can't get the stitches wet for 36 hours). I tried to speak, but nothing came out until, "...I'm hideous."

"It's healing," my husband assured me quickly. "You're healing. It's okay. The swelling will go down."

I took the 4x4 guaze the doctor's office had given us and taped it over my eye so neither my husband nor I would have to look at me. I laid in bed and stared emptily at the TV. I've always maintained that I am not pretty enough to have a scar or anything seriously wrong with me. This was my worst nightmare come true.

My mom came over and brought some food. I went down to greet her and showed her my eye, and she gave me a sympathetic look but reassured me, "That's going to heal so well. There's not going to be a scar at all. It looks really good."

Ha, I thought. I'll be disfigured forever.

The intense pain went long-into the night, and I was overdosing on Vicodin so much that even I was concerned. (And I'm a migraine sufferer, so overdosing on meds is pretty standard for me.) But I just kept popping pills and tried to sleep a bit (all the while sitting up) so the time would pass faster. I also started using the ice pack the doctor told me to use, applying it to my eye every hour for 15-20 minutes. The ice pack helped more than I can possibly express. The coldness was soothing on the pain in my head and the swelled flesh under my eye. But nothing could help the nausea, except for a couple of pretzels, and even that didn't last long.

Day Three

My eye was still pretty gross-looking, still pretty swollen, but I was starting to feel better. The nausea wasn't as severe, and even though when I took the guaze off to apply the cream to my stitches and in the corner of my eye over my tear ducts it was really hard and uncomfortable to blink, there wasn't as much pain as there had been the day before.

Or so I thought.

Soon enough, the pain was back, and all of Sunday, day three, passed with me trying to get as much Vicodin into my system as I could handle to manage the pain. I still couldn't eat much, but at least food was staying down. I think I had two handfuls of pretzels all day.

At one point a drop of water fell from under the guaze, and I bolted up from the bed and dashed to the mirror, thinking something had broken or popped or something. But no, it was just a tear that had welled up and not been caught by the guaze. The doctor also said that I might continue to tear up until the stent came out (that's the little tube connecting your tear ducts that they put in and put down your nose to open up your tear ducts) in three months. So after breathing a sigh of relief that my eye was still there and my cheek sadly still puffy, I went back to bed.

Day Four: Monday

Same as Sunday, only the swelling was starting to look better. It was still hard to blink and my right cheek still felt like it was twice the size of my other cheek, but mostly better. I was running out of vicodin to keep the pain at bay. I was supposed to switch to warm compresses, but I continued with the ice to keep trying to reduce swelling, and because it helped the pain.

I worked on Monday, though if I hadn't been able to work from home, I probably wouldn't have gone in.

Day Five: Tuesday

Excrutiating pain. Swelling. Running out of vicodin. I'd taken at least ten by Tuesday at 1:00 P.M. I'd called the doctor and begged for an appointment to make sure nothing was wrong. They scheduled me for a 2:30 appointment, where I was kept in the waiting room for a half-hour.

When the doctor finally came into the room, I opened my mouth to talk and tell him what was wrong, and all that came out were tears and sobs.

"I'm in pain," I told him tearfully. "Please, help me."

Through my tears I explained that I was a migraine sufferer, and this could just be a very intense migraine, but the pain was all coming from pressure around my right eye--the right cheekbone, the right temple, even on the right side of my forehead. I apologized profusely for crying, but the pain was just too overwhelming. I couldn't function or focus on anything but it.

He quickly went into action, writing out perscriptions for Percocet and anti-nausea medication while telling me that my eye looked really good and was definitely not infected. I was relieved that he had asked if I was nauseous and didn't have to bring it up, because at that point all I could really do was cry.

"You were an interesting case," he told me. "You actually had a tear STONE in your eye, which was why the problem kept repeating. But we took it out, and the surgery went really well. Your eye looks really good."

He explained what a tear stone was, but I was in so much pain I missed it.

