A Nightmare on Linden Street

I’ve been reluctant to go to sleep at night. And not just because I’ve been engrossed in my Nook.

A fun side effect of jaw immobilization is having jaw spasms. It seems to only happen when I’m sleeping – either at night or during naps. Not only is it extremely painful, it is also scary when it happens during sleep. In fact, I dread it so much that one night I stayed awake trying to come up with alternative lyrics to that song from one of my childhood (?) favorite movies, A Nightmare on Elm Street:

One, two, a jaw spasm’s coming for you.
Three, four, you’ll wish you drugged up more.
Five, six, it’s gonna hurt like #*@!
Seven, eight, you’re gonna lay awake.
Nine, ten, never sleep again.

[Bows]. Thank you!

To best understand what a jaw spasm feels like, think about what it feels like when you dream that you are falling, and in the dream you hit the ground. You know that feeling when you wake up suddenly and really felt like you fell? A jaw spasm is like that and is a sudden, involuntary movement of your jaw. When I am banded, I cannot open my mouth even slightly. But when I have a jaw spasm, my mouth jerks open to what feels like several centimeters. I cannot imagine what kind of force is required to stretch the bands so far and so suddenly. It takes me a minute to carefully realign my teeth and let the pain in my jaw subside.

Also, these spasms are often tied to a dream, making it seem so much scarier. Often, I am eating in my dreams. Maybe I’m making “eating” movements while I’m sleeping, but every now and then in a dream I’ll be biting into something, and my lower jaw will break off – then I wake up to find that I’ve had a spasm. Worse, I’ve had dreams that either I’ve fallen and hit my upper jaw on a counter top or something OR that my lower jaw simply falls out when I open my mouth. Jaw spasms accompany most of these dreams.

I was unable to find a lot of useful information on the internet about these spasms, but Dr. T tells me that they are result of my jaw healing. Some people on the internet say that it’s the reaction of facial muscles being immobilized. Or maybe this is just my body’s way of telling me that I’m really really hungry.

Luckily, the spasms are slowly starting to get better. I’m not sure if it’s a factor of where I am in the healing process, or if I am somehow subconsciously able to control them. I believe in lucid dreaming (you know, those dreams where you actually know that you are dreaming and you can “control” your dreams?). So, in a very Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors way, I’m starting to figure out when I’m starting to the jaw spasm is staring to happen, and stop Freddy in his tracks.

But until they stop, I’ll be laying awake reading my Nook until I can resist sleep no more.


The Changing of the Bands

Last night was the second night I’ve taken off my bands, and the most important thing I’ve learned so far is: to make sure I take my meds at least 30-45 minutes IN ADVANCE to take the edge off the pain.

The first night, I was so worried about screwing something up, that I actually didn’t remove the bands in the way back. I tried opening my mouth, and I swear that it felt as though my lower jaw is no longer attached to the top. My first instinct was, oh I’m going to floss and brush the hell out of my teeth. No chance. I couldn’t get my jaw open wide enough to insert my toothbrush. I started to floss, and then I remembered: the “arch bars” are wired to my jaw through my teeth. Meaning, it’s like having metal floss woven between your teeth. My teeth are now so tight together that I cannot fit regular floss between. Ouch. I settled on mouthwash, and waterpiking my teeth and gums.

Putting the bands on the first night wasn’t that bad, especially using the $200 big tweezer from the doctor. I got very full of myself – laughing and thinking, what was Dr. T making such a big deal about? It was actually kind of fun – it reminded me of playing Operation in reverse – trying to stick the “bread basket” back in. What was the bread basket, any way? The stomach??? If so, that makes a lot of sense to me now, but I never understood that as a kid.

