Day 340: FREEDOM!

Well, it’s been almost a year since my surgery and more than 2.5 years since I had my braces on, but the end is in sight. I mean, technically, the end is already here, but I’m still going to be working on whitening my choppers. The original plan was to do it professionally, but I have no money, so toothpaste it is.

But the point is: I’M DONE! And my face has truly undergone a pretty wild transformation. Admittedly, the orthodontics shows more immediate results than the surgery (since I didn’t opt to have the cosmetic chin-extension done, the jaw surgery itself was more practical than aesthetic). So let’s start with the inner workings.

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So as you can see, my face has been mushed about quite a bit because of this. You can see what the orthodontics alone has done to my teeth in picture 3 (taken two months before the surgery), and the change from pictures 1 to 3 seems more drastic, but it’s pretty amazing what the surgery did to the inner part of my jaw. It also added plenty of metal to my face. I’M SO METAL IT HURTS! (Seriously, it did hurt.)

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Truthfully, I expected the difference in my profile to be more stark than it was, but again, I chose not to have a chin implant put in. So I still don’t really have much of a chin, but that doesn’t bother me too much. The 2nd picture in this before-and-after was following the removal of 8 teeth. The third was the day before my surgery, the fourth was two weeks after the surgery. I’ve come a long way.

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This is my resting face, or what some might call my resting pissed face. I generally look pretty angry when I just let my teeth come to their natural position. Maybe it’s because I usually wasn’t in the best of moods when taking these pictures. I dunno. I think the most startling thing about these pictures is that my jaw definitely widened out after the surgery (compare my jaw width in pic 5 to pic 2 – it’s pretty noticeable).

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Here’s a glimpse into the teeth themselves, albeit one that I wish I could shrink a bit to get a better look. I’m going to ignore the coloration, which I’m still unhappy about (perhaps decades of Mountain Dew wasn’t a good idea after all!) but the change in teeth is pretty wild. And lest you think that, for the first two pictures, I was opening my mouth, I wasn’t. This was a closed-teeth smile. That’s what it used to look like. Jeebus.

So how do I feel after the whole ordeal? Well, my jaw still doesn’t open too far (I’ve only just barely cleared the lowest threshold for “normal” opening). It is beginning to hurt a little bit in general on the right side too. That’s disheartening because if it gets worse, I’m likely to have to have my disc removed in my jaw somewhere down the line (MORE SURGERY! JOY!) The right side IS finally popping a little bit – not massive pops but more than just crushing-movement in my mouth, they’re legitimate pops. Maybe that means the condyle is moving closer to where it needs to be. Who knows?

I can eat a burger, and that was the lowest my bar was set. I breathe much better, don’t snore at all, and haven’t really even been sick since the procedure. Not sure if that’s related, but having a wider opening certainly makes it easier when my air passages ARE congested.

Would I do it again? I have heard many people say that they’d gladly do the whole procedure again. (I’ve even read of people who have). No way in hell. It was miserable and my recovery has been atypical and unpleasant. I WILL thank myself for going through it (and I will thank my surgeon) when I’m fifty and not needing oxygen at nights, but still, I did it once and that’s all I really want.

Here’s the final product:

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Day 146: I’m About Over All This Surgery Now

I met with my surgeon earlier this week to clue him in on my recovery, or lack thereof. Before my 2nd procedure (the physical manipulation and steroid injection), I could open my mouth 15-16 tongue blades (roughly 22mm if my memory serves me right). It’s also about one sandwich width, provided I don’t stack it too high with tasty meats. After the procedure, I was only able to get it to about 14 blades. If you recall, I was pretty disappointed.

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I hadn’t planned on taking such a sad picture, but given my 6 hours of sleep ALL weekend, it’s just how it came out.

My surgeon was also disappointed, and he outlined me two choices from here. Really, though, they’re not choices, they’re what I’m going to do. First is PT, which I’m trying regardless. We are strongly hoping this will help because after PT, comes another SURGERY (not just a shot this time, but back to actually being opened up).

Before I expound on the above statements, let’s take a brief detour to talk about my luck. My surgeon, who is a great person, was technically retired when he did my procedure. In fact, he confided that he would have pawned me off on his assistant had my insurance company not been such a headache (switching surgeons may have caused the insurance company to not approve the surgery, which took 8 months the first time). So him being retired is something of a problem, as he’s only in the office once a week (Tuesdays) at best, and even then only for a few hours. He’s available on his cell because he really isn’t available any other way.

He has a physical therapist that he loves and who specializes in jaws. So he called her to see if she could take on a new patient. The good news? She can. The bad news? She’s going on an indefinite sabbatical in 3 weeks. While she “might” work one day in June and one day in July, it won’t be at her current office (she’s selling her practice) and there’s no guarantee of anything after that. So there’s some urgency in getting to see her. And some urgency in her being a miracle worker – like Miracle Max but without the being dead part.

I went twice last week, and her manipulation of the muscles (she thinks a major problem is the rigidity of the muscles in my mouth – if you open your mouth put your thumb all the way back to one corner of your mouth, those are the muscles we’re talking about here) is not in any way pleasant. I need to ice it as I massage because it risks inflammation. I’m also supposed to be taking anti-inflammatories regularly. Instead of tongue blades, I now take clothespins, jam them between my molars, and open them. I have a few other exercises I need to do regularly, none of which I’d classify as remotely enjoyable.

It sounds pretty drastic because, well, it is. She’s cramming months of PT into a few sessions. She *hopes* that she can talk to my normal PT (for my back) to see if someone there is trained in jaws and can continue what she’s doing, but again, no guarantees. So in the meantime, I have six sessions where she’s going to try to knead the crap out of my face.

And that’s the best case scenario. In one day she got me from 20mm to 22mm, which is something but not incredible. So the hope is that in the four remaining sessions, I can be enough on the right track to where I can get someone new to continue it, and with great success.

Remember that graphic I put in a blog about my jaw about six weeks ago? This one:

JawGraphic

I spoke about how he thinks the condyle is not actually getting to where it needs to be in the disk, how it’s not “clicking” into place. Well, if PT doesn’t stretch the muscles (and disk) enough to facilitate that click, the next surgery is to remove the disk altogether. If you’re like me, you’re thinking “But that doesn’t sound like a good idea, don’t you need that disk for something?” Because that’s exactly what I thought, being someone who liked all my body parts. Hell, I won’t get rid of my appendix unless I absolutely have to. And my surgeon’s response was that he doesn’t think it’s where it’s supposed to be anymore, thus not actually serving the purpose it’s supposed to, so it won’t exactly be a problem to get rid of it. Hard to argue that logic. It’s why Boston cut Pablo Sandoval, after all. (non sequitur zing!)

But it still stands that I don’t want any more stinkin’ surgery. I’m so done with it. So here’s to hoping my crash course in PT does something. But I have this nagging hunch that before long I’ll be going back under the knife. Under the tutelage of someone who retired almost a year ago. After the failure of someone who is very likely retiring during my treatment.

