Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 15: Art & Things Are Looking Up!

Another good day!  Two in a row?  Ridiculous! Another friend from school came to visit today, making this weekend the most heavily populated one for me since surgery.  As I discussed in another post, I feel like isolating oneself is the quickest road to depression!  It's so important to see friends, even though I feel dumb that I'm unable to talk, eat, or smile with them.  The muscles in my face that I am able to use are still sparse, so I have formed a compensatory funny-looking closed mouth smile.

Not liking my weird closed-mouth smile, hoping things improve soon!

I also did some drawing today, such a great stress reliever!  I've always been drawn to drawing profiles (pun?), something which stems from my insecurity about my own.  I'm sure fellow jaw surgery patients can relate: once you are aware of the abnormality in your bite, you become so hyper-aware of profiles!  Where someone else would say, "Wow what a pretty girl!" I am thinking,  "Damn that's a nice profile."

Nowhere close to finished yet!

I am a little worried that a lot of my facial muscles are still numb or painful to use. When I try and animate, it feels lopsided. I sincerely hope this returns to normal- what use is a normal bite if my face is all messed up? I'm not sure if I should be doing any type of muscle rehabilitation given that my surgeon said nothing on the subject.
Here are my progress pics, which I will probably be posting less of because my swelling has more or less stabilized:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 14: Two Weeks !!

Today marks TWO WEEKS SINCE SURGERY!  And it was a good day!  My friend and I visited another friend from school who recently had surgery on her feet: it was a great scene- she couldn't walk and I couldn't talk!  Nevertheless, I was thrilled to finally get out of the house for a reason other than an appointment.  I was a little wary about going at first, feeling uncomfortable that I was a little puffy-faced and still totally unable to talk or smile.  But once I got there, I was so happy to be out and in the company of friends!  Here are some photos from the day:

Pensive pose.
 She's imitating my poker face - I got a little smile going!

This photo would be so much cuter if I could smile-- Love these girls!

This morning on a whim, I downloaded an iPhone app called "Speak It!", which translates your text into speech.  When I first tried it out, it seemed absolutely ridiculous.  The app contains four voice options: British woman, American woman, British man, and American man.  It swallows your typed word and regurgitates a monotonic robot voice - I felt like Stephen Hawking using it!  I couldn't resist cracking up (painfully!) when I tried it and whomever I was trying to communicate with thought it was hilarious too!  Despite its silliness, it is very useful if you are trying to speak to someone who is driving or unable to come over and read the words on your whiteboard.  It's $1.99, but I think it's well worth it if you're going to be in fixation for a while!

Even though it's only been two weeks, I feel like the surgery was a lifetime ago.  Each day of recovery feels so lengthened by obstacles and emotions that time begins to move more and more slowly and passively.  Regardless, I am definitely aware of how much the swelling has ebbed since day one: I'm looking like me again!  I'm so glad that my nose has turned down a bit and my top lip is less Lana Del Rey-esque.

Here are today's progress pics:

My top lip isn't sticking out further than the bottom anymore and I'm not sure how I feel about this. I am much more recognizable though - so relieved!


Because nothing of real interest happened today, I thought I'd offer a few tips if you are reading this and happened to be getting the surgery in the future!  My surgeon briefed me on the logistics of surgery, but little else.  The only reason I felt reasonably well-equipped to handle this was by reading tips posted on other blogs.
So here's what I have learned from my experience so far:

1. Be prepared.
This is a huge process, don't go into it cold!  Essentials for me were:
  • Syringes: I'm in fixation for much longer than I expected to be.  Because of this, the only way of feeding myself is through the small spaces behind my teeth.  The syringe alone doesn't reach so far, so my dad brought home rubber attachments such as these which make it much easier to get food back there.  I bought NutriSqueeze bottles as well, but because the nozzles are plastic, they are more difficult to maneuver.
  • Blender: Essential for the horrible liquid diet!  We happened to have a VitaMix blender in the house which works really well.  Some people I've talked to simply pulverized all their meals during recovery, from turkey dinners to fish and burgers.  From my first liquidized muffin, I knew this route wasn't for me.  Liquid versions of solid foods contain the taste, but the texture leaves much to be desired.  So far I've stuck to:
  • Liquid foods: Getting all your calories in during the liquid diet is essential!  My refrigerator is stocked with Ensure Plus, Naked Juice smoothies, and GoGo Squeezes among other similar products.  These usually hold me for breakfast and lunch, and I cycle through a variety of hearty soups for dinner(the soups require blending- little bits of anything get stuck so easily and are very difficult to remove!).  The liquid diet slowly becomes one of the toughest parts of surgery. The best way to handle it is reminding yourself that it's not permanent- solid foods are in your future!
  • Hygiene products: As I stated in another blog post, I have been using Peridex as a means of cleaning my mouth.  In the first few days after surgery, I couldn't move my lips much, so I just blasted my teeth with a NutriSqueeze bottle.  Now I have been syringing the stuff into my mouth and swishing it around- it's the only way to try and clean that damn splint.  Ask your dentist for baby toothbrushes- my mouth has been too sore to use these much yet, but they'll come in handy soon.
  • Entertainment: Is there a movie you've always wanted to see?  A book you've wanted to read but never had the time?  Then the post-surgery life is for you!  The recovery period is just satiated with large amounts of absolutely nothing.  This is your chance to do what you've always told yourself there's no time for!  Stock up on the things you like, cause you'll have lots of time to enjoy them.  Also, bring an iPod and cell phone to the hospital for the overnight: the music gets you through the night and the phone is useful for typing out messages.
  • Meds: The hospital will probably recommend these for you, but I had Tylenol with codeine every four hours for the first few days(which makes you very sleepy!) in conjunction with children's Motrin.  There isn't much pain from surgery, you're mostly numb.  The first few days are mostly just a barrage of horrible inconveniences.  One of which: CONGESTION.  My nose bled like crazy the first week, get Afrin, Flonase, or some other type of decongestant.  Get lots of tissues as well, you're gonna need a bunch!
  • Dental wax: Ask your orthodontist for lots of this before surgery.  Prepare to be poked!  You aren't going to worry about this at first because there is so much more to occupy your time, but eventually you will realize that your cheeks are getting torn up from all that extra metal!
  • Ice: ICE ICE ICE ICE ICE.  From the overnight in the hospital to the following few days, CONSTANTLY ICE YOUR FACE.  It relieves the pain and tingling, keeps the swelling at a minimum, feels awesome, and is pretty good for your skin too. The first two or three days I almost never didn't have icepacks on my face.  Even all through the night.  To see what I did for ice the first night in the hospital, refer to this post.
2. Expect the unexpected.
If your surgeon's anything like mine, he gave you very vague estimates of how long fixation will be, when the splint will come out, et cetera.  Some things the surgeon just doesn't know until he starts poking around in your skull.  For me, the issue was that I happened to have very thin facial bones.  Because of this, I am in fixation for an excruciating six weeks, having been previously told it would only be two.

3. Silence sucks.
With the large plastic splint and my jaws totally shut, I am completely unable to talk.  I didn't expect this to be such a major issue that persists for so long, but it really takes a toll.  The inability to express oneself is one of the most frustrating situations to be in.  Constantly have something on hand in which you can write/type out messages so you don't feel so inadequate.  UPDATE: iPhone users-- try the app "Speak It"  for converting text into speech- I talk more about it in this post.

4. Hospitals aren't perfect.
Naively, I assumed that the hospital would cater to my every need in the night of suffering after surgery.  This was not the case.  The last time I had surgery, it was in a children's hospital, where someone is attending the patient constantly.  For my night in the hospital, I relied on my parents much more than the nurses.  I talk about this more here- but in short, the staff didn't quite know what to do with me.  Hopefully this won't happen to you, but a word of caution: be ready to do some stuff on your own, no matter how miserable you are after surgery!  Definitely have someone stay with you overnight if possible.

5. Get ready to get emotional.
This is a tough, tough process to go through.  Although I can't describe exactly what you'll be feeling, you will probably encounter a whirlwind of emotions.  It's extremely important to garner some kind of support system: your friends, family, or people on the internet.

6. Be patient.
This surgery is a huge waiting game.  There's a lot of healing to be done, so all you can do is try and occupy your time.  Look at this as an opportunity to do what you never had time to before, learn new things, read, relax!

7.  BLOG!
Blogging has proved to be a fun and therapeutic activity during this process.  Reading others' stories lets you know what to expect from surgery and sharing your own helps you sort out your emotions, pass the time, and proudly create something that may help others.  There is a surprisingly large community of people here in the blogosphere who have had the same surgery.  Know that you aren't alone in this, you can reach out to people who know exactly what you're going through!

I will probably add to this list in the future - right now I can't think of anything else.  But final thoughts: look at this surgery as a chance to improve yourself, you deserve the most out of life!  It's a long and arduous process, but with the right perspective, it can become a learning and growing opportunity that you will be glad to have weathered in the end.  Good luck! :) 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 12: Pre-braces Facebook Photos

Food is like an ex-boyfriend to me now.  I seem to see it everywhere, think about it all the time.  Now that we are unable to be together, I feel as though I didn't truly appreciate what a fabulous relationship we once had.  I just didn't realize how much I loved it: now it's absence gnaws away at my heart. (Pun intended)  Sure I mess around with Ensure and GoGoSqueeze to indulge my appetite, but it's not the same. 

Other than the wires that continue to scrape up the inside of my lips, not much is new in regards to teeth.  I just wish time would move faster so that I'll be able to use them again.