I found out what Dr. T was making a big deal about the second night I tried to put on the bands. As I was cocky from my success the night before, I took off the bands in the way back. And no, I hadn’t yet learned my lesson about taking meds first. I felt the pain almost immediately after I was fully unbanded. Again, it felt as though my bottom jaw was unhinged. I tentatively tried to open and shut my jaw, and was rewarded by a weird creaking/crackling sound. I really hope that wasn’t my jaw breaking all over again!  Also (and I hope this is just my imagination), it felt like several teeth were loose.  OMG – can you imagine if I have to get fake teeth after all of this???????).  I took a lot of time to brush what I could, swish mouthwash and waterpik my teeth and gums. God, I love that waterpik. For some reason (likely because the inside of my mouth was killing because of the wires), I also replaced the dental wax. Not a good idea.

Then, I started the process of reattaching the bands. It seemed logical to do the back bands first at the time. I quickly wished I left those on! There were bands flying around the bathroom. I couldn’t reach the back hooks withouth dropping the tool. I kept accidently putting the bands around the twisted wire that graces my gums. The bands were extremely difficult (and painful) to coax off of the wires, and of course, the wires continued to cut into my gums. The dental wax was also getting in the way. I didn’t want to remove it – it was the last tiny bits I had in the house, and it didn’t feel right to “reuse” it. I thought of my sister who has this thing that once a sock comes off a foot, you cannot put it back on. Even if the sock is perfectly clean and you only had it off for a second.

So, I had to compromise. Instead of the four-point, square band formation that my doctor wants, the back bands are perfect triangles. It’s the best I could do! Even the front ones were not easy to replace. Beginner’s luck, I guess.

I continue in my learning process. Tonight I’ll try doing the front bands first, and save the back for the end. Or maybe I won’t take the back bands off at all. And I definitely will save the wax for the end – after I buy more, that is!

Santa, if you’re reading my blog, dental wax makes a great stocking stuffer!

I recounted this story to Patrick and went into detail about the state of my teeth and gums. Something you can only really do with someone who has vowed to spend the rest of their life with you no matter what. He got grossed out, which is saying something (he has a high bar for what he will tolerate). He says he won’t kiss me at all until after I go to the dentist! But then, when he realized how long that will take, he rethought it and suggested that I just use vodka as mouthwash.

Sounds good to me!

No mushables in my stocking this year…

I wish I had been better prepared for today’s appointment with “Dr. T”. Perhaps then I wouldn’t have been so disappointed by his news that I will not progress to mushables until Jan. 4th at the earliest. Oh, and in order to make that appointment, I need to travel to a hospital in a faraway land. Technically, I think it’s still in Boston proper, but not accessible via public transportation for me. Not that my adventure on the 66 to Brigham Circle was super fun (boy that line gets sketchy pretty quickly, and also do you know what it feels like for your teeth to chatter with a broken jaw?).

Anyway. The bone still needs a couple of weeks to heal. Dr. T promised to take a few of the bands off today, then was going to show me how to do the bands myself (I didn’t really understand what he was talking about at the time). He had me lay down and attempted to insert this torture device (mouth-holder-opener that you see in horror films involving dentists?) into my mouth. His comment was, “Huh. you have a really small mouth. I don’t know if this will work. Eh, let’s just try to make it work.” Not only did it KILL to get that thing in (pulling apart my already dry lips – please santa, bring me Fresh Sugar lip care! – also pushing against the wires already cutting into my gums), he made me look at myself in the mirror. If you’ve ever seen any of the “Hellraiser” films, you can give a pretty good guess at how grotesque I looked! The best part is that while I was in this contortion, he asked me, “so, how are the kids?”

Then came the super confusing part. He took off some bands, but it didn’t feel like all of them came off. He said, ok, open your mouth as wide as you can. Was he kidding? Was it a trick? I tried to open my mouth and couldn’t. He looked disappointed. I could, however, move my jaw from side to side although I suspected that wasn’t allowed (and it hurt). He started putting the bands back on, telling me that it was quick work for him since he’s done this before (!), but that I should expect it to take me 30-45 minutes to change the bands.

Change the what now?

He explained that now I am required to change all of my bands once a day and once they are off, I am to practice opening my mouth for a couple of minutes. He tells me this will prevent lockjaw. And I am relieved to know that I finally have a way to kill an hour a day – what on EARTH would I do with that spare time otherwise?

