My first PT adventure!

Today was my first physical therapy appointment. It felt like the first step down a very long road.

Dr. T had given the PT all of my details (I wonder if he mentioned my deviated septum).  According to his notes, the day I had the archbars removed, I could open my mouth 24 mm awake and 37(!) mm while I was under.  I don’t want to think too much about the fact that someone forced my mouth open an additional centimeter while I was asleep.

The deal is this:  if I can progress well with physical therapy (mouth exercises), I can spare myself the embarrassment, cost and time suck of having to get fitted for and use a special device.  There are two kinds of devices, neither of which sound pleasant.  Dr. T recommends the “Thera Bite!” which is basically a wedge you put in your mouth that forces your mouth open. 

Not only does this look silly and painful, it is not covered by most medical insurers.  Very funny, Dr. T!

Not to be outdone, the PT prefers the type of jaw stretching device that comes with its own headgear!  Yeah, I’ll be trying to skip those both, thanks.

So I have a lot of work to do before my next PT appointment to ensure that I do not need to purchase one of these torture devices.  I’m sure I’ll get enough torture at the dentist on Monday!  The PT gave me a list of exercises that I need to perform several times a day.  The worst one is having to pull my own jaw open with my fingers and stretch as far as I can and hold it for 30 seconds.  Ouch!  Wasn’t that in a horror movie somewhere?  And Freddy came out of someone’s mouth??  She also recommended that I make it a fun activity to share with the kids.  Apparently, making Papua New Guinea noises with your tongue is therapeutic.  And kids love it!  Who knew?

Unexpected benefit of today’s appointment?  A free massage!!  I now understand why people spend good money getting massages.  She noted that my shoulders, neck and back are particularly tense and I reminded her about my kids.  The one move I did not love was when she squished the sides of my face and pulled her hands up so that my mouth curved up, Joker-style.  Still, the shoulder massage was enough to put me to sleep, and almost did (to my embarrassment).

My dentist adventure awaits for me on Monday…the squeamish may want to skip the recap.  Let’s hope they are called “Gentle Dental” for a reason!

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Returning to the Real World

My so-called recovery  happened so quickly that my head is still spinning.  I’m no longer “disabled,” but I’m also not quite ready to return to the Real World, either.  Most people at work have no idea what happened to me, or where I’ve been for the past two months.  Some people thought I’ve been on vacation, some people wondered if I quit and/or was fired.  My favorite reaction came from a business partner who said, “I just thought you were…gone.” Another person said, “You look good. Of course, I don’t really remember what you looked like before.”

It felt like a whirlwind.  I had my wires and other paraphernalia out on a Friday, and was back to work first thing Monday morning. For those who know me, this doesn’t sound unlike me, say, having a baby and rushing back to work.  But something has changed this time.  Maybe it’s because I’m really not 100% quite yet.  I still can’t eat many foods, my jaw aches terribly by the end of the day and for god’s sake, how does one make it through the day without a two hour nap? 

What has changed this time is that I realize that I’m doing too much.  That may sound incredibly dumb for someone who chose to have three children three and under and who chose the challenge of going into a new job where I am an unknown.  Having so much time to do nothing made me realize that there are other things that I really love doing.  I love writing, I love reading.  I love making dinner.  I love watching non-animated, non-family films without interruption. I even love cleaning and organizing (stop laughing, Jen).   How can I continue to do these things in the Real World?

This is nothing profound, and it’s something that most people living in the Real World struggle with every day.  There simply is not enough time to do everything you want.  You have to decide what’s most important, prioritize and let go of the rest.  Now on top of it all, I have physical therapy, dental and follow-up appointments.  So I’m left with only a precious hour or two at night when everyone else is asleep when I run through my options.  Do I…go to bed? …watch TV?…do the dishes?  Really, I should just go to bed.  But now that I’ve had a chance to remember that there are other things that I love to do, it’s hard to give those things up now.

Of course, that just makes the 5:45 a.m. wake up call that much more painful.

Party toes and spicy meds…it’s wire removal day!

Party Toes

Today was the surgery to have my archbars, wires and bands removed. I was so excited, I painted on Party Toes (Muppet-inspired OPI Collection, called “Rainbow Connection”).

My surgery time was 10 am, so we were to report to the hospital by 8:30. We had decided to go straight in after dropping the kids off at day care. About 5 minutes away from the hospital, I received a call from day surgery asking if I could “come right in.” It sounded like my surgery might get moved up, which was great.  My goal was to get out of the hospital as early as possible so that I could come home and nap in my own bed with clean sheets before the kids came home.

