WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

How I batted away my anxiety to face up to a nose op

The 1980s might have brought us the Human League and Howard’s Way, but it was also responsible for shoulder pads, rolled-up sleeves and a more robust way of dealing with mental health issues.

14 March, 2019 — By Paul Cowling

Several decades after suffering a deviated septum while playing cricket at school, Paul Cowling tells how he finally found the courage to go under the knife

MY walk towards the door of day surgery felt like a slow trudge to the gallows.

The health anxiety that had been with me for nearly 40 years, has slowly been healing. But it still made me believe, irrationally, that a general anaesthetic would somehow kill me. Six hours later, the whir of a floor fan fan-fared my arrival back into the living, with a brief fever.

But there was none of the bruising, swelling and pain that some people might get when they have an open septo-rhinoplasty for a deviated septum.

My septum became deviated on a school cricket pitch in 1979. Rather than use my hands to catch a fast thrown ball at the stumps, my face went to meet the cherry instead.

I was encouraged to carry on playing with a comforting, “Get on with it, or I will rupture your spleen.”

The 1980s might have brought us the Human League and Howard’s Way, but it was also responsible for shoulder pads, rolled-up sleeves and a more robust way of dealing with mental health issues.

I got a “stop wasting my time” from a psychiatric nurse when I first sought guidance for my health anxiety back in 1986.

It never quite went away – and so neither did my deviated septum.

But last year, with loving words of encouragement from my new partner, I went to my GP. Within a few months, I had survived a consultation, a CT scan and a pre-op assessment. All of this, I would have gone nowhere near just a few months before.

Meanwhile, back on a hospital trolley at Croydon University Hospital, everything that continues to be great about the NHS was getting me through my big day. A reassuring expert anaesthetist sent me to sleep, and woke me up. There was a smiling, chatty hospital porter who didn’t know what league my favourite football team was in.

Mr Cowling’s septum sutured to a PDS plate before it was placed back into his nose as part of the procedure

And the brilliant nurses who brought me orange squash and who had wrapped me in gauze dressings and a thermoplastic splint, which made me look like a harmless Hannibal Lector.

My consultant surgeon is a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and a specialist in ear, nose and throat, rhinology and facial plastic and skull-based surgery. Osama Dessouky showed me post-operative pictures of my fragmented and buckled septum that he had sutured to a PDS plate and which had been inserted into my nose to stop it collapsing and to give it support.

Over time, this flexible plate – made out of polydiozanone, the same material found in rhinoplasty sutures – will dissolve and leave a perfectly straight and solid septum. This, I hope, will stop all the sinus pain, migraine and nausea, not to mention the breathing difficulties that had started to manifest with colds.

I will also have a nose that will get me all the best film roles in Hollywood.

Now my right nostril isn’t home to a hard cartilage sticking out on one side, and I have a new found belief that I can walk into a doctor’s surgery without feeling like I am walking towards the door of the executioner.

Paul Cowling is a member of the New ­Journal’s production department.

Share this story

Post a comment

,