Then he makes me watch him put the bands on in the mirror. It’s awkward helping someone put bands in your mouth. Can you imagine your dentist asking you to hold the drill?

He also gave me two tools – one plastic hook that is mine to keep (I received one of these at the hospital, and have been foolishly using it to cut up the dental wax), and then he gave me a tool that looks like a really big tweezer – the girls have a plastic version in their doctor kit. Oddly, I need to return this tool to him? It costs about $200? Dude, why are you giving me this? My house is where expensive things go to die…and don’t you NEED this thing for other patients? Then I vaguely remember he’s not a “jaw” guy – I think he normally works on random body parts and he does always seem to mention my deviated septum. Plastic surgery, whatta racket!

He asks me if I want to practice putting bands on in front of him. What kind of doctor asks this? I should give this guy some tips before he becomes a dad. Of course I opted out of this embarrassment.

Then I ask him about mushables. He said that I have to stay on a pure liquid diet as the bone is still healing. After the next appointment, I should be able to move onto mushables. Until then, Boost Glucose Control on Christmas morning. No Chinese food on New Years Eve (other than the broth from wonton soup). No French Toast Casserole on New Years Day. We have three families to see for the holidays, for crying out loud. That’s a gazillion meals to miss. I don’t envision myself sitting at the table, watching everyone eat while I slurp on my syringe. I think I’ll sneak off for private slurping in front of the TV or while reading my Nook. Who am I kidding? If I can’t eat, I’m on baby duty for sure! You wanna know what I’m most worried about smelling? Bacon! If only all of my families could substitute corn beef hash or the like. It’s time like these when you truly are alone with the misery.

Somebody at least please buy me a bottle of champagne and a straw. I promise not to mix with the painkillers!

My culinary hits and misses

In honor of my next doctor appointment tomorrow (please, God, let me be able to progress to “mushables” in time for Christmas!), I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of my culinary triumphs and disasters.

First, I must comment that I am annoyed that after near starvation for two weeks, I was only down four pounds at last check. Let me be clear: the only reason that bothers me is I wonder what I would be losing if I wasn’t on this forced diet and I worry about what will happen when I can eat again. Anyhow, the bottom line is that it’s almost too much trouble to eat right now. I have to blend and strain everything except for Low Sodium V8 and Boost Glucose Control drinks. Plus, other than plain water or chicken broth, all food must be injected into the back of my mouth via syringe. Yummy, huh? I must add that even my own sister didn’t have the heart to tell me I had dribbled my shake down my chin this afternoon.

Anyway, here are the high points (all mixed with generous helpings of Benefiber, which I would recommend as a painless way to gain fiber in your diet!):
* Imagine Organic Low Sodium Tomato Soup – yum, yum, yum
* Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth and Vegetable Broth – not so tasty on their own, but a necessary blender helper
* Any flavor Yoplait Light mixed with equal part skim milk. Berry and/or pineapple flavors must be strained. All delicious. I found the Apple Turnover and Boston Cream Pie flavors to be particularly good.
* Chocolate banana milkshake – so far, this is my all time favorite thing to eat. Made low sugar, but I think the fresh banana is what makes it taste so great.
* Healthy Choice Chicken with Rice soup – properly blended with additional broth and strained, this was tasty and made me feel a little more full. Wish they offered a brand with brown rice. White rice does not equal healthy, people!
* Boost Glucose Control in Vanilla and Chocolate – both taste like chemicals, but I’m scoring them highly because of their ease of use and general nutrition. Just one small bottle has 16 grams of protein and the lowest sugar I could find in a meal replacement drink!! Mixed with a cup of skim milk, I feel like I’m getting good vitamins and minerals at least. Not very filling though.
* “Pumpkin Pie” shake: 1 part canned pumpkin to two parts low sugar vanilla ice cream, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup skim milk, dash of real maple syrup, 1/2 crumbled up graham cracker. Yummy!!!! I plan to experiment with this in alcohol form at the appropriate time.