PAIN: 0

INCONVENIENCE: 3

REGRET/FML FACTOR: 5

Day 120: Surgery Eve

I think it’s an inevitability that the weeks leading up to major surgeries for me are also weeks where the entire county seems to be hit with a rampant stomach bug. Yesterday there were more than a dozen kids out of Ash’s school with it, but (knock on wood) I seem to be okay. Our military-esque regimen of hand-washing probably has something to do with it.

Unlike the last surgery, the stomach bug is really the only thing I’ve been really concerned with. I sort of see this as on-par with a root canal: something I don’t actually WANT to have done, but something that I should be able to cope with pretty easily. It’s hard to google the recovery, because what I’m getting done is sorta between full TMJ surgery and just a steroid injection. He has to open up access to my jaw(s?) and see if he can manipulate it. He has to clean it out. He has to give me the injection.

So recovery from TMJ surgery can be nearly as bad as what I’ve already gone through, but his office told me it might only be a few days. So we’ve stocked up on yogurts and can hit the store for soups and smoothie recipes if need be. As of now, though, my plan is to be a normal person as of next week, even if it’s a normal person who eats soft foods for a while again.

I’m not at all nervous, but that may be partially due to not really knowing what to expect. I was extremely well researched for the orthognathic jaw surgery and got a full 2 hr briefing before the procedure. Here, he talked about it for 5 minutes and we scheduled it. He seems to think it isn’t a big deal, so that what I’m going to think, because I am a mindless sheep.

(Note, that link makes WAY more sense if you know what the few lines said right before this clip are. I decided to hell with it, it’s a great clip and I’m keeping it in.)

So here’s to not know what to expect for the second time. Hopefully the pain meds are good and I enjoy not doing much again.

PAIN: 0

INCONVENIENCE: 3

REGRET FACTOR: 5 (MORE surgery?!)

Day 53: Subtitle

You know the old fairy tale about the guy who has double orthognathic jaw surgery, is on the road to recovery, is at the point where he can eat softer foods like pastas, yet he craves meat, so he pushes himself much harder than he probably should? No? Makes sense as it was banned in a few elementary schools and at least one synagogue. But the moral of the story is: meat is tasty, but it can probably wait.

In terms of daily pain, I seem to have stalled out. I’m no longer at a zero, and in fact things like opening my mouth to smoosh food in there hurts more today than they did even a week or two ago. I think it’s largely because I’ve been trying to eat chicken (cut up into small pieces or the pretty-soft Costco brand chicken alfredo). The chewing itself is okay; it’s certainly cumbersome but doable, but this action seems to make my jaw sore to open up wide for a few days afterwards. It’s a double-edged sword, except instead of a sword, it’s yummy food I still don’t get to eat! So really, it’s like a simile that doesn’t work at all.

And speaking of pain, in that first week where I rarely got out of bed, the one thing that never hurt was my back. This is impressive as my back has hurt for more than a decade now, sometimes so bad I have trouble standing up. Well, since lying down (or reclining significantly) is the MOST comfortable position for me to be in, my back at least was excited about my jaw surgery. Now that I’m up and about (and packing up for a likely house move later this year), my back has decided to resume being a little bitch to me. It’s amazing how much I move during the day (even at a desk job) that directly affects my back, and that’s not even counting my Hokey Pokey practice.

And while I’m bitching about pre-existing conditions, you know how my skin sucks monkey nut? Yeah, well, it’s not quite as bad as it was on day 6, but it’s looking pretty Middle-Earthen. And I think I know why – gluten. I had gone gluten-free for two years, and while my skin was never perfect back then, it certainly was better than the splotchy quilt that it is now. So now I’m in a catch-22, and one that’s almost as bad as the Joseph Heller book (CLASSIC LITERATURE SLAM!) I either go back to soups, smoothies, and if I’m adventurous then also GF pastas, or keep eating things that I enjoy more and look like the alien from the first Men in Black movie with hives. Given those choices, I think you see how much I disliked Catch 22.

Anyway, recovery is slow. Annoying. And I’m frustrated. But still, if you were to ask me the day before my surgery that I would be where I am today today, I’d have signed on the dotted line that day.

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 4

REGRET FACTOR: 2

Day 49: The Time Where I’m Supposed to Feel Perfect, Right?

20160215_203800I just flew back from a trip to NY (and boy are my arms not prepared to make such a cliched joke!) It was a last-minute trip to say goodbye to the NY office, which unfortunately was closed in a somewhat shocking move by the parent company. I still have a job, but I’m not exactly oozing with confidence (much like my normal social life, where ooze is exactly what I do, and sometimes even with confidence). It was a short trip and a nice chance to see some friends and say my goodbyes. And I got to play my first game of Crack Uno, which we’re pretty sure we haven’t actually had a game since my move in 2008.

It was also a chance to see how well I’d exist on a “normal” diet, meaning I wouldn’t always have the ability to get soups and smoothies wherever I went. This was only half a problem. My travel days themselves were difficult – if I didn’t have time to actually sit at an airport restaurant and eat, I basically had to eat yogurts and order high-fat drinks (chocolate milk, etc). I did attempt a muffin (very crumbly, it did not go well), and then switched to yogurts when I could find them. So, in short, I really didn’t eat on my travel days until I reached my destination, at which point I engorged on pasta.

Of course, this brings up another problem. I had given up gluten a few years ago because of stomach issues. Now that I’ve put gluten back into my diet, I’ve not had stomach issues because I’ve made a serious effort to curb my wheat eating. Well, this trip was pasta with a side of pasta. By the third day, my stomach wasn’t happy (though the copious goodbye alcohol probably didn’t help).

It’s a weird place I’m in. Still not ready for much chewing (opening the mouth is harder than chewing, truthfully. I probably could eat a PB&J sandwich if I smooshed it flat enough. But for the most part definitely over the liquids (aside from my Ensures which I still go back to like an insecure boyfriend, I really don’t want to eat soups, and not always want smoothies).

One other thing that I’m not too happy about – pain. I have had very little pain throughout this process. And by day 50, I had assumed I wouldn’t have any. But I do, and it’s random and very short bursts. It happened a few times when flying (which is to be expected), but other times parts of my jaws will just have a quick stabbing pain. It’s sometimes on the sides by my ears, sometimes on my lower jaw by where my incision points were. Sometime’s it’s when I’m yawning, sometimes chewing, and sometimes doing nothing. And I still have a significant chunk of my lower left jaw that feels like the novocaine is only just starting to wear off. But it’s felt like that for weeks.

I can’t help but feel disheartened – I expected some plateau-ing of my feeling-better, but it almost seems like the line-graph of my recovery is going back down slightly. I’m sure that’s just the perspective of a frustrated recoveree, but I’m definitely getting antsy. I have my energy back, I can talk for long periods of time (though my jaw does get tired), and I’m for the most part “normal”. But I still can’t eat what I want and I still get random stabs of pain. Just about every part of me feels healed except my jaw.

