University of South Florida

Grateful patient thanks USF Health Otolaryngology team

In February 2007, Colleen Johnson was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Wegener Granulomatosis (GPA). This is an uncommon disorder that is the result of granulomatous inflammation and blood vessels Inflammation, which can damage organ systems.

The condition affected her health by causing the cartilage in her nose to dissolve and, as a result, made it collapse. This obstructed her airways and made it impossible for her to breathe through them, which also caused her to develop a saddle-nose deformity.

“With this disease it is painful and it’s more painful when it hits the organs, but with my part, I had the nose that collapsed. I could not breathe through my nose, so I was not getting enough oxygen to go into my brain. I couldn’t do all the functions I wanted to do; it just affected my everyday life” Johnson said.

After years of struggling with her condition, Colleen was finally referred to Dr. Mark Tabor, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology. During their consultation, Dr. Tabor discovered a huge pocket of dead bone within her frontal sinus. He then immediately scheduled her for an operation called a Frontal Sinus Drillout. This helped remove the causes of her sinus blockage and helped stop some of the pain she was experiencing.

Dr. Tabor also informed Colleen that he could address her saddle-nose deformity, which was also caused by her condition. He contacted Dr. Julia Toman, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, due to her specialization in addressing the structural parts of the nose, such as the bone and cartilage that give the nose shape.

From left, Dr. Julia Toman, Colleen Johnson, and Dr. Mark Tabor.

“Being at an academic medical center, we have experts within many different specialties, so I think it is good to get different people involved in specialized cases like this. Two sets of eyes are better than one,” Dr. Tabor said.

With the combined efforts of Dr. Tabor and Dr. Toman, they were able to restore function back to her nose by using cartilage from other parts of her body to reconstruct her nasal breathing airways and open up her sinuses.

“When I got the procedure done, I did not think it would ever happen because my nose had been collapsed for at least 10 years, so I thought it was going to be my life forever,” Johnson said. “I just want to thank Dr. Tabor and Dr. Toman, for what they did for me because if not for them, then my life would still be the worst thing in the world. They improved my life 100 percent, and I cannot thank them enough.”

Story, photos and video by Ryan Rossy, USF Health Communications and Marketing

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