My husband and I dropped off my new perscriptions, then I went home and just sat in bed while we waited for the medicine to be ready. An hour later my husband returned, I popped the pills, and immediately got sick to my stomach... Again. Despite the anti-nausea meds.

It was awesome.

I went to bed early. I think the Percocet knocked me out.

Day Six: Wednesday

By far the worst morning I've had so far. I woke up at 6 when my alarm went off with the worst, most excrutiating, most painful migraine I've ever had in my life. I couldn't move my head or a BLINDING pain hit me. I took a Percocet and for the first time in days laid down in bed and tried not to cry as I tried to sleep again.

I woke up at 7:00 when my alarm went off again, still in horrible pain, and after shutting it off, took another Percocet and tried to fall asleep again.

I woke up on my own around 8:30, still with a dull pain in the back of my head, but better than it had been earlier, when I'd been prepared to go to the ER. I signed into work, and every couple hours, in fear that the pain would return, popped another Percocet.

Yesterday I took the guaze off of my eye (I'd been keeping it taped over my eye since I'd unveiled the hideousness of myself earlier) and I've left it off since then except to sleep. I'm horribly blind without my contacts, so I have one contact in (glasses would press against the stitches) and so I have lovely double-vision of everything.

My eye feels much more swollen than it did yesterday, probably because I laid down this morning. I also finally switched to the warm compresses.

My husband told me that he asked the doctor yesterday (during my blindness caused by pain) about whether I could fly on Friday night (yes), and whether I could sleep laying down yet (not for another few days to decrease the chance of swelling).

So that brings me to today, where the blinding pain has subsided due to Percocet, but is definitely still there, and where unfortunately, the swelling appears to be returning. My eye still leaks/tears up occasionally, so I always have tissues with me. And I'm still putting that ointment on my stitches and in my tear ducts to prevent infection.


One thing I will say for Percocet... Everyone makes it sound like you can't work or function while on it, but it's not true. You can. It just makes the pain go away. So that was a huge relief.

Day Seven: Thursday

Last night I was finally able to eat some food that wasn't pretzels or straight bread without feeling nauseous. I actually ate pepperoni pizza and pizza bites. It was amazing.

Before bed I took two Percocet, hoping I wouldn't wake up with a killer headache.

It didn't work.

The pain wasn't as bad as it was yesterday, but it was still pretty horrible. I took two Percocet when I woke up.
Two weeks later:
Reading this is crazy. I was in so much pain; I almost forgot.
My husband and I were vacation for a week, and while we were gone, the swelling in my eye went down completely. My stitches started coming out, which happened when I noticed that it looked like skin or something was around my stitches. (Sounds gross, I know...) I scratched it, and the stitch came out! Dissolvable stiches are awesome.
I started scratching a little more over the next couple of days, but it just hurts. LOL! Guess the stitches aren't all ready to come out. But they are coming out, and they're far, far less noticable now. Most of the darkness around the stitches is gone, and while you can still see it close-up and far-away, it's almost non-existent.
While we were on vacation, our waiter asked me if I had stitches (it was a dark place), and I said yes, and he said that he'd had stitches twice on his face, and that my surgeon had done an awesome job. I agreed. It really does look good. My surgeon was amazing. I was lucky. <3
You still can't really see the stent in my eye (the tube that is running in my tear ducts), which is really cool. I thought it would be much more noticable based on the picture I saw online. I can't see it unless I'm pressed up against the mirror and looking for it.
The headaches unfortunately still come and go, but they're manageable with Advil now. So that's good, too. <3
All-in-all, I'm almost completely back to normal except for a little pain. So, YAY!!!
Now, enjoy some pictures of what I look like now, post surgery (and having a fantastic time in Disneyland!). Through the days, you can see the stitches getting lighter, and me finally being able to wear makeup again!


So it will pass... The pain and the stitches, and soon the scar. <3