Anyway, I’m about to hit my Golden Day Anniversary. I’ll celebrate by probably not blogging, since I can’t expect much to change by tomorrow.

PAIN: 0-3 depending on what feels like spasming

INCONVENIENCE: 4

REGRET FACTOR: 2 (travel sucks)

Day 43 (I think): FREEDOM!

I think my surgeon implanted dimples during the surgery.
I think my surgeon implanted dimples during the surgery.

This day has been a long time coming. In fact, one could argue that I’ve lived my entire life and all of its ceaseless surprising twists and turns simply leading up to this very day. For today is … well, I’ll let Bill Pullman say it:

We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!

Today, at just after 9am, the splint came out of my mouth at the trusty hands of Dr. M. I will not have to wear it anymore! He is very impressed with how everything’s going, saying I’ve been doing very well cleaning my teeth (something I’m pretty sure I’ve gone my entire life without ever hearing).

He told me further that the elective procedure I talked about a few updates ago doesn’t have a specific time window, so I wouldn’t have to do it at the 6 month mark (which we almost certainly couldn’t afford). So that might be something to bear in mind a couple of years down the line. Y’know, when we’re already paying for everyone else in our family to have dental work done.

Then I was shipped off immediately to Dr. O (the orthodontist) to get my archwire fixed (the wire across my top teeth, which was cut for the surgery). He also put in some bands. I was told I’d still have bands, which I grumbled at, but it turns out these aren’t so bad. They’re further in the back and their job isn’t to keep my jaws closed, they’re to pull teeth in a certain way. So I’m still able to open my mouth even with the bands (I can even eat with them!) I’ll basically only be taking them off to brush.

The most annoying part of today is the fact that I spent four years of speech and voice training. I know all of my scantion and frictives and plosives. Yet I can hear myself speaking and lisping, and making weird sounds. It’s driving me nuts. Someone who didn’t spend all of college reciting stupid speech poems about Tony Danza and Tina Turner (Stacey knows what I’m talking about) would probably not care or even notice. It’s driving me nuts.

But all in all, today is a good day, although my jaw is quite sore from opening it as wide as I can for long periods at a time. I celebrated by having my favorite soup (french onion from Costco actually) and some garlicky potatoes I made that are… interesting? And chocolate milk.

I leave for NY tomorrow where I was supposed to do some training, but have found that I’ll probably only have a couple of hours of actual office time. So…. okay, getting to say goodbye to friends and co-workers it is!

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 2

REGRET FACTOR: 0 (this may finally become negative when I start routinely enjoying what I’m eating, but for now, it’s only neutral)

Day 30: 3rd Follow-Up Appointment

Ultra-Myspace shot

This appointment was definitely the middle child of appointments. I didn’t get the freedom of the first child (my splint doesn’t come out until my next visit on 2/9), and I didn’t get coddled like the last child (I didn’t even get my teeth brushed this time!) However, it was a pretty informative visit.

He took another X-ray that showed the changes in my airway. Before, the narrowest part of my airway was just more than 3mm (it’s supposed to be 10-12mm). Now, the narrowest part was just over 7mm, with two other parts he measured being between 7-9mm. Nobody, including the surgeon, expected me to go from 3mm to 12mm. It’s not realistic, no matter how much he reshuffled my jaws. So he was quite happy with this result, especially when you bear in mind that once the splint comes out, my lower jaw will actually go even further up to touch my upper teeth. That will cause a slight increase in the airway.

He was happy with how I looked, how wide I could open, my speech, just about everything. Then he asked me to try to jut my lower jaw out. I don’t think I moved it even a nanometer. It was a weird feeling not really being able to move my jaw in a certain way when my brain was like, “hey, dumb jaw, I’m sending you some damn signals! Turn your ringer on!” It’s good to have specific stuff to work on.

He then mentioned a procedure I could opt to undergo (after maybe 6 more months) that would increase my airway even a little more, though it’s largely a cosmetic procedure. It would give me a chin, which I haven’t had since I was a kid. Basically, he would make a lateral cut in my chin and pull out the jaw/chin about 5mm. This is attached to several muscles, which would in turn pull my airway open a little more. Plus, I would admittedly like my profile more.

This came with a # of caveats. First, he wants to see how I’ll look in 6 months with (theoretically) no swelling and my face as it will basically look forever. I imagine he’ll take more X-rays to gauge my airway width. Of course, this being a largely cosmetic procedure means I’ll have to pay out of pocket, and while he could do it in his office (no hospital costs), it’s no small chunk of change. I think the procedure will be too expensive to consider (at least this year). It’s something to think about, though, and ask if there’s a certain window where this procedure would need to be done during – can it wait 2 years? Food for thought.

After my appointment I had a couple of hours to kill before grabbing my son so I went and did something crazy, I played some disc golf. It was my first time touching a disc since November. I bumped into a guy I knew and told him I’d play, but he’d have to go pretty slow for me. I throw at around 60% power (anything more than that jarred my jaw a little) and played just the flat holes. I shot an even on a pretty easy layout with no real wind. Any other day I’d be pretty upset with that score, but yesterday it felt so good to just be out and active that I will say it was a phenomenal round, especially since I couldn’t throw more than 250′.

I clocked over 8k steps yesterday, by far my most since the surgery. It wore me out, playing just 11 holes of pretty short golf, but today I don’t have any repercussions other than a pretty sore pectoral (standard for my first day of throwing after any long layoff). I don’t know when I’ll be in tournament shape (certainly not anytime soon), but suffice to say I should be back sooner than I thought.

Oh, and today I had MAC AND CHEESE FOR LUNCH! That’s apparently my threshold, less so for the chewing (it was pretty soft) and more so because I can’t fit anything larger than a shell into my mouth right now.

PAIN: 1

INCONVENIENCE: 4

REGRET FACTOR: 1

Day 29: Life on the Road

Focusing on the blank space was an artistic choice.
Focusing on the blank space was an artistic choice.

I’m back at my office this week. I anticipated this being pretty easy, as the super awesome Jaymar had gotten us a NutriBullet, which I took with me to puree soups and other such lunches. Turns out I was wrong, but not about the preparation of the food, but about the cleanup. At home, it goes like this:

  • choose a soup and dump it into a blender cup. Blend it.
  • Transfer contents to a microwavable cup. Microwave it and clean the blender cup and blade immediately. (If I make two cups’ worth, I’ll leave half in the blender cup and do two sets of transfer-and-microwave before cleaning the cup.)
  • Eat.
  • Take dishes to sink (with insinkerator) and clean them immediately.
  • Brush choppers and put bands back on. (Are there too many choppers?)

The whole process probably takes an hour, although I tend to let my brain rest a bit during my meals.

