I have been toiling with the discomfort of a nose as dry as the Sahara and I have not been successful in my many attempts at fixing the problem.
This is not something I’ve been writing about because…well, because it’s so pathetic. I have known that I have a sinus problem for sometime. It’s probably what contributes to my occasional bouts of apnea and it certainly is a cause of my major discomfort and my constant attempts to smell things–anything-because I like to smell things. Wine, food, herbs, flowers, perfume, even bad smells–bad cheese, the dog after he’s been out in the rain. I enjoy these things. Yes-I know. Don’t judge me.
A couple of years ago, I had an Ear, Nose and Throat Doc named Vaidya. Doc Vaidya is a stand-up dude. He told you the truth–“there’s only so much I can do for you on this, unless you want me to operate. And let me tell you about sinus surgery.” He made it sound about as much fun as dipping one’s testicles in hot oil while simultaneously kneeling on nine-inch-nails.But he did use his magical spray machine, a Dr. Seuss looking moss-covered-three handled-family credenza type thing that emitted peppermint smelling mists that soothed and calmed raging nasal passages. I loved my trips to Dr. Vaidya. I brought him and his staff wine and I thought of him as a kind of minor god of the nasal passages.
He taught me about Afrin. “It’s a magical elixir of strange and very scientific sounding ingredients.” At least that’s what I thought I heard him say. “I want you to try it for three nights. No more, and tell me what it does for you.
Now, it just so happened that I was in the throes of developing a case of the flu at the time and didn’t know it. I’d had a sore throat, but everyone has those. By that night, though–fever, chills, coughing, sneezing-and barely the ability to draw air through my nose. I was down for the count.
Still, I picked up the Afrin and I went ahead and used it. Like deliverance from pestilence, it cut through even my flu. That night, feverish with restless dreams of sickness and sorrow, I still breathed through my nasal passages attune and akin with the world. For the next three nights, I slept fine–at least the nose didn’t stop me from sleeping.
I had found a magic bullet. Doc Vaidya had revealed the nostril secrets to me. He was Nostril-damas and the world was a plaything to him. Armed with the ability to prescribe an over the counter preparation that could single handedly cause you to breathe nasally again, he knew things other mere mortals didn’t.
That was two years ago.
I have known for sometime that one should not go beyond the three nights. But for two years, like a junkie sneaking heroin into his backpack before school, I would, on off nights, squirt Afrin up my nose. I’d adhere to the three day rule for the most part, but I could hardly go a full month without using the stuff. I became addicted–hopelessly tied to the small white bottle with the red cap, taking it with me when I traveled to defeat the evils of dry hotel or motel air–using it as a fallback when I put away one too many glasses of Pinot Noir, or after eating a salty meal.
Well, my addiction had finally gone overboard. Last night, a binge of Afrin use occurring for the fourth night in a row, breaking the dreaded and ominous three night warning, I squirted the stuff into my nose, smiling at the sleep I knew I’d get, knew I deserved. But I was wrong. My conscious knocked at me. Here I was, an Afrin junkie prepared to give my last for one sweet squirt of the magical nose juice. I couldn’t take it. I was hooked. I had to get off.
I read. I studied. I consulted the great god Google. My quest did nothing but disappoint. I reached out to friends in the medical profession. They offered some helpful hints, but still-it was too late.
Raging with what I thought was another infected tooth, I hustled back to the dentist this morning after he’d done some work on a rogue cavity last Wednesday. “It hurts Dr. Dave and I mean a lot.”
“OK,” says Dr. Dave. “Let’s get some pictures of it, see what’s going on.”
Nothing. No infection. No root damage. Nothing.
“You’ve got a sinus infection, I think. I’ll get you some anti-biotics. Take them and let’s see how you do.”
I was ashamed. I knew that there was something wrong, I just couldn’t place it. But there it was, plain as day. My nose was sick.
Headachey, struggling and foggy all day, I relied on extra hits of caffeine, Excedrin and even a hit of decongestant pills to try to soothe my addiction and its damage. Finally, relief came from the chemicals and I could see clearly. Got through the day and came home to a Friday evening of working a bit and helping out at Peanut’s second night of the play she’s in.
When I got home, tired and weary-I began to fret about bed time. There, on the counter, stood the white bottle with the red cap–only this time, it was mocking me. Daring me to use it, it stood cold and icy-a monolith to the degradations and danger of a permeated sinus cavity. I was ashamed.
I popped my anti-biotics and one of the preparations recommended me by my nurse-practitioner friend, Advil decongestant. I opened a new bottle of saline solution, a kind of methadone for Afrin junkies- and liberally squirted it like a fireman on a two-alarmer–up my nose. I got out a spanking new bottle of nasacort, one of Doc Vaidya’s capable and reliable stand-bys and gave myself a couple of shots. Saddened by my attempts to fill the Afrin-void, I crawled into my bed and turned my reading light on. I opened the pages of one of three books I’m currently reading and began to get lost in the pages-and that’s when it happened.
Suddenly, a tingling sensation began in my nose. It was continuous and felt funny, going on for what seemed minutes. At first, I was at a loss but it slowly dawned on me–my nasal passages were opening, draining–maybe even shrinking a bit! Oh my God–I could breathe–I can breathe–right through my nose and I don’t need Afrin. I didn’t use any!
I rose from the bed and walked across to the bathroom counter. Leaving the light off, I reached for the icy cold bottle with the red cap. I knew where it was, I didn’t have to look. With nary a tear in my eye, I relegated it to the drawer of items that must not be named. Extra razor blades, some anti-fungal cream, a few migraine pills and some oils for my beard trimmer. “In there you will go my friend. I hope not to need you anymore.”
And now, gentles–a fond and goodnight to all.