January 18, 2007

My Troubles With Breathing

I have trouble breathing. It creates quite a few problems, this breathing trouble.

I haven't told you this before because, well, I didn't want to get you all worried and concerned. I know how sensitive you can be. Actually, the truth is that I've spent the past years trying to ignore the fact that I have trouble breathing. Unfortunately, it's too hard to ignore anymore. Apparently oxygen is important for survival and it just plum feels like I don't get enough of it.

I can breathe just fine through the mouth, if that makes you feel better. The breathing problems I have are through my nose. It gets to be at its worse at night as I lie in bed. It's as if somebody jammed a couple of plugs up my nostrils while I wasn't paying attention.

I don't know if you've tried this before, but sleeping with your mouth open isn't easy. First of all, your mouth gets pretty dry very quickly so it's important to have a large bottle of water by the bed. However, you get to drinking so much water to satiate the parched mouth that you have to go take a wee-wee once or twice throughout the evening. Of course walking across the cold floor of the bathroom tends to chill your feet a good ten or twenty degrees so by the time you climb back into the warmth and comfort of the bed and snuggle up next to your girlfriend, she moans and groans and pushes you away as if you just shoved a couple of ice cubes down her underoos.

You starting to catch on to the problem here?

Now let me throw a wrinkle into the story. Here's the wrinkle: when I exercise, I've got no problem breathing at all. In fact, while I run or bike I can breathe through my nose as if I never had any problem at all. Interesting, huh?

I thought so too.

Naturally, with such terrible breathing problems and tremendous questions, I decided to go see an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist. Nice fella, this ENT. Then again, I suppose you need to be nice in order to get people feeling comfortable while you shove all sorts of gadgets and trinkets up their nose. My favorite part (and I say that with the utmost of faceciousness), was when he blasted some sort of liquid substance up each nostril with a little device that seemed to resemble a small but rather powerful insecticide sprayer. Don't blow your nose, he told me after blasting the DDT into my brain. I wiped the drippings away with a tissue as it started to burn its way into the membrane.

Can you breathe any easier, he then asked in what appeared to be a very serious tone.

Uhh...no, I replied, wondering whether I should leave it at that or launch into a rampage about squirting what feels like a toxic substance into my nasal cavity and how it feels like its eating through my sinuses into my brain and everythings going numb and didn't they do something like this in that movie Marathon Man that got me so freaked out I had to close my eyes and turn away.

But I just left it at Uhhh...no and figured he could fill in the rest.

He sat down in his chair, scribbled something onto his little file and then looked up at me. Did you race a full Ironman? he asked in somewhat of a disbelieving tone. This one took me by surprise. Until I looked down and realized I was wearing my IM USA fleece. Yeah, I replied. My girlfriend and I raced Lake Placid this year.

Wow, he said as his face lit up. That's pretty impressive. I just started riding bikes a few months ago.

I could see the smile slowly stretching wider across his cheeks and a glint of excitement fill up his eyes.

It was about at this point that he began to tell me how he bought himself a hybrid last year and started riding on it in hopes of losing weight. And how he lost 50 pounds over the past 4 months from riding his bike. And how he goes on 20 mile rides four days each week and shoots his heartrate up to 85 or 90% of his max for at least 15 minutes of the ride. And how he's been going for hour long rides on his trainer two to three days a week as well and jacking his heartrate up there too. And how when he finishes he's dripping with sweat and his wife thinks he's finally gone off the deep end. But how he loves biking so much and wants to do more and just started looking for a new bike because he doesn't want to ride his hybrid anymore, he wants to get a real road bike so he can go a little further and faster and be more fit and less fat. But he doesn't know anything about road bikes and he's not getting good customer service at the bike shops and on and on he went about this and that and one thing and another while this toxic DDT like substance was burning its way into my face like I shoved a handful of Vick's VapoRub up my nose and stuck my head into a pail of BenGay.

I tried my best to make a bit of biking conversation but, honestly, it was just starting to feel a little uncomfortable.

Finally we got back to my nose.

Here's the problem, Dr Biker Guy said. You've got a deviated septum and it's restricting your breathing. There are also little flaps in the nose that help people breathe. When you do exercise those flaps shrink in order to allow more air into the lungs. However, after you exercise (and especially at night) they tend to swell up as the blood starts coming back into your nose. Because you don't have a lot of space up there, when that swelling occurs you will have more trouble breathing.

He ended up putting me on some nasal steroids with the hope that it will help clear the pathway for the oxygen. In exchange, I told him about how impressed I was with his dedication to biking and how I hoped he would continue living the healthy lifestyle. I told him how amazing I thought it was that he lost 50 pounds and that he really needs to keep that heart rate down a little more so he doesn't get injured and lose the biking career entirely.

And through it all I could feel his excitement building, as if he wanted to jump on his bike right there and then and go off for a ride. And just sensing that excitement got me all inspired. So I suppose that's what this is all about, the contagiousness of it all.

The inspiration in inspiration.

As I walked out of his office, he thanked me, all rosy cheeked and happy.
I thanked him, toxic substances dripping from my nose.

Then I paid, scheduled a follow-up appointment and left.

It was a physically uncomfortable visit and my nose is still burning four hours later. But, you know what? He's inspired and in a funny way so am I.

I can't wait to go back and hear about the exciting progress my good ole doc has made with his new passion for biking.

Maybe next time he won't try to sandblast my sinuses.


Tri-John said...

I have the same problem! I had surgery to fix my deviated septum and shrink those little flaps. The surgery helped a little, but I still have the breathing problems at night, just not as bad. I find that using Breathe Right strips work pretty good at night… good luck!

j. said...

thanks for the tip john. i'm going to try that.

don't want surgery unless i absolutely have to.

triathlonmom said...

You inspire more people than you know.