* Campbells select Chicken Tortilla Soup – no amount of blending/straining seemed to make this soup OK tp inject. I really wanted it to work, particularly when Patrick brought home Chipolte for himself and the girls. As a side note, I had to beg him to stop talking about how good the chips were (he wasn’t doing it to be mean to me, he was talking to the girls). Anyway, I may give this another shot when I move up to mushables.
* Lean Cuisine – Chicken Mediterranean. Same problems as above. It may sound gross, but the taste was really OK – blended with vegetable broth and strained, texture would not work. Will try again during mushable stage.
* Pumpkin donut shake – so, I was thinking that people dunk donuts in coffee, right? Somehow, this just did not blend well and had a gummy texture. Kind of a good thing it didn’t work, as I don’t think I should be downing donuts right now.

Several people have asked me what foods I miss the most. That’s super easy. * Popcorn (and it’s probably going to be a loooooong time before I get to enjoy that again. It’s to the point that I will avoid seeing movies, as I do not believe it possible to see a movie without getting popcorn. My sister and I briefly mused on the possibility of just using A LOT of golden topping to mush it down. Yes, I know movie popcorn is one of the absolute worst things you can eat, but I’d rather splurge on that than most other foods.
* Except maybe pizza. Every time I see it, smell it, it’s torture. Patrick has brought it home a couple of times. I know it’s more of a survival tactic for him since he’s asking like a single dad of three toddlers/babies, but it just hurts. I’ve read web accounts of others who have blended pizza, but never heard of it coming out good.
* Hamburgers – my plastic surgeon tells me that I may never be able to eat a thick burger again since I will have lost the ability to open my mouth very wide. This makes me a little sad even though I usually eat burgers with a fork and knife (no bun) anyway. MMMM…..still, just thinking about a juicy burger, freshly grilled, lettuce tomato pickles, mmmmmm…..

I’ll find out the verdict tomorrow – will I be able to progress to mushables?

Stay tuned….

The art of being calm

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a very emotional person – high/low, happy/sad – there isn’t often a middle ground with me.  However, a big part of my recovery process is to remain calm.  At all times.  If I laugh, I set off my costochondritis and my jaw aches.  If I cry…..ugh….I can’t breathe and usually start to hyperventilate.

So, I’m not being melodramatic when I say that every day is a practice in remaining calm.  Being on bed rest this week, I’ve had a lot of time to catch up on TV and movies.  Little Women (1994), while a favorite movie of mine to watch while sick, was a bad, bad idea.  The scene where Jo takes off her bonnet revealing her new bob makes me sob like crazy.  Then immediately after that, there’s a scene of her crying at night.  Beth wakes up and asks her if she’s upset about their father.  No, Jo says, my hair.  That scene makes me both laugh and cry hysterically.

Friends has also been a bad idea, because the reruns on Nickelodeon have been of a great season 1997 where there were many scenes that make me laugh out loud.  What I really need is horror (thank you, American Horror Story!) or something that’s mildly funny.  Something that might make me smile, but not laugh.  Something like Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Patrick and I started to “discuss” our Christmas plans last night (meaning he was talking, and I was generally grunting my agreement or displeasure).  He said, just tell me what you want to do.  I’m not going to fight with you about it.  That’s my Christmas gift to you (better not be!).  Somehow, things still got heated.  Have you ever seen someone with their jaw wired shut get really heated and start “yelling”?  Not pretty.  And, it’s hard to be taken seriously.  Patrick tried really hard not to laugh at me, and just reiterated that he wasn’t going to fight about it.  So, we still don’t have logistics figured out!

It’s so bizarre not being able to talk or communicate.  I feel like I’m trapped in my head all of the time.  I called my bank to activate my new bank card thinking I could do it automatically over the phone.  But no, you actually have to talk to a customer service representative.  That was interesting.  Or today, when I walked over to CVS to get braces wax and some girl asked me for directions to a spa that I knew.  It’s right there, on top of the hill, I told her.  Oh, sorrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy, she replied.  I’ll ask someone else.  Sweetheart, I just told you where you were going and P.S. you had the street address number, and  you knew you were on Harvard Ave, so why exactly where you lost?

