Sinus Surgery Video: Makua's Story

Professional big wave surfer undergoes innovative sinus surgery

Professional big wave surfer Makua Rothman travels to Sharp Grossmont Hospital for an innovative procedure, balloon sinuplasty™, performed by Dr. Brian Weeks, a Sharp-affiliated otolaryngologist.

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Makua: I surf all the big wave tours, chasing the biggest, baddest things you ever seen Mother Nature throw at you.

Robert, Strength Coach: There’s probably only 25 people on the planet that are capable of riding waves of this magnitude.

His claim to fame for the outside world is that he caught one of the world’s biggest waves.

Makua: It looked like the whole ocean had stood up all at one time.

Robert: He was 17, and it really just changed his life.

Dr. Brian Weeks: Makua surfs the largest waves in the world, the difference between life and death is often falling or not falling on a wave. How were the waves when you were back home?

Makua: Oh we had pipeline like as good as it gets.

Dr. Weeks: Are you serious? 

Makua: Yeah. I was supposed to have nasal surgery since I was a kid, I was telling you, you’ll probably find some stuff in there that you probably never seen, you know?

Dr. Weeks: One of Makua’s symptoms has been some instability or just imbalance. This poor guy’s nose needs so much help. Makua, it's amazing to see kind of what your poor nose has been through, my friend. The procedure Makua is going to have is balloon sinuplasty. I’m excited to take care of you…. Basically open up the nasal and breathing passages and get him back to functioning normal again. Otherwise I’ll see you at Sharp at 7.

Makua: Right on. Thank you doctor.

Dr. Weeks: You’re welcome. Have a great day.

Makua: OK.

Dr. Weeks: Bye … see you, man.

Robert: He has been, as a young kid, rushed to the hospital several times having episodes of sinus attacks. There you go, that’s opening up.

Makua: I was in the hospital nine months out of the year, basically breathing out of a straw my whole life.

Dr. Weeks: Most people that have had trouble as long as Makua, their baseline has shifted. I mean they really don’t remember what it feels like to breathe normally.

Makua: This you know little kid not being able to breathe like I’m going to make it.

Robert: One, two.… I’m making sure that he stays in the best shape of his life. Because his life will be in danger any time he’s out there.

Makua: You know you hit, ohhh, and all your air is out, and you still have to stay out there, you don’t have a referee, you don’t have a medic. Every other sport in the world, something goes wrong, someone is there. Oh pause, time-out. Surfing there is no time-out.

Dr. Weeks: This morning what we’re going to do is we’re going to utilize balloon sinuplasty™ technology with minimally invasive techniques. Basic for the patient it means that we don’t have to cut that soft, very sensitive tissue. And because of that we have less bleeding, less pain, faster recoveries … all the good stuff.

Julie, RN: Dr. Weeks is doing the septoplasty bilateral resection, maxillary ostiotoma bilateral submucosal resection and bilateral nasal endoscopy with sinus lavage. He’s going to fix your nose.

Dr. Weeks: This is a purely outpatient procedure. He comes in in the morning and before lunch he’ll be home and in his own bed. He’s not going to be debilitated in any way.

Makua: Aha….

Dr. Weeks: Ready to fix you up. All right buddy, well listen we’re going to take good care of you, I treat everyone like family and….

You know, surgical treatment can cure a problem in a matter of an hour. And really completely turn somebody’s life around so this is really at the end of the day why I’m a surgeon and why I do what I do.

Unfortunately Makua has broken his nose probably five times. Been hit in the face with surfboards. Just a really disrupted airway on both sides. On a scale of 1 to 10, his would be a 9.9. Instead of using instruments that cut and remove bone, we’re using an instrument that we place inside of a blocked passage and dilate. It's very similar you know to cardiac angioplasty. Everything that’s there has a purpose. And if you don’t have to remove things that are made to be there, that’s better for the patient.

House lights off, please.

And the reason the technology works is we’re dealing with very, very thin, paper-thin bone and the balloon is a very high-pressure device. OK, I’ll take the maxillary balloon. That balloon when it's inflated it will micro fracture that bone and then it will heal in that open position. So what I’m going to do now is look down on his cheek, you can see that light moving in his face, so there’s no doubt that I’m in the right position within his sinus. OK, so now we’re going to gently inflate the balloon. Beautiful, that’s great. To me that picture right there is the essence of balloon dilation. There’s absolutely zero bleeding, so we’ve done one side and we’ll go ahead and get ready to treat his other side. He will be good to go.

To me the art of medicine is connecting with the patient on a personal level. I mean there’s no question that outcomes are better when patients trust and when patients feel an emotional connection.

I just want to tell you everything went perfect buddy, OK? Could not have been better.

You got one day and you’ll be like a new person tomorrow. OK? All right, my brother.

Physician Assistant: Take a deep breath. Exactly. All right, I’ll see you next week, right?

Makua: Right.

Dr. Weeks: Air is hitting places that it's never hit before.

Makua: It feels like all tingly.

Dr. Weeks: Like you can’t believe. You’re healing beautifully, my friend, absolutely beautifully.

Makua: Thank you.

Dr. Weeks: No limitations, back in the water, everything, surf today if he wants.

Robert: Perfect.

Dr. Weeks: This is the standard of care now in sinus surgery.

Makua: (Deep breath) Amazing, life changing, doctor … life changing. Thank you so much. It’s a whole new world now.

For More Ear, Nose and Throat Information
To learn about sinus surgery at Sharp, visit Ear, Nose and Throat Services.