Now at the office, the only sink I have is a communal bathroom sink. That people use for regular hygiene. So they probably don’t want bits of blended up food in it. As such, I have to bring ALL my dirty dishes to the bathroom, clean them meticulously (with my own soap and scrub brush I bought), and then do my best to clean the sink as there’s no “DESTROY THE EVIDENCE” switch like in my kitchen. Then I bring everything back to my office where I try my best to dry it. Then I go BACK to the bathroom with a tooth-cleaning regiment, brush my teeth, put my bands back on, and head back to the office.

Suffice to say I’ll probably be splitting my time pretty evenly with home work (where eating is much easier) and office work (where I have a better chair and 2 monitors).

Aaaaaaaaaaaand I just had my first sneeze since my surgery (bands on). That… that did not go well. Apparently my office sink isn’t the only thing that extremely messy.

I have my 4-wk meeting with the surgeon today, so I’ll likely blog about that tomorrow.

PAIN: 2.5 (every morning I wake up with some pain b/c I sleep on my side, but it goes away within about 30 mins of waking up, usually not to come back until sleep time)

INCONVENIENCE: 5 (that sneeze)

REGRET FACTOR: 2

Day 26: Does it Blend?

DOES IT BLEND?

A special two-part blog post here, as I’ve become more adventurous in my Tim Burton-esque combinations of smoothie lately. First, I tried the delicious 5-cheese tortellini (sold at Costco) with simple marinara sauce. We eat this is a meal with some regularity, so it wasn’t exactly jumping off the comfort front altogether. As I learned with lasagna, anything with pasta requires pretty massive addition of liquids to make it drinkable. Here, it was milk. I’ve had this for a few meals, and it tastes almost exactly as it does regular, which is to say pretty darn good. The texture never became an issue (the more I liquid-ed it down) so it was definitely a success. 8/10 (although it should be noted that I’m getting sick of drinking everything, so it’s an 8/10 as far as pureed real-food meals, not what I would serve myself in, say, a year.

The second meal I tried tonight was macaroni and cheese. And chicken. I would have put hot dogs in instead of chicken but we didn’t have any and we DID have a rotisserie chicken in the fridge. For my diluter I again chose milk because, well, I guess I just didn’t have enough dairy. The reason I added chicken at all was because I feared it just tasting like the insta-mac cheese flavoring, and that sounded about as appetizing as drinking movie theatre butter (which I’ve done, and I highly recommend never doing it yourself). I had been craving mac and cheese for a while. To be specific, I’d been craving homemade mac and cheese, baked in the oven so the top layer is nice and crusty. Instead, we got insta-boxed mac and cheese. The verdict? This did not work in any sort of way whatsoever. 3/10. I could drink about 3 drinks worth (so it beats the Aztec soup), but that’s about it.

However, I’m not totally willing to abandon the idea of liquid mac and cheese, it’s just I didn’t have the recipes, energy or, probably, ingredients to make my own. To that end, if anyone in the greater Reno/Sparks area likes making baked mac and cheese, or considers it a specialty, or just wants to give it a go for us, I encourage you to make it and drop it off. My kids will devour it, and I’ll definitely try blending it up. I’ll have to buy hot dogs first.

Anyhow, aside from eating, I’ve spent much of my time speaking, which is taking its toll on my jaws today – they’re quite sore. I feel like taking off my bands and just letting myself be slack-jawed for a couple of hours, but really that would probably only add to the discomfort, not help. My speech is somewhat clear, even with bands, but I have no stamina.

Making my way through Season 4 of The State. Man, for the most part the first and fourth seasons of that show were pretty rough, but the second and third seasons were pretty great. A pretty short half-life that show had. I’m tempted to go through my old list of favorite State skits and amend it as there are some notable and inexcusable omissions from that list. Copy Shop, PMS, Inbred Brothers, The Jew The Italian and the Redhead Gay, Prom Photos, The Personal State, Sports Beat, The Answers to the SATs, and Fragments all could make the list, or at the worst be honorable mentions. And The Animal Song needs to be much higher than it was. Some day maybe I’ll rank them all. Because, y’know, problems.

P.S. For the big State fan (and you kind of need to be a big State fan to appreciate this), I found a place where you could watch all of their entries into the You Wrote It, You Watch It video canon. They make some of the first season of The State look like Python by comparison.

Recovery plods on. I can’t wait until I can eat real food.

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 4

REGRET FACTOR: 2

Day 20: The Recovery Curve Plateau

It was an exhausting weekend, mainly because I was far less of a chair-potato than I have been the last three weeks. I’d gone from walking maybe 1/4 mile to a mile, all the sudden averaging 1.5-2.5 miles a day the last few. Plus, I’ve been actually trying to DO stuff in there besides level up my Redguard. I shoveled the driveway on Friday, did the dishes a few times over the last few days, folded laundry today, etc.

Ash even took a well-earned trip to the movies by herself (to see Star Wars) so it was me and the kids. This was a fine idea, only the kids were NOT going to make it easy on me. I think they were still exhausted from the party yesterday – 90 straight minutes of gymnastics will do that to little legs). So I was talking as much as I could to them. My jaw’s not exactly sore right now, but it definitely feels like it’s been worked out.

Speaking of tangents, twice last night I had dreams where people were jamming things into my mouth, choking me (one was a guy and his fingers, for some reason, and I don’t remember the other), and both times I woke up basically gagging over my splint. Once I woke up I realized what it was and I was able to calm back down, but man, there’s a better ways to wake up. I can thinks of 438,902 off the top of my head. A surprising number of those involved Betty White.

Get your minds out of the gutter people. She brings me breakfast in bed, or she does a softshoe routine in my room, or I wake up on a cruise ship deck chair drinking martinis with her, or she just sits and talks to me to wake me up. She’s seriously cool.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so I woke up pretty freaked out and in some pain – apparently I must have slept most of the night on my right side, so my right jaw/ear was throbbing when I woke up. It’s since died down, but still not fun.

Also, today was the day of Blendpocalypse. After helping the boys with lunch and naps, it was finally time (overtime) for my lunch. I boiled some “Aztec” soup. Once it was heated (slightly down from boiling), I popped it in a cup, put the lid on, and was going to blend it. Here’s the funny thing about physics – when you put something that actively has MUCH heat vapor coming off it into a sealed container, it exhibits two types of pressure. The first is the type of pressure when the container can no longer hold in the expanding vapor and the lid pops off (when the container is upside-down, ready to blend). This sort of pressure results in piping hot soup covering your Ninja blender. This second type of pressure this demonstrates is the pressure to clean up furnace-temperature soup before anyone sees what a debacle you’ve made.

The worst part of Blendpocalypse? When I finally got the 2nd cupful of soup at an acceptable temperature and prepared it for consumption? It was horrible, I couldn’t stand it. So I had to dump it out and go find more soup to heat up.

It’s just been that kind of day.

I'm only smiling because a) I can and b) it's my last official day not working.
I’m only smiling because a) I can and b) it’s my last official day not working.