In the end, there was no need for me to rush in. Apparently, they had me in preop early just in case Dr. T was available early for the surgery.  He wasn’t.  It wasn’t the end of the world, because I came well prepared with my smart phone and Nook (determined to finish The Help today).

We did the normal intake procedures while waiting for Dr. T (LOVE those heated blankets; hate the fact that there’s always a gap in the curtain when you are changing into the johnny).  The anesthesiologist resident came by to discuss the options.  Last time, I got the full package of painkillers, “twilight” anesthesia for the intubation, and general for setting my jaws and wires.  Today, I was told I’d likely get just the “twilight” anesthesia.  Not as romantic as it sounds.  She then did the quickest and most painless IV I’ve ever had, but P and I were blinded by the amount of bling she was wearing – drop earrings and an ice skating rink on her ring finger.  At first, I assumed the earrings were fake; after seeing the ring, now I’m not so sure!  In any case, I’ve never seen blingy earrings like that in a hospital.  Bravo.

Fun fact:  you know when you are asked how often you drink and you answer “socially?” Well now they drill down on specifics.  Just know that if you admit to drinking at least four drinks a week (that’s a week, not a day), you will be considered a “heavy” drinker for medical purposes.  Please take note.   Funnily enough, they describe “twilight” anethesia as being like a “night of hard drinking, with blackouts”.  Which you really wouldn’t understand unless you really were a heavy drinker.

The anesthesiologists work in a team, so I had the attending in addition to the resident.  He (and everyone else) kept asking me if Dr. T had been by yet.  I said that he hadn’t, but that his colleague (or lackey) came by to talk and sign some papers.   Based on my description of the doctor’s long nose, and affirming that he had a “long neck,” the attending deduced with a verbal eyeroll that I had met one of the “celebrity” doctors.  It turns out that this lackey was actually featured in a short-lived reality ABC TV show called Boston Med.  According to IMDB.com, he appeared as himself.

Dr. T finally came (at 10:02), and I was wheeled into the OR.  I was suspicious and nervous that I had not received any sort of pre-sedation.  Since I don’t remember ever having been in an OR, I can say now that it’s a scary place. It’s all white, and there are these huge, alien-looking, police-interrogation lamps above you.  Oh, and did you know that they strap your legs to the table???  A quick-thinking and genius nurse who remembered my claustrophobia/fear of restraint offered to uncover my feet.  I love nurses, and this one actually remembered me from the original surgery!  As she said, they don’t get many jaw fractures from running, and I was memorable because of the three kids.  I don’t know why uncovering my feet worked, but it actually took away the panicky feeling.

Last time getting my twilight sedation felt like me getting woozy and feeling drunk.  Today, the medication burned in my IV.  The attending anesthesiologist described this sensation as “spicy” and warned me that it was about to get a lot spicier.  And it did!  The attending immediately started rubbing the IV site, which felt a little like it was getting worse, but perhaps he was trying to facilitate the meds coming through.

In any case, the last words I remember hearing were from Dr. T to the attending anesthesiologist regarding if I needed to be intubated.  Although the attending agreed that I could open my mouth wide enough to be intubated orally, I clearly heard Dr. T say that was good because I have a “severely deviated septum.”  Inner beauty, huh??

The next thing I remembered was being wheeled into recovery and everyone telling me that I did great.  Apparently, it’s an accomplishment to lay still and sleep while under heavy sedation?  My mouth felt a LOT lighter.  I was anxious to leave and since I didn’t have general anesthesia, I was free to leave pretty quickly.  I made sure to act peppy, talkative and not too woozy in front of the nurses, and I was able to take my child-free nap.

I’m so happy to have this part behind me, but there’s still a lot of work ahead.  My teeth and gums are in pretty bad shape, so Gental Dental, here I come.  I also have to see a physical therapist to work on chewing, and I hope she’ll be able to get my smile back to normal.  I don’t mean this to sound offensive or disrespectful, but my smile makes me look I had a stroke – my right side, the side I broke – is oddly droopy.  And of course, there’s the big return to work on Monday.

Thank you all for your continued reading and for sending positive messages my way!

