Life is not all about music, audio, and struggling with the realities of high-resolution music. On Thursday of this past week, I underwent surgery to have an overactive parathyroid gland removed from my throat. I’ve never been much for regular health checkups and annual physical exams but over the past couple of years I’ve established a good relationship with the doctor that helped me through the pneumonia I picked up at the 2015 CES show. The results of a recent blood test prompted him to request a personal visit at his office. His assistant didn’t say anything more than, “Dr. K would like to see you as soon as possible” during our brief phone conversation.
So I set up an appointment for the next day. He told me that my elevated PTH level might indicate I have hyperparathyroidism, a condition that causes an imbalance in your calcium levels and can lead to bone loss. The good news is that humans have 4 parathyroid glands and if one of them is misbehaving, a skilled surgeon can carefully remove it and the ones left behind can pick up the slack. My next appointment was with the same doctor that had removed my oldest son’s cancerous thyroid gland about a year ago.
Dr. Yeh is the Section Chief of Endocrine Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is a very highly regarded physician. My son’s results were excellent, so I knew I was in good hands. He told me that given my age, I should have the bad parathyroid gland taken out. He scheduled some sort of nuclear scan to identify which one of the glands was bad and a bone density scan to see if any of my bones were diminishing (thankfully, my running has kept my bones in tact!). The surgery was scheduled for the 30th, last Thursday.
The routine procedure takes about an hour. It’s an out patient experience. They make a small, one-inch incision, in the middle of your neck, slide in the appropriate tools, remove some tissue, and then sew you back up. After looking at the scar on my son’s neck, I was quite pleased that medical technology and techniques have been able to leave behind so little evidence of the cut. My younger brother (9 years younger) also battled thyroid cancer through a few surgeries and has a scar across his entire neck…almost up to one ear!
My wife drove me to the hospital on Thursday morning and I waited. It felt like I was in a movie…it simply didn’t feel real for some reason. The nurses and aids prepared me for the surgery. The doctor’s associate came by to explain what to expect. The anesthesiologist also stopped by and gave me something “to take the edge off”. And at around 11 am, I remember being wheeled into the operating room and then nothing. I was out.
I woke up at around 2:30 pm… far later than I had expected. Something was amiss. It took a while for me to work my way back to full consciousness. Dr. Yeh came by and told me that they discovered a nearby lymph node that appeared to be “discolored”. They sliced off a piece and had a pathologist quickly examine it. It was cancerous. Following the surgery, I learned that my wife was consulted, lots of things explained, decisions made, and I woke up without my thyroid gland and problematic parathyroid gland. It seems…like my son and brother…that thyroid glands don’t do so well in our family.
So life took a dramatic turn on Thursday. I stayed the night in the hospital, my PTH levels have returned to normal, and now I get to take a synthetic replacement hormone to keep my endocrine system in balance. And I’m going to miss running my 10th Will Rogers 5K tomorrow!
But I’m very happy with the outcome. I debated sharing this personal situation on my blog but decided there was no downside to spreading my news. Hopefully, there won’t be any more surprises. Have a happy 4th of July!