fredag 16 februari 2024

This strange so-called “empty nose” syndrome that drives people to suicide

Article about Empty Nose Syndrome from the French newspaper: 

MIDI LIBRE N° 2766a | Ven. 22 - Sam. 23 avril 2016

A seemingly innocuous operation, carried out to relieve the breathing difficulties of patients who suffer in particular from allergies, has transformed their lives into hell. Imagine losing your natural breathing. IThat instead of a regular, peaceful, unconscious movement, you always have the impression of having to think about breathing, to force yourself to draw air. That in addition to this disorganization of your breathing, you feel burning in the nose, a feeling of suffocation, shortness of breath. And the doctors tell you that your illness is imaginary, that it does not exist, that you are simply “tired”.

This is what happened to Brett Helling, 36, as reported by Buzzfeed in a long investigation into this strange illness, which we call "Empty Nose Syndrome." A bit like the Kovaliov in the novel The Nose by the writer Gogol, his organ had flown away. But contrary to the college assessor's bad dream, his nose never returned "as if nothing had happened, to its old place." Patients who suffer from this syndrome have generally undergone a turbinectomy: a seemingly innocuous operation that involves removing the "turbinates" of the nose, two organs that secrete moisture and which some doctors recommend removing when the patient complains of chronic respiratory discomfort. Suffering like his brother from allergies, Brett Helling ended up, after yet another series of attacks of stuffy noses and repeated colds, by letting himself be convinced by a seemingly innocuous operation: a septoplasty, which consists of correcting a deviation of the nasal septum. But the doctor saw fit to add to this, without telling him, an ablation of these famous turbinates.

My life became hell The summer following the operation (which took place in February 2014), Brett Helling was a shadow of his former self. He no longer went to rehearsals with his music group, he was no longer able to work as before, locked himself in his house. In October, exhausted, he went to the emergency room, begging the nurse and the medical team for surgical intervention:

“I need to sleep or I will die.” No one had heard of empty nose syndrome. Depression was diagnosed and the head of the ENT department refused. to receive it. From that moment on, it was a spiral. Brett Helling did not take the medication given to him, convinced that he was not suffering from depression, but from empty nose syndrome. He stopped eating, sleeping, showering. And all he did was talk out of his nose, like a scratched record player, according to his friends and relatives. In December, his relationship broke up, he returned to live with his parents where he spent his time with kleenez in the nose.

“I can’t live like this. My life has become hell,” he told his parents. In February 2015, almost a year after his surgery, he parked on the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge, one of the highest in the state of Ohio. And he threw himself from the top of these 73 meters.

“I have the impression that I am slowly dying,” also says André Gourbillon, a retired nuclear technician, interviewed by L’Obs who conducted an investigation into this disease in 2012.

Patients who suffer from this syndrome may have intense pain, experience hyperventilation, nasal dryness, and completely lose their sense of taste and smell. They have sleep problems and face violent depression. He ended up finding at least a way to sleep, thanks to a noisy machine that channels the air and moistens his nasal walls. “He gave up neuroleptics, which made him feel like he was on another planet. But lives with permanent facial pain,”

Approximately 2 to 5% of patients who undergo turbinectomy suffer from complications. Some ENTs even put forward the record figure of 14%. A victims' association was created in France in 2011, which helped launch around twenty legal proceedings. Nine written questions were asked by MEPs on this subject. Since the creation of the association, at least two of its members have committed Suicide.

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