Mondays: Catacombs



I had sinus surgery Friday. The discharge paperwork called it “septoplasty with bilateral submucouse resection inferior turbinate, and bilateral functional endoscopic sinus surgery”, but I prefer to think of it as excavating my face.


Let’s keep going. Here are two facts:


Fact 1: Paris. In the late 1700s, Paris ran out of room to bury their dead. To remedy, they exhumed old bones and packed them into the dirt roofs and walls of charnier (mass grave) galleries within the cemeteries; however, these gave way, spilling rotting corpses onto neighboring properties in the city’s epicenter. Unsavory. Also: terrifying. A new solution was conceived. They transferred the old-dead to abandoned mining passages under the city (catacombs).


Fact 2: The human head has four sinus cavities on each side (eight total) connected by tunnels and secret torch-lit passageways. (I made up part of that.). Sinuses do all kinds of things, including (with the help of mucous and cilia) keeping unsavory bits out of your epicenter. Obviously, sinuses are the Parisian catacombs of your face.


Friday morning, a team of well-educated men and women in billowy nylon hats powered up their hypoallergenic drills, rubber bendy things, and teeny tiny flashlights. They repaired the bowing wall between the left and right sides of my nose (deviated septum) and then shoveled out the buried inner workings of my mucky head. I don’t know if my medical team found the disintegrating bones of any 17th century maids or blacksmiths, but they did find a lot of other weird junk.


I never thought much about my sinuses before, nor did I even consider the magic of air. Like a lot of things, I suppose you don’t really recognize how valuable it all is until it’s bowed or crumbling or gone. But what an interesting design, heads. They aren’t just big hairy blocks. They’re complex. In addition to air (no big deal), did you know that sinuses also help absorb trauma? They cushion the blow when you’re whacked in the face.


After years of a bowing septum and stockpiling of environmental misery, my system overloaded. Like Les Innocents, my head filled up and spilled its rotting bacterial corpses.


I’m still recovering and wondering what life will be like with a clean melon. Recovery is not pleasant. My head hurts. I have stints up both nostrils – holding my repaired septum in place – and biodegradable packing peanuts (or something like that) sopping up the mess inside my leaking face tunnels. Sludge drains down the back of my throat, which makes me panic about asphyxiation. I can’t breathe through my nose, so I have a humidifier going 24/7, inspiring the following quote from Russ who has been staying at my house to bring me applesauce and make sure I don’t die:


Everything’s damp in here,” (Russ Tomlinson).


I’ve wondered if I’ll hear a change in my singing voice. Over the last few years, to my ears, my voice has sounded ragged, like it’s dragging pavement (or old bones) with it. Each note has to work a little harder through the catacombs, snagging on who knows how many years worth of junk I’ve been hoarding. Yesterday and this morning I sat down at the piano and sang. Aside from the obvious – not being able to breathe through my nose – things sounded a little more…pure, I suppose. Lighter, even. If the notes are different, I wonder if the words (and the thoughts attached to them) will be, too.

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