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 6

REGRET FACTOR: 3

Day 19: Things to Consider (a post for potential surgery candidates)

There isn’t a whole lot to report on the recovery front, other than me obliterating my total step count from any day so far. Because of my son’s “best birthday ever” (his assessment), I was very active today, though don’t for one second think that that means I had much to do with planning, organizing, or in any way getting this shindig going. That was ALL Ash. But I was present (and standing/walking) for the entire thing, no small feat. I feel like I ran a marathon. I’d totally run marathons if they were 2 and a quarter miles.

What I want to do in this blog post is, even though I’m not fully 3 weeks into my recovery, I wanted to give my initial “things to consider” if you’re one of the people who stumble on this blog before undergoing your own procedure. This will obviously be through the lens of my own recovery, which skews things, so I need to start with a very important #1:

  • Every recovery is TOTALLY different. I’d read probably a dozen blogs leading up to this surgery, and each one was a completely different road to normality. Even the trends I’d seen were rarely the experiences of the majority. So in short, asking one person who’s done this procedure is probably good for anecdotal reasons, but for pure research, your surgeon is probably a better source of information.
  • However, in slight contrast to #1, almost everything you experience is within the realm of “normal”. You might have swelling well beyond what you expected or even what you were told. You may bruise in weird places (my jaws never bruised, but my chest did all the way down to my sternum). You may not have a symmetrical face (for a while). Your nose may change. Obviously, if you feel really stressed or you feel like you’re in danger, call your surgeon (or the hospital if it’s bad), but chances are what you’re going through is totally in the realm of a ‘typical’ recovery.
  • Don’t wait to try things (unless specifically told not to by your surgeon). I remember reading that most people didn’t try drinking from a cup for a couple of weeks. Many used straws first. So despite the fact that I awoke from surgery able to feel more than 50% of my lip surface area (most of the top, and all of the right side), I assumed I’d be one of the many who would dribble all over myself. So I tortured myself for a week with syringes when, in all actuality, I probably could have started drinking from a cup after maybe only a few days. And what would happen if you DO try to do something too early? You dribble some water on yourself. Oh well. Get a new shirt, move on.
  • Do this surgery early in life. If you’re 18 and on the fence because you worry about your social ramifications, get over it. Recovery is MUCH easier on the young for anatomical reasons, but also, I have a house, a job, a wife, and kids. Not being able to do ANYTHING to help out with any of those for a couple of weeks is pretty defeating and makes life much harder for a lot of people. I think my recovery is actually WAY ahead of most “people my age”, and in that I’m lucky, but if I had known about this surgery 15 years ago, you bet I would have done it then. There’ll be plenty of time to get awkwardly wasted with your friends, including that one person who you really hope to get it on with… take care of your body now.
  • Get a Waterpik (or other brand of water flosser). I’ve used it for a few different reasons now. When I couldn’t brush, simply spraying my mouth with water helped me feel less disgusting. When I would get buildup of tiny food crud on my splint/braces and it would make it near impossible for me to syringe water into my mouth, the Waterpik was necessary to clean out those spaces. When I was sick of taking 5ml of water at a time, I’d reach the Waterpik around my back teeth and just shoot water down my throat, a very good time-saver.
  • Some people will do this surgery simply for aesthetic reasons. I can’t tell you not to. However, in my case, the cosmetic difference in my face will be somewhat negligible – I’ll still have a recessed chin. I’ve read blogs by people who were seriously depressed by how they looked and assumed this surgery would help that. Even when they were done and they loved how they looked (and got rave reviews by their peers), many were STILL haunted by the same esteem issues they had. If you suffer depression based on your looks, seek a professional’s help, and not a surgeon. Try to work on yourself via your brain first. Chances are other people may NOTICE your faults (people who tell me “I never notice your bad skin” are either blind or polite to the point of obtuse), but I can guarantee that nobody ares about those faults nearly as much as you do. I had this surgery for proactive breathing concerns, and as much as I’d love to look “my ideal” when all is said and done, I’d be happy to look the exact same if it means I won’t have to be on oxygen when I’m 50 (which is closer than I’d like to admit).
  • People assume you have to live on Boosts/Ensures. And while that is the EASIEST way to get calories, it’s not the only way. Get a good mixer/blender and someone who is imaginative. Blend soups that are ALREADY thin so that they’re essentially ONLY liquid with no bits whatsoever. It’s a great way to get your nutrients and not get burned out of protein drinks early on.
  • Expect to hear lots of “I wish I could lose weight like you are!” comments. Don’t be offended by them. They’re not trying to belittle your experience; they just think it’s a more clever comment than it really is.
  • I can’t stress this enough – the first 3 days are going to be scary, nerve-wracking, and more difficult than you can reasonably prepare for. Just get past them (preferably with someone alongside you in case your nurses are understaffed). Your life will get easier every day after that.

I may do a blog post like this after 30 days, or 90 days, or one year. I’m not sure. Either way, things are going okay today and I hope to sleep like a mofo tonight. I will, for the sake of that sentence, assume that mofos are really good at sleeping.

Day 18: Bracing for Life

If you can't beat 'em, give 'em the 'brow.
If you can’t beat ’em, give ’em the ‘brow.

The last 48 hours have been an emotional roller coaster for me on a few different fronts – none of which was related to my recovery – so that’s why I didn’t blog yesterday. I’m not going to get into all the specifics right now, but let’s just say that my life is happening much faster than my recovery is. I mean, that was expected, but mainly because of how slow my recovery was supposed to take – now it’s just the opposite.

Oddly, in the face of some adversity, I didn’t roll up into a ball and play more Oblivion, which surprised even me. I didn’t play at all yesterday. I ended up just tackling some projects that I found the energy for: getting our finances up to speed, doing the dishes, shaving and showering, pretending that 2000 steps it “totally fine” for someone 2 weeks removed from jaw surgery. Yesterday was my most productive day, even on a couple of hours of uneven sleep. The lack of sleep two days ago resulted in at least a decent batch of slumber for me last night, so yay for that.

I’ve been having three regular meals (still soups I drink out of a cup, even though I *could* use a spoon, mainly because a spoon TAKES. SO. LONG!) For each of these I remove the bands, talk a little where possible (to trick my jaw into thinking it’s really useful), and enjoy a good teeth clean (now ALL of my teeth get in on the action, front and back!) So far, the paragraph has a 1:1 ratio of sentences to parentheticals (now even worse). That happened again today, as I sift through the various soups we have on hand. Man, I’m looking forward to having a grilled cheese sandwich so much.

Today, I got up at my alarm, shoveled the sidewalk, went back to work briefly for an hour or two to try to be prepared for Monday, and of course dabbled a bit in Oblivion. There’s a logical storyline to the game, and so far I’ve played for WAY too many hours and completed exactly 0% of the main quest. Yay for sidequests, looting, and exploring!

I’m working from home next week so that I still have the safety net of taking a break if I need it, and having a full kitchen with which to prepare my monstrosities meals. I may try the office the week after. We’ll see.

