My three-and-a-half-year-old is my hero.

That’s probably way too many hyphens.  Anyway…

I met with the plastic surgeon today to plan and schedule my upcoming jaw surgery.  He told me what I was expected to hear:  that I would need surgery to correct my jaw and that I would be “wired shut” for a few weeks.  Braces and heavy rubber bands to follow, topped off by dental and orthadontic (sp?) work.  Awesome.  Then we started talking about the surgery itself.  He told me that I would be intubated through my nose because they are working in my mouth, blah blah blah…

And then it started to occur to me.  I won’t be able to open my mouth.  I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that I won’t have good, solid food for some time.  And I figured that I wouldn’t be able to talk very well either.  But I am a mouth breather.  And I have a deviated septum.  And I breathe through my mouth.

I told the doctor that I have severe claustrophobia, and somehow, the thought of having my jaws wired shut makes me feel claustrophobic.  He said that that was a normal feeling, and that he’ll even give me a pair of wire cutters and show me how to cut the wires.  I’d need them anyway in case I vomit so that I DON’T ASPIRATE INTO MY LUNGS.  The only thing keeping me from full fledged panic attack at that time was the fact that my dad was with me, and so I needed to remain calm.

I flashed back to the fateful Thursday night when I had my accident and was in the ER.  Here I was thinking I’d get a simple Xray or two on my jaw, but no, they sent me for a CAT scan.  Now, I’ve had exactly one grossly failed MRI exam before where I abandoned the test and literally ran screaming out of the room when they tried to put the mask thing on me.  I *thought* a CAT scan was supposed to be a friendlier, more “open” option.  But no, same tube.  No mask.  I thought, OK, I can do this.  Then the woman tells me that they RAISE UP THE BED to bring you closer to the tube.  Yeah, no thanks.  But what option do I have?  I swallowed my pride and ask the tech/nurse if she could hold my hand during the procedure. Nope, no one can be in the room with me.

And that’s when I started thinking about my 3 and 1/2 year old daughter.  She had kidney surgery back in May which was basically one big disaster.  She managed to have every complication in the book, stayed in the hospital for a week and came home with a “bag”.  Then she had to go back two months ago to get a stent put in (and then taken out).  Throughout it all, that kid was a trooper.  Sure, she freaked out a few times (like when they had three failed attemps to replace an IV at 2 a.m.).   But she put on her best brave face and sucked it up.  So I did the same.  I shut my eyes and tried to breathe through my panic.  And I got through those two minutes of the CAT scan.

As an intelligent adult, I know I’m not going to die from jaw surgery.  I know I’m not going to actually suffocate and that somehow I will find a way to breathe.  Still, I can’t think about not being able to open my mouth without having a full panic attack.  At this point, I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to go through with the whole thing.  I’m going to talk to the doctor about my options tomorrow and revist his views on not using anti-anxiety meds.

If I do end up in that recovery room with my jaws wired shut, you can be sure that I’ll be focused on one thing.  Thinking of how brave my daughter is, shutting my eyes, and breathing through my panic.  The best that I can breathe through a clenched jaw.

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