Struggling with allergies due to pollen’s, mold and dust mites resulted in constant vigilance guarding against off-and-on again sinus infections and asthma attacks. I had an allergy/asthma doctor who had been my mainstay for decades to help me in this ongoing health challenge and together, we had been able to manage to keep me going.
The tipping point came when the smoke from fires in Mexico came drifting northeast towards Houston and then stagnated over our city. The irritation of the smoke particulates in the air plus the usual autumn allergy triggers and I just couldn’t get healthy. The constant infections led to nonstop asthma crisis episodes. Something had to give.
I dove into my research, reading Dr. Williams “Sinusitis” book and consulted my UTHSC-Houston Medical school friends. I was always hesitant to consider a surgical option, but unfortunately that looked like the only path forward.
I knew the following must be in place:
- A cautious otolaryngologist who would take the most conservative measures since there is so much important anatomy around the sinuses—eyes and brain, just to name two!
- To keep in even closer contact with my allergy/asthma doctor and try to step up the treatment of any underlying medical issues.
As a result of my health history of sinus infections, the result became multiple surgeries—I hoped each one would solve the problem, but the infections wouldn’t stop which led to being on high alert for asthma episodes. Complicating things further, my IgM (Immunoglobulin M which is one of the main components of the immune system) levels kept dropping.
The quandary of whether my chronic sinus infections were strictly an anatomical problem with a surgical answer or an immunological disorder with no answer plainly in sight became the uncertainty which dominated my days back then.
I had the best doctors on board—ones that were willing to follow me on this journey and explore all possibilities. My allergy/asthma doctor was investigating the latest in immunology/allergy/asthma treatments and my otolaryngologist maintaining careful vigilance over the course of my surgical treatments—-I knew that I had health care professionals who would help me with decision-making along the way.
Yet, I still wished I had had someone that I could discuss my medical issues and my psychological ups and downs—someone besides my doctors that I could verbalize my thought process and double check my choices—a sounding board. This is so difficult in a world where many people gather their medical information from news stories and social media (I don’t blame them—it’s easy, it’s so available and it’s 24/7, but it just doesn’t help give anyone the support needed when dealing with complicated health decisions.)
Finally, the cautious, careful road to living without constant sinus infections paid off—and now I’m back to just dealing with occasional asthma episodes (high levels of allergens in the air, high ozone levels and random viral infections will always keep me carrying an inhaler in my purse wherever I go for the rest of my days—back to the old normal.)
Yet, before I would take that final step towards becoming a professional patient advocate, there would be one more hurdle to clear.