Throat Blog — Neck Breathing

After making my previous post, I emailed my doctor that my airway seemed continuously restricted and that it might be getting slowly worse. He immediately replied back that I should go to the ER for evaluation.

Hopped in the car around 4pm and drove back to UTSW ER at the Clements building. Unlike my previous visit, this time I was taken to a room within just a few minutes. I explained the situation to the ER doctor who then called in ENTs to further evaluate.

The ENT scoped my throat and found that the airway was at least 10 times smaller than normal. Ordered some antiinflammatories, but also contacted my Surgical Oncologist. Everyone felt like I would need a stoma (neck breathing hole) put in very quickly.

Was admitted to the hospital with a room in ICU for the overnight (or longer) stay. Antiinflammatories didn't seem to do much overnight. Around 5:30 AM this morning the parade of doctors started. Surgery for lanyngoscopy was scheduled for around 8AM.

By the time the wheeled me into the OR, it was closer to 9AM. The procedure was done under local anesthetics…they needed me to be able to breathe on my own during the procedure. That said, they did give me some kind of happy juice. I really don't remember the surgery…the next thing I knew I was being settled back into my room in ICU.

For the next half hour or so, all I could do was cough. Had a "tickle" in my airway thay no amount of coughing would clear. But, this pretty much eased on its own after a while. Now I have only an occasionnal cough.

I can force air into my mouth by covering the hole in my neck, but haven't really tried this too much. I am supposed to get a better mechanical solution for that tomorrow. This will let me continue to whisper-talk.

I should be camped out here in ICU for 5 days, then they'll send me home with few restrictions (driving is OK…have to be careful not to get water on my neck when showering).

I had really wanted to avoid this. If all goes well, this will be just a temporary bypass until the swelling goes down. Worst case, though wiil see a complete tracheotomy (removal) at some point. That, of course, has always been a possibility, but this step really brings the probability of that course nearer.

Don't get me wrong, though. Having this done is much better than having the small remaining natural airway close up on me and then face this as an emergency procedure (or worse). I think I read somewhere once that getting air was a pretty important life function.

So, here's to breathing a while longer. Cheers!

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