Good thing I brought my dry erase board with me. I didn’t see the wax right away, so had to scribble a note to the CVS guy.  He looked very freaked out by me.  But it could be that there was a sketchy guy also walking around asking everyone for money to pay for his prescription.

One of the worst things, really, is not being able to communicate to the girls.  They can’t read yet, so the board is out.  Owen can’t talk anyway, so just giving him a smile is enough.  Bree was really freaked out the first day or two by my wires/bands.  Now, she just has this nervous laugh every time I open my mouth.  Emma actually pretends that she understands me when she doesn’t.  I just caught on to this.  I’ll say something, and she’ll respond yes, or smile and nod, and then I’ll ask, Emma, what did I just say?  She’ll give me her princess smile and say sweetly, I don’t know.

Something tells me she’ll do the same thing when she’s a teenager.

Blogs of Facebook friends that I would totally read

Here are 10 Facebook friends who I wish would start a blog and why (no particular order):

1.  Tracy Winslow – (RI high school) – because she’s freaking hilarious.  Or maybe it’s just that her two little girls are hilarious.  In any event, no other FB friend’s status updates make me laugh louder (out loud) than Tracy’s do.  I can only imagine her blog would be hysterical.

2.  Dana Dore Nicholas – (RI high school) – much like #1, find her status updates very funny.  Think she’d have a very insightful and funny blog about life.  Or something.

3.  Heather Sullivan – (college/family) – not to embarrass her (but I will!), but this lady swore to us at Holy Cross that she “did not sweat” and I would never imagine that she would turn into this rockstar running chick.  Recently ran a half-marathon, I’m still waiting to hear that she’s going to run Boston, I would love to hear more about her transformation to athlete.  Running has become a daily part of her life and would make for interesting reading.  If that doesn’t work, she can always blog about her strange and crazy dreams.  If you don’t believe me, just ask her about them!

4. and 5.  Ryan and Mercedes Sullivan – (family) – they are the “world travelers” of our family.  They’ve lived in Mexico, Australia, and have been to India, Tahiti (?) and a bunch of other places I’m sure I’m forgetting.  I need a blog just to keep up with them and to make them feel closer when they move to the southern US later this year.  Plus, they are also superfunny and insightful about life.  I suspect that Ryan is secretly penning his first novel while they are on the road, but I’ve been suspecting that for years.

6. Todd Hunter (NH high school) – Todd is very involved with theater (acting and directing, I think) and a big movie buff.  As someone who really wanted to be an actress growing up, I have a ton of respect for him that he’s out there doing it (and a bit jealous, no doubt!).  I love reading his posts about various movies/directors/etc. and would love to hear even more.  He also has something to say about politics/current events.  Even though I don’t always agree with his perspective, he’s not afraid to put something out for debate.

7.  Cara Nancarrow Koprowski (NH middle school) – Cara puts to rest any notion that being a stay at home mom is easy.  In addition to taking care of her home and two school-age kids, she volunteers at school and somehow balances a jam packed social calendar and tons of friends.  Just reading about everything she has going on makes me tired!  My impression from her pics is that her house is always clean and she always looks fabulous.  I bet I could learn a thing or two from her blog.

8. Allie Evans – (RI high school) – Allie exudes positive energy like no one else.  She was always a sweet person, even in high school (and how many people can you really say that about???).  I could use a dose of her daily affirmations and try to understand how someone can be so positive so much of the time.

9.  Warren Dennis Smale – (college) – Warren is one of my husband’s frat brothers and he’s always doing something – travelling somewhere cool, seeing friends, etc.  Since Patrick refuses to do anything remotely social online, Warren is one of my lifelines to keep Patrick up on his brothers.  As a plus, Warren is also super involved at WPI as an alumn and one of these years, will convince Pat to come out to homecoming.  Oh yeah, all of Patrick’s friends call him Pat, which sounds so strange to me!

10.  Matt Gendron – (family) – because otherwise, I’d probably have no idea what he’s up to.  Seriously, though, I imagine that Matty does really cool things when he’s not working. In my mind, he’s always seeing great shows, trying out new hot spots and generally enjoying life.  It was a very strange situation at work a few weeks ago when I got introduced as “Matty Gendron’s sister”!  First of all, I’m literally 12 years older than he is, so that probably sounded weird.  Second, I’m the oldest!  Everyone should be introduced as “Melissa Sullivan’s brother or sister”.