Accepting my limits

I’ve faced many challenges recovering from my jaw injury, and perhaps one of the most difficult has been learning to let go and accept my limitations.  I’m a stereotypical first-born, Type A person who has a bad habit of continuously identifying new mountains to climb.  Being out on disability and dealing with my injury is forcing me to deal with my own limits.  I can’t work, I can’t take care of my children by myself, I can barely eat anything and I can’t take advantage of this time off to do projects around the house. And I don’t like it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not even close to perfect normally.  Those who have lived with me know that I am a clothes hoarder and have struggled to overcome [ahem] organizational issues.  I still have challenges keeping our home organized, but I’m getting better.  Or I thought I was.  When one of my sisters stayed with me over the holidays, she mentioned that she had a nightmare that she was drowned by the stuff in the hallway.  Ouch.  In my defense, we are in a process of transitioning stuff out of the office to create a bedroom for my son.

I’ve always been able to compensate for my imperfect domestic life by throwing myself into my career.  But now I don’t even have that going for me.  Right before my jaw injury happened, I started a new job.  Having a new job is difficult for anyone, but it’s been particularly difficult for me to adjust.  Not only am I not at the top of my game, I feel like I’m not even sure which game is being played.  I don’t know how to do the most basic things, I’m learning a whole new business, a new culture and the policies and norms within it, and trying to build relationships.  And now I’ve had this setback of having been out of work longer than I was even there!

This reminds me of a horrible experience I had meeting with a guidance counselor in high school.  I think he may have been encouraging me to apply to “realistic” (read:  non-Ivy) schools.  True, I did not test particularly well on the SAT.  But, I felt like I was smart and that I could do well with whatever I put my mind to.  He drew this line depicting the range of intelligence and hashed a line where he thought I fell.  “But it’s above average,” he cried in response to my immediate anger.  After meeting more intelligent people at Holy Cross, Accenure, and law school, I have no doubt that he was probably right. However, I do not consider myself to be on the B Squad.  It’s not about a need or desire to be “better” than others.  I just want to excel at the things I love to do, and I believe in my ability to do that.

But right now I need to admit that I can’t do  much of anything.  And I need to try to be OK with that.  And, I really should take advantage of this time to get as much rest as possible.

Coming into the home stretch!

I had an appointment with Dr. T yesterday. The good news is: there is an end in sight. The bad news is: I’m still fully banded through the 20th!

He was very impressed with my banding technique and deemed the way I had my teeth set “perfect.” He took pictures of my mouth (did I mention how I signed a release to allow these pictures to be potentially used in publications or textbooks???) and removed the bands to test how far I could open my mouth. It was about 15 mm. Interestingly, he stuck his hand in mouth to see if he could stretch it further. Ouch and EWWW! We took another picture with a ruler in front of my mouth. Fun cocktail party fact: a normal adult should be able to open his or her mouth between 30-45 mm. The 30 mm is normal for a small female like me, so I’m halfway there. He goes on to describe the follow-up therapy I’ll need when it’s all said and done. Apparently, an occupational therapist will need to teach me how to chew gum properly. No joke.  I hope the therapist also has a seminar for eating movie popcorn!

P was kind enough to drive me to the appointment.  Faulkner Hospital‘s tagline should be:  we’re technically in the city, but feel like a world away!  P asked the doctor about the final step of removing the arch bars and wires, and Dr. T confirmed that it will be an outpatient procedure to be performed in a little over two weeks.  Dr. T explained to me that there’s a good chance that I can be intubated normally, as opposed to through the nose.  If we have to go through the nose, it will be difficult because (say it with me!) of my deviated septum.  I had been considering asking Dr. T about fixing my nose someday, so I started to tell him about how I couldn’t understand where my nose went wrong.  We were watching home movies over Christmas that my sister had burned onto DVDs for my mom.  The year was 1988, and I was 12 going on 13.  My nose was so dead-on straight that you could’ve used it to set time.  Ok, you could’ve used it as a level.  I’ve never been hit in the nose – I’ve actually only been punched in the face once, by my junior high school boyfriend’s older sister, but that was in my eye.  And that’s a whole other story!

Ok, so I guess it does look like it’s starting to grow crooked!  And damn, I miss that skin – even the freckles!

Dr. T  believes faces just sometimes grow weird.  He thinks it may have to do with how different levels of blood flow through the sides of the body.  He told me that he has a patient with one  side of his face larger than the other (how on earth do they fix THAT?).  Then Dr. T sighed, probably out of exasperation, and said something unexpected.  He said that most people believe that beauty = symmetry, but that true beauty is often in the imperfections.  Now, I’ve never seen any data on that, but it was a nice thing for him to say.  And now that I think about it, Tyra and co often dismiss the “generically beautiful” people from Top Model, favoring those with a distinctive look.  So his comment put further plastic surgery out of my mind for the moment.   That, and looking at recent pictures of Rose McGowan!

