Earlier this year, Lisa found herself captivated by a powerful, long-forgotten scent at her local produce market.
“I walked into the grocery store and smelled oranges,” she says. “It was the first time in 25 years I could smell like that. I was flabbergasted because I didn’t even realize I was missing out on all of this stuff.”
Lisa was bodyboarding with her son at the beach more than two decades ago when a large wave caught the pair by surprise.
“I was behind him, and his head went up into my nose,” Lisa says. “There was a lot of blood, but I thought at the time I had just hurt myself a bit and I’d be fine.”
It wasn’t until about two years ago that Lisa, now 55 years old, realized it may have become something more. Her allergies have worsened with the seasons, causing considerable and constant sinus pressure that made everything from sleeping to working a challenge. She suffered from headaches and regular nose, eye, and throat irritation.
She started to lean heavily on her continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or nasal plugs to sleep through the night. Rarely, if ever, could she breathe properly through both nostrils.
“I was waking up every morning very congested in my nose, with my eyes and nose watering,” she says. “I went to my family doctor and she put me on all these allergy medicines. They did absolutely nothing. It got to the point where I was absolutely miserable and I had to do something.”
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Lisa’s Journey to UPMC
Lisa’s doctor recommended she make an appointment at Specialty Care ENT-UPMC in Hanover. That’s where she met Dr. Ziad Rohayem, MD, a UPMC otolaryngologist who specializes in treating ear, nose, and throat problems like hers.
“He put a scope down my right nostril, looked at my left nostril, and he’s like ‘I can’t even get it down there,'” says Lisa. Dr. Rohayem then ordered a CT scan that revealed the root cause of Lisa’s years-long sinus troubles.
“Basically, told me I had a broken nose that I didn’t realize I had,” she says.
Dr. Rohayem performed a minor surgical procedure called a septoplasty to open her nasal passages by straightening her deviated septum (the bone and cartilage dividing the space between her nostrils). Later, Lisa had bilateral turbinates reduction to remove excess tissue in her two nostrils and endoscopic sinus surgery to remove remaining blockages using a thin tube with a light and camera.
These were all outpatient procedures, she says.
“When they sucked everything out, like the blood clots, I instantly felt better,” she says.
The procedures and her recovery were a breeze, Lisa says, compared to what she’d dealt with for years leading up to the surgeries.
“Surgery went smoothly and everyone was great,” she says. “I just have wonderful things to say about it. I could already breathe much better, and the swelling was very minimal. After a week, I could smell oranges. I couldn’t ever breathe out of my left nostril to begin with, because it has always been swollen. It was just a wonderful experience.”
“Dr. Rohayem is a great doctor, he had an excellent bedside manner and explained everything to me,” Lisa continues. “This was just life-altering.”
Now, Lisa is a month out of surgery and preparing to welcome her first grandchild.
“I have so much more energy, I can smell things I haven’t smelled in years, and I sleep so much better than I did before,” she says. “It really changed my life.”
Lisa has simple advice for anyone experiencing similar, long-standing sinus issues.
“My advice is to go see a specialist right away,” she says. “Don’t wait. I didn’t know what I’ve been missing all this time.”
UPMC in Central Pa. offers expertise in the treatment of diseases and conditions affecting the ears, nose, and throat in people of all ages. Board-certified providers diagnose and treat injuries and cancers of the head and neck, as well as plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Treated conditions include allergies, snoring, vertigo, ear pain and infections, hearing loss, sinusitis, throat pain, swallowing disorders, nosebleeds, and more.
For more information about ear, nose, and throat services at UPMC in Central Pa., visit UPMC.com/CentralPaENT.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
About Ear Nose and Throat
The experts in the UPMC Department of Otolaryngology treat a variety of ear, nose, and throat (ENT) conditions in both children and adults. Our team includes board-certified physicians and highly skilled speech-language pathologists and audiologists. We provide both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options. Our research and clinical trials help to advance care for our patients. Find an ENT expert near you.