Note, I’ve heard people from several different states are checking out this blog. I’d look up the analytics myself but THAT’S ON A WHOLE OTHER TAB! C’mon, people, what do you expect of me, miracles? I also assume if Susan and/or Scott checks this, that’s another country too! I’m global!

PAIN: 1

INCONVENIENCE: 5

REGRET FACTOR: 2

Day 16: Slumber, Slumber, Toil and… well, just basically toil

Last night was another miserable night of sleep. Not too much pain, just totally unable to find a comfortable position to sleep in. As such, my alarm went off at 8:30 and I couldn’t muster up anything more than one arm to turn it off. Went back to bed until 10.

Tried the lasagna smoothie for lunch. With water. And more water. And milk. And vegetable broth. It was probably more than 1:1 liquid to lasagna. As such, there was quite an abundance of it. It tasted as good as could be expected, I suppose, from blending up a food that was definitely only meant to be a solid. I’m going to have meal #3 with no bands shortly – more lasagna smoothie and some yogurt.

But really, I need to take a minute to thank Ash. It might have sounded dismissive on Monday when I said I was “on my own”, but that’s not true. Ash has gone above and beyond the call of wife to be a general caretaker for me these last two weeks. Even when gone, she checks on me and leaves me some ingredients in the fridge to make my own meals. She also nags me to drink water, to exercise – you know, all the things I asked her to do, knowing full well that (now) I was going to be push back against all of them.

The reason I left the hospital – and Ash actually wanted me to stay an extra day as a mental health day for her so she could actually sleep – was because I trusted her more than my nurses. When I felt like I was going to vomit early on, she ran out guns-ablazing to get nurses to come help me; the call button had received wait times of over 20 minutes. I trusted her to cut my bands off in an emergency more than I would trust myself.

She’s made the entire process palatable. There hasn’t been judgement of my total lack of interest in doing anything but playing Oblivion. There hasn’t been resentment at having to wait on me hand and foot – even getting me more water when she knows damn well I could get up and get it myself at this point.

When I do start going into my work office (I’ll likely work from home next week and not try the office until after that), I’ll bring our new NutriBullet (courtesy of Jaymar, Jen, and Casey!)  to work, and Ash will send me with pre-prepared smoothie ingredients already in the blender cup. She’d probably put on my pants if I asked her to, but hey, I try not to abuse the system TOO much.

Pre-surgery doublie.
Pre-surgery doublie.

Thanks ladycakes! You rock my rocks.

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 5

REGRET FACTOR: 2

Day 15: 2nd Follow-Up Appointment

Dinnertime, BUT WHAT'S HAPPENING OVER THERE?
Dinnertime, BUT WHAT’S HAPPENING OVER THERE?

Dr. M said I was looking great. I tried to give him a coquettish smile, but with my mouth still not working properly, I don’t think he got it. He took off the bands and saw how far I could open my mouth (good improvement), listened to me talking a bit, and then did my favorite thing ever: he brushed my teeth. He surprised me (and my increasingly cumbersome gag reflex) by jamming the toothbrush all the way between my teeth. After a stop-and-start (I basically grabbed the toothbrush out of his hand and pulled it out), he got back in there and cleaned the inside. It was the second-most glorious thing that happened today. (That is what we in the writing industry call foreshadowing.)

He said all is looking good and that I should be taking the bands off a few times a day, not just once, so it looks like I’m going to have a normal regiment of meals. They’ll take longer than a normal lunch, which is something I’ll have to remember when I go back to work, but it’ll be a few hours each day I’ll be able to open my jaw.

Oddly, I’m pretty sure my jaws have Stockholm Syndrome. The second they’re free, they immediately do exactly what they were doing before being liberated: clamping together. It’s taking much concentration but I’m trying to really relax my jaw both in the bands and out. It’s relieving my head pressure.

Speaking of which, I did figure out something last night with my sleeping. I went back to the bed, but we brought along two square throw pillows to put under my pillow so my pillow sits in a bit of a trough. Then, I can sleep on my side but my face itself is still angled towards the ceiling a bit, taking the pressure off my jaws. I was able to fall asleep somewhat fast and basically slept through the night. No neck pain either (which I thought would be a natural consequence of doubling my pillow height). Also, Doubling My Pillow Height – worst metal band name ever.

So Ash’s folks made me this delicious beef broth (which Ash mixed with mashed potatoes and blended it up), and I also had a full yogurt for dinner and half a smoothie. My weight seems to have reverse plateau’ed (trenched?) at 170, about 11 pounds down from when I started. I was oddly hoping for a little more, what with me having put on a bunch, but I guess I get to start working out once my body is ready for it.

After dinner, I got to brush again, and that’s when the earlier cliffhanger picks back up. The toothbrush I got at Dr. M’s office was slightly less tall than the baby one I use, and I was able to get it between my teeth fairly easy and brush the insides of my entire mouth. PLUS, and there is no fathomable way I could overstate how important this is, I was able – after some finagling – to brush the bottom of the splint. It had, over the course of two weeks, accumulated what I can only describe as a festering coat of gangrenous mucus pus slime. I think that adequately describes it. It was making me nauseous at times and my tongue had become pretty adept at avoiding that part of my mouth for about a week now. At long last, it is almost entirely clean. Now it just feels like I’m licking a plastic toy, which I’m okay with, given the alternative.

Also, Gangrenous Mucus Pus Slime – best metal band name?

This is the part of the recovery I was oddly looking forward to – just playing a ton of Oblivion all day. I was also going to play some Kerbal Space Program, but I’m still not certain my brain is ready for rocket science. I *did* manage to pack up all the indoor Xmas decorations today, so I at least got some movement in.

Productive day.

PAIN: 1

INCONVENIENCE: 5

REGRET FACTOR: 2 (maybe less if blending that lasagna Granny made tastes as good as it does in my mind)

Day 14: On My Own

I’d say we’re hitting the home stretch, but in terms of the actual distance of recovery, it’s more like I just got out of the starting gate. That starting gate, though… it’s loaded with moguls, glue manufacturers, assassins, and C4. So yeah, getting past that is a pretty big deal.

If I could go back in time, I think I’d amend all of my ratings for those first two days. From what I’d read, I wasn’t too worried about the first two days because I’d have the hospital staff to help, plus Ash would be there for much of it. Turns out those were REALLY scary days. No sleep at all, extremely difficult to breathe, blood coming out of my mouth, nose, and even a tiny bit from my ears, having no energy, trying desperately not to throw up for legitimate fear of my life (see John Bonham’s death). As far as my recovery itself, day three (the maximum swelling day) was the big hill to get past. Now I’m traveling downhill, even if it’s another 103598 miles to the finish line.

I’m looking more normal. Just a little bit of swelling, and you’d probably have to know me pretty well to see that. My skin is finally calming the hell down. And so I had to capitalize on this by taking a glorious bathroom selfie, like ya do. They say Henry VIII was big into the bathroom selfie. At least before he married it and almost immediately try to have it decapitated. I’m even attempting a closed mouth smile (without my bands, I can even do something more closely resembling a smile).

