I started my shift to work remotely on March 16, 2020. That morning, I onboarded a new employee to my team and had her set-up with a new laptop, headset, and mobile phone. We double - and triple - checked that she could log in to our VPN. We went our separate ways around noon. I returned home, plugged in my headset in my makeshift office, and got to work.
As you know, we all continued to work remotely - almost uninterrupted - for the next 16-18 months before our corporate overlords toyed with a return to office plan. During these 16-18 months, I was on calls almost constantly with my headset. I began to notice that my right ear was experiencing some hearing loss - nothing major, or so I thought. I brought it up at a yearly wellness check with my Primary Care Physician and he referred me to an ENT at St. Louis University Hospital.
The ENT proctored a hearing test in one of those sound isolation booths. They tested all sorts of stuff, and as it turns out, I had significant negative pressure in my right ear. I was referred to an in-network specialist at St. Louis University Hospital, who ordered a CT Scan of my head. They found a mass – a Cholesteatoma – and it was wreaking havoc in my middle ear leading to the loss.
Because I am decidedly not a doctor, here's what Wikipedia has to say about Cholesteatoma:
I decided to schedule surgery quickly – the sooner I could get this taken care of, the better. I was told that I could not fly on an airplane for up to 3 months post-surgery and that I wouldn't be able to swim/submerge my ear for quite some time as well. Seeing as how we 1) want to go on a proper vacation; 2) I have business travel opportunities; and 3) have a swimming pool, I made the first appointment I could for Friday, April 8.
I'm a worrier by nature. I handle stress well, but not so much anxiety. With this being my first "major" surgery, I had no idea what to expect. We saw the kids off to school in the morning, then my wife and I headed to St. Louis University Hospital in Midtown to check me in and start the pre-op procedures.
Because I was a worrier, the Anesthesiologist graciously hooked me up with a "Margarita" - a beautiful cocktail of drugs to calm me down. I was wheeled into the operating room, given some oxygen, and got to hear some doctor banter before I was knocked out cold.
When I came to after the almost 6 hour procedure, I found out from the surgeon that the Cholesteatoma was incredibly sticky and worse than the CT Scans showed. Being very data-driven, I wanted to see everything I could about the surgery. In the MyChart Post-Op notes, the following procedures were performed:
- Right tympanomastoidectomy
- Tragal cartilage grafting
- Perichondrial grafting
It's been 28 hours since I made it home and I'm doing okay, all things considered. I've lost the Princess Leia head wrap in favor of some different gauze, I had a somewhat decent night of sleep, and I was able to take down half of a Sauce on the Side Calzone.
Pain has been manageable thanks to alternating between a heavy prescription of Ibuprofen and Tylenol. I'm wrapped up with new, clean gauze and packed with a new Vaseline-coated cotton ball.
I have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon next Friday where he'll give me a once-over and we'll talk about any next steps. I'm really excited to have this behind me, and, slowly get back on the road to recovery.