An emotional low point…and could I have asthma?

This weekend, I had a lesson in slowing down. And I didn’t even do much! On Sunday, I wanted to do to two things: 1. Watch Emma at soccer practice and 2. Get a Christmas tree. I hadn’t realized at the time that I might’ve well run a marathon.

We were running late to soccer because of the nap schedule. When we got there, I was frantically helped Emma take off her windpants and put on her shinguards. She was sad that she had missed the team warmup. She’d been working on her flamengo stretch all week!

Two of Emma’s friends’ moms were there.  Part of the upside to soccer is getting to see and catch up with them every week. I quickly learned that communication via whiteboard is neither efficient or satisfying. They started gushing about the scrapbook that I/Patrick put together for the teacher who was leaving. In my mind, I had all these questions I wanted to ask: what did the back pages that Patrick did look like? did the teacher cry? did the other parents think there was too many pictures of my kids? too few of theirs?

But, all I could do was smile and nod…

Then, they started asking me details about the surgery, how I was feeling, whether I was working, etc. They were not yes/no questions! I tried to keep up via whiteboard, but it was exhausting for both of us.

I thought we’d get a tree on the way home, and I was glad that the day out was almost done because I was fading fast. It turned out that we had to go home first for an unspecified period of time. That’s when the breakdown hit me. We DID have to go home, but all I wanted to do was to take my meds and go to sleep. I knew that if I did nap, it could easily be three hours. By that time it would be 7:30 p.m., and there is no way that we would go out to get a tree. Plus, with three babies, it takes us FOREVER to leave the house, and even just going out to get a tree is a huge effort. Patrick’s attitude was, what’s the big deal? There are tons of trees? We can just go tomorrow night. But given our hectic weeknight schedule, I knew that wouldn’t happen. It all kind of hit me at once, the exhaustion, this weird chest pain I was having, the sadness at the thought of not getting a tree, the frustration of not being able to communicate, the anxiety of not being able to breathe, the anger of having to be in this position through the holidays…I can still smell, and I knew that the Christmas tree smell in my house would cheer me up.

To make a long story short, I cut my nap significantly short (to one hour), and Patrick was true to his word by taking us back out. The chest pain I was feeling was starting to get more severe and persistent. I knew I’d have to call the doctor, but I was determined to get my tree.

The tree experience was everything I hoped for – Emma, in particular, was into the selection process although she didn’t understand why we weren’t looking at the tallest trees on the lot. The smell, the cold air, it was great. Emma ultimately picked our tree, and she picked a really good one. Emma and Bree ate their first ever candy canes: Bree said “Open now, Mommy?” and both of them got the candy stuck to their mittens. I convinced Patrick to drive downtown so we could check out the city lights. It was wonderful.

When we came home, the pain was getting worse and I knew it was time to call the doctor. As I expected, I needed to be seen in the ER so they could rule out the serious stuff.

Long story short, I’m fine. I was diagnosed with something called costochondritis, which basically means that the cartilidge that connects my ribs to my breastbone is inflamed, causing excruciating pain, even when I breathe. Apparently, it’s not uncommon in women, although causes are usually unknown (unless you have a chest injury, which I have not). All I know is that it hurts like hell. The only treatment is ibuprofen and rest. The weirdest thing is that the doctor kept asking me if I had asthma (I don’t). She heard some wheezing that she was concerned about, so I got the full workup – a chest xray and time on the nebulizer. She actually gave me a prescription for an inhaler, which obviously I will not be able to use…

So I am now on bed rest. That is, I must stay in bed or on the couch and can only get up to get food/drink/etc. The other good news is that we totally scored a ton of eating syringes in a handy 3/4 oz. size. Much easier to use though it takes me 30 minutes to eat a cup of soup!

I still don’t know about the asthma thing, but who the hell gets asthma in their mid-30s?