20160111_163416
Whole lotta smirkin’ going on

I slept very poorly last night – this time on the chair. I did NOT resort to using pain meds. Basically I have trouble sleeping with my head straight up and down, which of course is how my jaws are happiest. On the chair, I can turn about halfway, thus giving myself half a chance of sleeping with only half the full amount of pain. There was much tossing and turning, but I finally did manage to go to sleep.

However, it was probably around 3 that I turned my alarm off for today. It was supposed to go off at 8:30, and I just needed more sleep than that. No excuses tonight, I’m getting up at 8:30 tomorrow! I have things to do!

It was a fairly inactive day, though I tried to get up around the house and take care of business (dishwasher unloaded). Tomorrow my hope is to go through the Xmas tub and get rid of decorations we just don’t like/use and leave more room for the myriad other festive knickknacks we need to store. BIG thanks to Tee-Tee for taking down the tree and ornaments and storing that!

However, as you can see by the chart below, according to my phone I have made pretty steady increases in each of the last three weeks in terms of steps taken which, while expected, is still a little heartening at least. With how much I’m able to physically get back on the horse, it makes me wonder if I’ll be able to play disc golf sooner than expected (I basically expected to take the year off). I probably won’t be good to go for March, but I wonder if I’ll be able to play around May or June when the season really kicks off?

Don't judge my pre-surgery #s please
Don’t judge my pre-surgery #s please

Anyway, life alone was fine. I had 3 or 4 glasses of water (probably as much as the last few days, if not more), two Boosts, and a LARGE cup of broccoli cheese soup* that Ash made (my favorite meal so far post-surgery). I’m looking forward to dinner where I plan on eating more, along with cherry yogurt and maybe a green smoothie for fiber. I’d totally be one of those Instagrammers posting pictures of my dinner, except it would just be different cups of green/brown liquids. You can see the same thing just by buying baby food.

* note that I originally typed broccoli cheese coup, which might be my favorite insurrection of all time. Certainly better than the Star Trek one.

Zero jaw pain during the day. Now only if I could carry that through to sleeping!

PAIN: 0 , 3 (time of day dependent)

INCONVENIENCE: 5

REGRET FACTOR: 3

Day 13: Rip Non Winkle

Now that I’ve blown my perfect game and missed a day of blogging, I don’t have the pressure to keep going. That’s a load off my shoulders.

I hadn’t blogged yesterday because there wasn’t a whole lot to blog about. All my milestones were basically the same. My hope over the next week (when I’ll be home alone for much of it) is to do daily projects that are very small (taking down a couple of strings of Xmas lights a day, making sure I get all my calories, etc…). I think I should be able to accomplish this.

However, when I laid down to bed last night is when my day kinda began. I tried to sleep before midnight (I’ve been having Ash get me up at 9, though I think I’m changing that to 8 so I don’t get too wired before bed). And my jaw, which typically feels a pain level of 2, decides – as it does each night – to CRANK that pain level up. I think it’s the lying horizontal, or rather, since I can’t fall asleep on my back, it’s lying on my side that does it. No matter how I prop up my pillows to try to elevate my jaw, it just throbs. After 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I gave up and took pain meds.

Then tossed and turned for hours. I’d estimate I got 3 or 4 hours of restless sleep. That’s been par for the course lately. And of course Ash sent the boys in at 8 as I’d requested, so I’m a puffy zombie today.

I’m probably making two changes today to survive:

  • either taking pain meds an hour before bed no matter what, or sleeping on the chair again. I need to figure out a way to minimize jaw pain to sleep as well as possible.
  • moving my bands-off meal to dinner. Ash made a delicious broccoli and cheese soup, but eating that late in the day led to my mouth feeling like a post-apocalyptic sewage dump before bed. If I change my freedom-meal to dinner, it’ll allow me to eat yummier/gunkier foods all day, then do a huge cleaning at night and stick to pure liquids beyond that.
  • learning how to count to two.

PAIN: 4 (periodic)

INCONVENIENCE: 6

REGRET FACTOR: 3

Day 11: Slight Improvements

How my littlest poses whenever we ask him to hold something up.
How my littlest poses whenever we ask him to hold something up.

A very late blog today, and a short one at that. The milestones I a going to be hitting from on are basically going to be incrementally further along than the last series of milestones. To that end:

  • I opened my mouth large enough at lunch to fit a baby spoon right-side up, which means in addition to tacky things like pudding, I can also now eat applesauce. I had a 3 course meal for lunch: applesauce, mashed potatoes, and a green-filled smoothing. I think there was some Kermit in there.
  • I took about 3000 steps. The sad realization is that a typical day where I work 8 hours at my desk and DON’T go on any walks or play disc golf? That’s somewhere between 2000-3000 steps. So yeah, I just matched my “normal”, though I went on a very long walk to achieve it.
  • I slept better last night, but woke up yawning. Remember, when you can’t open your mouth, yawns = bad.
  • I allowed Ash to take a nap and later helped her by brushing the boys teeth. A little more human each day.
  • I spoke more than a few clipped sentences during my lunch jailbreak.

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 6

REGRET FACTOR: 3

Day 10: Grumpy Cat is Grumpy

You wouldn’t know it by the list of milestones I hit today, but I woke up grumpy and with a headache, and I’m still kinda grumpy and I still have a headache.

Someone send this to Chobani - this is free advertising to the dozens!
Someone send this to Chobani – this is free advertising to the dozens!

Just finished lunch a little while ago and managed for the first time to fit a baby spoon into my maw, taking 30 painstaking minutes to eat a Chobani cherry yogurt. This is a big deal – it’s really the first memory of my before-surgery diet. Sure I’ve been eating smoothies and soups, but I wouldn’t say I regularly ate them at all before getting all hacked up. I ate cherry yogurt pretty regularly, though, so this was a nice flashback. I also had some smoothie and soup, but once I realized I could fit a spoon in my mouth, the variety of lunch was done.

This opening also allowed me to actually get between the teeth enough to aim my Waterpik directly at the teeth whose insides feel like the inside of a coffee pot at a 1 star motel in Kentucky. While not perfect, this is the cleanest my teeth since Cutty-Cutty day.

I have also grown tired of my skin acting like a dehydrated snake. This is something that happens to a lesser degree whenever I go from clean-shaven to bearded after a long time (I had been more or less clean shaven for 2 months). Now, combined with the stress, bad sleep habits, and dehydration, I said enough is enough and I shaved (a somewhat daunting task considering I can’t feel one full quadrant of my face). The results today aren’t pretty (nor are they shown in the picture above), but by the weekend I should be spring-fresh again, provided I regularly keep shaved.

I also joined the thieves guild after besting Methredhel in the search for Amanticus Allectus’ diary, thus winning favor of the doyen Armand Christophe. This allows me to set off on a myriad of quests that will produce many useful rewards. The stealthiness and lock-picking skills that I will surely hone will compliment well my burgeoning aptitude at sword fighting ability and certain rudimentary magicks.

