For the last year I’ve sounded like I have the worst cold. I am not exaggerating when I say that every day for the last year I’ve been asked by someone – sometimes 10-15 people in a day – how I’m coping with that terrible cold; if I’m contagious, if I need a doctor or some meds, etc.
I haven’t had a cold.
For the most part I’ve felt fine. In that I’ve had energy, I’m not sick…I certainly don’t have a cold…
But I’ve had to teach myself how to breath only through the mouth, night times a mixture of passing out, nearly narcoleptic, a type of sleep apnea seeping in.
All of this – in the end – was diagnosed as me having a polyp. A fucking huge one.
The doctor couldn’t diagnose it – there were rounds of antibiotics, steroids, and then more antibiotics.
The ear/nose/throat department just ignored my case. Wrote me a letter – no return address, email or phone – saying “just keep up with the treatments and recommendations of your GP”.
Pricks. The GP couldn’t work out what it was. His treatments didn’t do anything. His recommendation was to the ear/nose/throat…
Then I was put forward for some scheme to get a CT scan of my sinuses, told I’d have to pay something. It wouldn’t be nothing. But it wouldn’t be all of it. The day before the scan I get a call to say “oh, there’s no funding you’re to pay the full amount”. Okay, what’s the full amount? “$250”. Well, okay then…
A call 10 minutes later from a higher-up, “actually it’s $400, I don’t know where she got $250 from”.
No honour among these thieves – and I figured someone was on the take. But I got the scan. And it took all of 25 seconds. It also meant Ear/Nose/Throat would see me now. My doctor had written back explaining that I do podcasts, that I speak on the radio – that my voice was crucial and that this condition was troubling my livelihood. Every single time I stepped foot in the RNZ building the producer would ask, “have they fixed you yet?”
The fix was in. For $400 the doctor would see me now.
And so a camera went up my snout. The diagnosis: A polyp so big the doc could see it down the back of my throat when I opened my mouth.
The treatment: an op – just join the queue.
The great thing about the public health system is it’s (largely) free. The bad thing about the public health system is there’s a cost: you pay with your time.
Weeks stretched to months then I was called in for a pre-op. Told that I’d be seen then next week, and then that changed to “in some weeks” and then “within ten weeks of now”.
Well, anyway, last week I went in.
The operation took 45 minutes. Or so. I woke pretty quickly after and went from figuring I was staying in overnight to being told I’d likely be out in an hour or so. With no one to pick me up I told them I’d catch a cab. It was such a nice day I checked out and just walked home. A lovely wee stroll on a general anesthetic – Stoned in Charge of a Footpath, as a mate told me after.
I got some DVDs and went home to the dog.
Apparently I’d have swelling, look the worst-off in a fight, a-broken-nose-and-two-black-eyes-but-you-should-see-the-other-guy, etc. There would be blood. Noses. There would be a stuffiness, a bung-ness, I’d sound as bad as I did, maybe worste, before I’d get better…
I walked out of there fixed. Healed. No trauma, no scars, no bruises, nothing. Just one heavy-ass polyp lighter. My voice fixed. Instantly. No huffing, no stuffiness, nothing.
I could smell smells I hadn’t known in a year, I no longer felt like one ear was submerged in bathwater, I could eat without worrying that I needed my mouth for breathing.
Across the last year I’ve built up to delivering one podcast a week and as the polyp grew and the waiting list grew I just had to go with it. No option, no explanation, I just kept turning up to do it, sometimes telling the guests that they wouldn’t catch anything, or that I would sound a bit bung but we’d soldier on. When I’d go to record the intros I’d learn not to say certain words, then hear myself struggling to say them anyway…some weeks were worse than others.
Someone told me they loved the SJD podcast – but they “wanted to blow my nose” for me. (I’d wanted to blow my nose for a year, no luck, no chance).
You can hear the difference, instantly, if you listen to me talking with Roy Phillips, just earlier this week – the first one recorded post-op.
There’ll be a few from in the can where I’ll sound a bit bung, and the intro will sound clean. There are one or two already done with intros too. But going forward I’m cured. A new man. I feel fixed, and better, and I’m amazed by it. Even if you’re not I still wanted to now explain the situation.
The hospital staff were amazing. Incredible. Wonderful bedside manner, great communication, obviously supreme skills.
And I grew one hell of a polyp apparently. Described as being “like a meatball” up one nostril, it had grown and morphed and taken over my entire left cheek also. The surgeon made a circle with her hands and said, “like a jam jar lid”.
I went back earlier this week and the dry blood was vacuumed out. It felt like your worst dental nightmare. It hurt like shit. But by the time I got to the car, one tissue for my watering eye, one for the freshly aggravated nostril and the blood nose, I felt, even better, a whole other level. Fixed once more.
So, I can’t ever explain or apologise for the actual content of the podcasts – it is what it is. But I can tell you, those that have tuned in and just hung on and dealt with it, got used to my bunged-up voice, I’m not a leaky-home survivor, I’m not one with black mould growing all through the place, I’m not in poor health and uninterested in checking on it….
I’m fixed. I am polyp-free. Reporting for duty, with an added clarity. And looking forward to bringing you more podcasts – with great guests – and without all the heavy breathing and missing letters from the ends of words.
Thanks for your patience.
And thanks to Wellington Hospital for having me as a patient.