I’m sure that P regretted his decision to come with me when I threw him under the bus telling Dr. T that P has the worst bite ever.  Dr. T took a look  in his mouth and almost fell off his stool.  My god that’s bad – he said.  Sorry, P.  I was just tired of focusing on how weird I looked.

Did you know that there are several types and sizes of bands used in jaw surgery and/or orthodontistry?  Dr. T informed us that we could tell the difference between the “adult” bands and the “youth” bands because the youth bands have helpful pictures on the packages of hang gliders or skateboarders.  The hang gliders are the heaviest bands, by the way.  Presumably because you can do more damage hang gliding than skateboarding.  He told me that he wanted me to start using the heaviest bands possible.  Even though I was doing fine with the bands that I was using.  And even though I’m in the home stretch.  I was disappointed, because I was expecting to lighten the load in my mouth.  He made me put five heavy bands in, which instantly made me feel like I had a mouth full of cement.  He did say that I am allowed to take the bands off to eat mushables.  Hooray!  But I am to keep the bands on at all other times.  Neither he nor I could get the heavy bands to fit in the back of my mouth, so then he said that I could actually continue to use the bands that I had if it worked better for me.  This was not my first indication that he may not know 100% what he is talking about.

I have since ditched the heavy hang gliding bands.  They compress my teeth too much, giving me a constant headache and making me feel that I am grinding my teeth at all times.  Also, I was having crazy jaw spasms in my sleep last night.

Oh, to be temporarily free and eat mushables is glorious!  So, what did I have for my first meal?  Two things that I have been absolutely obsessed with:  scrambled eggs with Frank’s Red Hot and sliced baked sweet potatoes with chili powder.  I think after weeks of mostly sweet stuff, my body is craving the spicy and savory.  I also tried overcooked Barilla Plus pasta with semi-homemade tomato sauce with just a touch of ground turkey.  Yum.  I must remember that I need to stick with South Beach!  After only one day of eating the aforementioned, I’ve found that my jeans are already tight.  They are skinny jeans, but still…

Only two weeks to go!

Surviving a cold

It was something I feared, but was ultimately inevitable. I caught a cold while my mouth was banded shut.

My son recently came down with RSV and a double ear infection. All three of my kids attend daycare full time. And I’m pretty sure sure that it’s the height of flu and cold season.

The first challenge was, how on earth do I take care of the baby while he cannot attend daycare? That answer was simple: I couldn’t. Thank GOD my sister was up visiting from Florida last week. She stayed with us for several days and did a great job taking care of the baby.

The second challenge of course was taking care of myself. Although those of us undergoing jaw surgery are encouraged to “suppress sneezes,” I have to admit that I’ve given into the urge once or twice. I may have mentioned this in another post, but sneezing with your jaw immobilized feels like both sets of teeth smashing against a concrete floor. Having a cold gives this experience the added pleasure of snot literally exploding all over your face. Coughing is ridculous. I guess I need to open my mouth to cough, because it’s not effective otherwise. My mom tried to teach me something where you try to put your tongue at the roof of your mouth or something. Didn’t work for me. I’ve had the displeasure of having to swallow phlegmn on more than one occasion. And then there are the general issues of having to sleep upright and the fact that I’m calorie deprived

Here are some things that worked for me:
1. Sleep, sleep and more sleep. This was a bit tricky when the baby was home, and on Monday when everyone but my husband had the day off. The only reason I was able to get sleep was thanks to all the people who were there to help with the kids. Today, I was finally home alone again and declared a bed rest day, where my biggest accomplishment was taking a shower.
2. Hot liquids: tea and soup. Most notable is the excellent minestrone soup made by my brother in law. He used white beans, which made the soup very creamy when blended and strained. The teas actually came from my stocking this year and feature something called pink pepper chai.
3. C.O. Bigelow Menthe Lip gloss from Bath & Body Works. Some friends recommended this to me as I was looking for a gloss that would give me a little color without transferring on my bands. This fit the bill, and had the added bonus of soothing my lips and nose (through the smell) while I was sick.
4. Sticking with the Bath & Body Works theme, taking hot baths with Twisted Peppermint bubble bath has also been extremely soothing.
5. Keeping tissues wherever I go. I think I went through every box of tissues at my sisyer’s house. Today I’ve had to keep one in the waistband of my sweats because I didn’t have pockets and the sneezes sneak up on you quickly. Like now….

Ugh. Another snot explosion!

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.