So with all this good, why am I grumpy? I slept well enough. The biggest problem I’m experiencing now is that unless I’m fully concentrating on it, I’m basically mashing my jaws together. I want you to try something. Imagine you’re a penguin. Wait, that didn’t work a few days ago, I can’t imagine it will work now. Try to clamp your jaws together as tight as you can for just ten seconds. Now open them. How does your jaw/head feel? Well, after hours and hours of this (on and off), my head has a constant dull throb to it. I finally caved and took some pain meds a short while ago, my first in a few days.

Add to that the almost total inflexibility of my face, the increasingly bothersome aphthous ulcers, and my back (which oddly enough appears to approve of sleeping on the chair more than the bed), I’m definitely feeling pretty ‘woe is me’ today. I will gladly take any silly pictures of themselves anyone wants to take and send to me. Laughing hurts, but I’m willing to take that risk.

PAIN: 4

INCONVENIENCE: 6

REGRET FACTOR: 4

Day 9: Check out the Size of my Cups!

I understand now why people who blog about orthognathic jaw surgery tend to stop posting daily right around this time: the changes that happen are incremental and the day to day is more of a slog than a race. I mean, recovery is a year-long process, but most of it is improving around 1% a day, and this seems to be starting around now. For the record, I hope to blog daily for 3 weeks total, then update as need be. We’ll see how good it goes. (If it’s anything like last year’s resolutions, I will stop blogging daily around the middle of last week.)

The big news is I can drink out of a cup. This sounds pretty phenomenal until you realize I probably could have been doing this a few days ago already. Since I seem to have pretty good control of my lips, and have since early on in the procedure, I have been able to purse them to reach a cup. Then I just suck in the liquid. This works so far only with very thin liquids – water, soup… I haven’t tried it with Boost (though I may later) and certainly not thicker broth/soups. I don’t think there’s enough room between the splint and the lower teeth to allow anything with any thickness to pass.

CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!
CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!

I also managed a few strained words when my bands were off so I could talk to my boys. They struggled but could understand me. The splint was just as affecting of my speech that my static lips were. But hey, small landmarks.

Aside from sleep issues, my struggles today all lie with my body’s reaction to the surgery more than the surgery itself. My skin is still probably the worst it’s ever been, though I want to say I HAVE had these exact issues before maybe once or twice. When my skin gets like this, it’s basically immovable, so add to the fact that my jaw can’t move, I can’t really move my face either. It feels super dry but, really, it’s just super hard and leathery. So when I do want to make the effort to get rid of my resting I’ll-actually-kill-you face, I can’t move too much because it feels like my face will crack.

Also, I get aphthous ulcers with some regularity, and that regularity increased when I had braces put on (friction against metal instead of against normal gumminess? Awesome!) I’ve now got a few forming, one of which is right under the center of my top lip. There aren’t words to describe how annoying this is, so I’m going to make one up. This is friclopped. The whole thing is fricklopped.

Now my goal is to fall asleep before 1am. I’ve been sleeping until 9 (when Ash gets me up), but not falling asleep until 4 or 5 is sorta negating the extra sleep in the mornings.

Before I forget, I want to give some quick shout-outs. I’ve been getting tons of support, kind words, and even cards in the mail (mostly extended relatives – you know who you are!). Ash’s family came up huge to help that first week, and various people have made some dinners to send to Ash to help out in these times. Thank you to all. But to Tater and Jaymar who each sent thoughtful care packages, thank you guys so much! We’ve already put its contents to use. I’m blown away by people’s kindness.

PAIN: 2

INCONVENIENCE: 6

REGRET FACTOR: 4 (my wife made pepperoni calzones it looks like…)

Day 6: Starting to Feel Human

It's unanimous, every skin cell above my shoulders votes against this type of surgery.
It’s unanimous, every skin cell above my shoulders votes against this type of surgery.

Let’s get this out of the way. POOPWATCH ’16: HOUSTON, WE HAVE POOP! It was last night, and I haven’t been this excited about a bowel movement since my kids were only a few days old.

Also noting Ash is writing some guest blogs here to give an outsider’s perspective, for people who will be around people undergoing this procedure (or others as invasive). I think that’s a brilliant idea – thanks to her, without whom I definitely could not be going through this right now.

I had trouble sleeping again last night, even with the pain meds. I wasn’t going to take them, but for the first night, my jaws themselves started hurting when I reclined my head back to “sleeping position” (30-40 degrees). I’d spent much of the previous evening playing a game while sitting more or less upright, so the change hurt. The pain meds, however, didn’t help me sleep. Consequently, Ash woke me up after 10am after stopping and starting slumber for the previous 5 hours. (The boys were with friends overnight – thanks Dave and Jess! – so they didn’t wake me up while playing early in the morning like yesterday.)

We’re at this weird place where we have to balance sleep with eating. I probably haven’t gotten a full 1000 calories any day since the surgery. I probably finished right around 1000 yesterday, but haven’t shattered that total like I’d hoped I would (my disdain for eating right now has been well documented). So sleeping past 10 makes less time for eating. I made up for lost time, “chugging” a high-calorie Boost in the morning, then two cups of broth. Now another Boost. Still, I’ve lost 9 pounds between surgery day (weighed after an evening of fasting, so I might have even been another couple of pounds of “real” weight), which I actually consider to be right on target.

Part of my hate for eating is definitely the syringes. The hospital left us with two 10ml syringes (well, I had to ask for them while there – they just gave me cups of liquid with no way to put them in my throat, and then they only brought one, so I made sure to get a second, and we took them home when discharged). They’ve become so worn already that they basically take a Ronda Rousey to open and close them. Ash ordered more online (BAD planning there on our part!) and they’ll come (with my eating tray) on Wednesday. So I’ve gone back to lousy 5ml syringes. BUT – I’m enjoying eating so much more with one-hand syringe use than needing both hands and full strength. I’m plowing through food twice as fast, which is good because I’m only taking in half as much per ‘bite’.

The hospital handled many things poorly, and I’m not here to trash them on my blog. However, I will say one thing. If you’re going to have elective surgery, DO NOT do it in the last weeks of December. Apparently that’s when people know that they’ve hit their deductible, so they elect to have surgeries right then. (basically EVERY bed was full, and it would sometimes take a nurse 30-40 minutes to heed my buzzer call). So yeah, wait until January if you can – you’ll be the only one in the whole damn hospital.

Anyway, life starts plodding onward from here I guess. I know I’ll still have good and bad days from here, but I’m starting to feel at least a little normal. I stayed out in the living room for 30 minutes with my friends who I wrote messages to on the white board while the kids played Spirograph. I cuddled a bit with Ash. So I haven’t walked around too much (over 500 steps yesterday, probably close to that today), but I’m at least less of a chair bum today.

That being said, Oblivion is addicting and I’m still at, like, level 3. I’m too easily distracted in the game.

PAIN – 3

INCONVENIENCE – 7

REGRET LEVEL – 4