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July 12, 2018

Little Rock Musician: Surgery ‘Changed My Whole Life’

As a musician, 37-year-old Paul Campbell generally keeps a busy schedule.

If he’s not playing live music with a band, he’s producing in a studio, instructing students as an adjunct professor at Arkansas Baptist College or serving as a career coach at the University of Arkansas Pulaski Tech.

Campbell even took his talents to Africa where he spent a month traveling the continent and playing music.

About six years ago, Campbell noticed congestion in his left nostril, but he’d learned to cope with it.

“I knew I probably needed to get checked out, but when you’re living life, keeping a schedule, traveling, it just gets put off.”

Man playing drums in concert

Paul Campbell playing drums.

Campbell soon had trouble sleeping. He would regularly wake up every 20 minutes at night because he couldn’t breathe. He’d experience blurry vision while on a plane and noticed his memory was off. But at the time, he didn’t connect any of that with what was happening in his nose. He thought it was stress.

“I thought it was just something going on with me,” Campbell said. “I reached out to my pastor, Rev. Phillip Pointer at Saint Mark Baptist Church.”

Campbell says Pointer was understanding and expressed concern for his spiritual, mental and physical wellness.

“He recommended I talk to a therapist.”

Pointer’s encouragement helped him overcome initial embarrassment of seeking mental health counseling. The therapist asked him questions about his schedule and about the possibility of anxiety. He told her about his sleep deprivation, headaches, and the difficulty he sometimes had focusing on tasks.

“One of the homework assignments she gave me was to get my nose checked out,” Campbell said. “I did some research and found Dr. Kanaan. From there, everything just got better.”

Alissa Kanaan, M.D., is director of the Rhinology Division in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Otolaryngology. She sees patients in the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Clinic at UAMS.

Kanaan examined the inside of Campbell’s nose using a tiny scope with a lighted camera. She immediately noticed blockage on his right side.

Campbell remembers Kanaan saying he may be able to simply take antibiotics depending on the results of a CT scan.

“But when she looked at my left side she told me right then I would need surgery.”

Alissa Kanaan, M.D., examines her patient, Paul Campbell

Alissa Kanaan, M.D., examines her patient, Paul Campbell

Campbell had nasal polyps which blocked 100 percent of his left nostril. Kanaan says polyps are typically caused by a chronic inflammation, chronic infection or allergies. In some cases, they can be treated with medication. Campbell needed surgery.

“With the technology now available, we’re able to go through the nose with a camera,” Kanaan said. “It is a pretty benign outpatient procedure. We don’t have to make an incision on the face. The recovery time is about a week to 10 days.”

Kanaan said they also use a navigation machine that works a lot like a GPS. It allows the surgeon to see a scan of the patient’s nose to further ensure she’s staying in a safe zone away from the eyes or brain while removing the polyps.

When Campbell woke up in the recovery room he said he initially panicked.

“But the nurse told me to just breathe. I did. And I literally had not felt that feeling in years.”

Campbell said a trip to the mall after the surgery brought about a nostalgic feeling.

“I felt like I’d gone back in time,” he said. “Every store in the mall has its own unique smell. It had been so long since I had experienced that. I totally forgot about those little things. Sometimes I would be walking with my mom next to me and I just stop and say, ‘Ma! Smell that!”’

Before surgery Campbell had to ask his friends about new colognes and smells. Now, he can smell for himself. He no longer has headaches or runny nose and is sleeping much better.

“So many things improved that I didn’t even realize were associated with this,” Campbell said. “It blew me away.”

Kanaan says it’s a good idea to seek medical attention if you can’t breathe through your nose, experience a loss of smell, facial pressure or pain, and recurrent sinus infections. Another indicator, she says, is more than four or five sinus infections a year.

If left untreated, the polyps can grow and sometimes develop into something more serious.

“Some people get allergic fungal sinusitis,” Kanaan said. “That’s a sinus infection due to allergy to mold. The fungus can grow inside the sinus cavity and push on important structures like the eyes or the brain and can later cause problems ranging from meningitis to spinal fluid leak or severe infection.”

Since his surgery, Campbell says he’s committed to making his health a priority.

“Sometimes we get so caught up in doing what we’re doing that we neglect our personal health. We find ways to cope and continue on until it gets worse,” Campbell said. “Playing music is great, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t be at your best. This changed my whole life.”

By  | July 10th, 2018 |