Sharing Mayo Clinic

Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

May 3, 2019

Sinus Surgery Renews Rebecca Bough’s Quality of Life

By SharingMayoClinic
Rebecca Bough had resigned herself to the fact that the chronic stuffiness and decreased senses of smell and taste she'd been living with were never going to go away. But then a Mayo Clinic care team helped change all that.
Rebecca Bough and Garret Choby, M.D.

Rebecca Bough had resigned herself to the fact that the chronic stuffiness and decreased senses of smell and taste she'd been living with were never going to go away. But then a Mayo Clinic care team helped change all that.


As she lay in the bathtub of a New York City hotel room — trying to keep the sound of her coughing from waking her husband while trying to get some sleep for herself — Rebecca Bough wondered if this was what her life had now become.

Rebecca's health issues had begun about a year and a half before with what she calls "chronic stuffiness" that made her sound like she always had a cold. Her symptoms had stumped eight doctors in her home state of Arkansas. Each told her she was suffering from allergies or a heightened case of asthma. And they'd each prescribed medications in an effort to bring her some relief. "But it would only work for a day or two," Rebecca says.

Meanwhile, Rebecca's symptoms progressed to a point that they were doing more than just mimicking the sound of a cold. "I eventually lost my sense of smell and also had a decreased sense of taste," she says.

Worse, though, was the coughing. "Over time, it started to reduce my quality of life," Rebecca says. "I started coughing day and night, and that led to social life changes of no longer being able to go out to dinner with my husband, be around friends or exercise. I would get headaches often, and the coughing would become so intense that it would cause me to fracture my ribs on several occasions."

As painful and difficult as the situation was for Rebecca, she wasn't the only one suffering from the effects of her symptoms. "It made it hard for others to be around me," she says. "It especially made it hard for my husband to sleep at night because I'd cough for several hours straight."

During that night in the hotel room in New York City, after she pulled herself from the bathtub, Rebecca walked over to a window and stared out at a city filled with millions of people going about their normal lives. She wished more than anything that she could be one of them. "I remember thinking, 'Am I the only one in the world with this problem?'" Rebecca says.

Pinpointing the problem — and the solution

Determined to have that question answered, Rebecca decided to take her health into her own hands by scheduling an appointment at Mayo Clinic. But she admits that she was worried.

"I was scared they were going to tell me all of the same things I'd heard before," Rebecca says. "That it was allergies or asthma, and that there was nothing they could do to help me."

Within a few minutes of sitting down with pulmonologist Vivek Iyer, M.D., at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, however, Rebecca says all of that began to change. "He did a very thorough examination and suspected I was suffering from a severe case of rhinosinusitis, as well as severe, persistent asthma," Rebecca says.

"They went over everything, outlined the pros and cons, and after examining me and looking at my test results, said I'd be a good candidate for (sinus surgery)."

Rebecca Bough

Dr. Iyer prescribed a new asthma medication that would allow Rebecca to stop taking the oral steroids she'd been on. He also recommended she consult with an otorhinolaryngology specialist for further evaluation. Soon after, Rebecca met with Garret Choby, M.D., and Linda Yin, M.D., in Mayo Clinic's Department of Otorhinolaryngology. The two physicians not only confirmed Dr. Iyer's preliminary diagnosis, but they let Rebecca see it for herself.

"They put a camera in my sinuses, so that I could see exactly what was going on and exactly what the problem was," Rebecca says.

More than that, though, they told Rebecca exactly how they would fix it. "They both recommended endoscopic sinus surgery," Rebecca says. "They went over everything, outlined the pros and cons, and after examining me and looking at my test results, said I'd be a good candidate for it."

Living and breathing easily again

"When I first saw Rebecca, she was, honestly, pretty miserable," Dr. Choby says. "She was suffering from severe nasal polyps. Like many other patients with nasal polyps, she also had significant inflammation in her lower airway and her lungs. In combination, these were contributing to her chronic cough, asthma, and decreased senses of smell and taste."

A CT scan revealed that Rebecca's sinuses also were blocked completely on both sides. "In light of this, we recommended endoscopic sinus surgery, so that we could not only remove the polyps but also maximally widen her sinus openings," Dr. Choby says. "This allows for optimal sinus drainage and improved delivery of the topical medications she'd need after surgery, which are one of the most important parts of the surgery from our standpoint."

"My entire patient experience from start to finish was wonderful, and I now know firsthand why Mayo Clinic was recently named the best hospital in the world."

Rebecca Bough

Given all she and her loved ones had been through to that point, Rebecca readily agreed to the recommendation and scheduled the surgery with Dr. Choby for the following morning. Once the surgery was complete, Rebecca says it didn't take long for her to realize she'd made the right decision.

"I felt better immediately after the procedure. Even better, I can now taste food again, my headaches are gone, and my sense of smell is also starting to come back," Rebecca says. "My entire patient experience from start to finish was wonderful, and I now know firsthand why Mayo Clinic was recently named the best hospital in the world. My only regret is that I didn't make an appointment sooner."


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Tags: Chronic sinusitis, Dr. Garret Choby, Dr. Linda Yin, Dr. Vivek Iyer, ENT/Audiology, Nasal Polyps

Hola , soy Peruano.
Es un agrado leér un testimonio asi , realmente suelto lagrimas porque se que se siente estar con esos síntomas , llevo medio año con la sensación de mis oidos tapados , mis fosas nasales muy tapadas (85%) y dolores de cabeza ,picor de vista en algunos casos.
Realmente me siento muerto en vida , tengo 20 años y no tengo vida social , ningun medico da con lo que tengo , saque un princk test y no soy alérgico a nada . Ya hice muchos tratamientos y ningun medico me da una buena respuesta.
Que debo hacer , tengo familia en EEUU pero no tengo VISA.
Agradeceria su humanidad.

Editor’s Note: Thank you for writing. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this website. If you would like to seek help from Mayo Clinic, please call one of our appointment offices (Arizona: 480-301-1735 Florida: 904-953-0853 Minnesota: 507-284-2511) or visit https://www.mayoclinic.org/appointments. You might also consider looking into our Mayo Clinic Connect website (http://connect.mayoclinic.org), where you can communicate with others who may have had similar experiences. You can also read Mayo Clinic expert blogs and take part in educational events.

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