I still cannot decide if I am content with the changes in my appearance.  After recently being tagged in a Facebook photo, I began absentmindedly poring over old pictures of myself.  Although I know I did not get this surgery for cosmetic reasons, I can't help thinking that I didn't mind the way I looked back then.  Sure I was insecure about my bite and experienced functional issues, but these pictures exude a confidence that I forgot once I got braces. 

Here are some pictures for a better idea of what I looked like before:

 I didn't like my bite but I knew how to pose for pictures- I would always turn my head at the same angle to the side where I felt I was the most photogenic.

It is possible that I may just be getting nostalgic for happier times- this whole process definitely takes a toll!  I think I just miss the period before all the metal in my mouth.  And just as I inexplicably torture myself by watching the food channel, I continue to torture myself by looking at photos of a braceless, happier me.  But once all of this is over, I think I will be happy with my final result.

This is what I look like now:

I look really tired!  Got too much on my mind to sleep lately.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 11: Party In My Mouth!

There is a lot of crap in my mouth!  Today, I took a trip out to the orthodontist to fix a persistent poky wire that had split open my lip.  As the dental assistant attempted to bend it, I was given the opportunity to have a good look at my teeth through the hand mirror that she gave me.  There are wires in and out and around my gums sticking out every which way like a diverse little forest of metal and plastic.  Due to the numerous issues that stem from surgery, I largely ignored the bits of wire that poked at the inside of my mouth.  Now that things have more or less stabilized, I am beginning to be aware of all of the cuts produced by the metal.  My cheeks are torn up inside!  Orthodontic wax is currently acting as a bandaid solution.

 It's a party in my mouth-- there are teeth under all of that I swear!

 My friend came over tonight to watch Pretty Little Liars (my guilty pleasure!)-- I am getting much better at communicating non-verbally!  My surgeon said that at this stage most people can talk, albeit muffled with their mouth closed, but I have tried and it really is impossible with the massive plastic splint.  The splint sits in my mouth separating my upper and lower jaw, solid except for a hole which allows my tongue to touch the roof of my mouth.  My parents keep encouraging me to speak, but it just sounds like I am drowning and it has been much easier to remain silent.

The friend that came over told me she doesn't see any swelling, that I look normal now.  I definitely think there is some poof to lose, but this is probably more or less what I am going to look like.  Am I happy with it?  Not sure yet.  I do love my side profile: it's finally what a normal and balanced profile should be.  What I am concerned with is how the procedure affected my nose.  It has always been slightly crooked due to my deviated septum, but I feel as though the defect has been made more noticeable now.  The base has also widened and the tip has turned up, which I'm not sure I'm happy with-- maybe I'm just being nitpicky.  I'll make a final statement once I see what my smile looks like!

Can't wait to finally close in on week two!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 10: Down For Some Down Time

Today wholly consisted of reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and watching The Big Lebowski.  One positive that's come out of this recovery: lots of downtime to catch up on things I always wanted to do but never got around to doing!  Among reading and watching new movies, I've been sketching, writing, getting new music, thinking a lot, working a little, keeping up with the Olympic trials, and using StumbleUpon to kill endless hours on the web.  My doctors-for-parents constantly freak that I may develop blood clots from sitting so much, so I take little walks around the neighborhood.

Here's a picture of the bay from the walk I took tonight!


  There isn't much news on the jaw front other than the feeling in my facial muscles slowly coming back.  I've got in my head that I have to exercise them, so I've been making little scrunch faces and attempting to smile as I sit at my computer.  I also noticed I had only been syringe-feeding myself on the left side of my face, the side that seemed to be progressing faster.  Now I have been switching off to the right, for fear that my face will become strangely lopsided when it is fully healed.  The swelling is going down every day!  I'm excited to see the progress at the two-week mark.

For now I look like this:

Lips are still funny-looking and still can't smile, but it's great to start to look like myself again!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 9: Real Food Cravings

After all of this is over, if I see another syringe it will be too soon.  Every time I turn on the television, commercials filled with tantalizing breaded fish and chicken, delicious chocolate sweets, and tasty burgers and hot dogs tease me endlessly.  I've started dreaming about solid foods!  Five more weeks of soups and smoothies? Ugh.
I'm still a mute as well: I've now grown accustomed to communicating via whiteboard or notepad in conjunction with my "mm-mm"s and "mm-hm"s.  My cheeks and upper lip area are sore, partially numb, and tingly, but are gaining feeling each day.  The swelling has gone down considerably and my parents say that I am beginning to look like myself again!  This is a huge relief: I am so used to my bony, angular face and jawline that my puffy image just made me look like a totally different person.  Hopefully I will be able to smile again soon!

 Sorry for the terrible lighting!

Day 8: Out and about!

Not much change today.  Aside from reeling from the six-week sentence I was issued yesterday, today seemed to signal that things would begin to return to some sort of normal.  I did get my first good look at the stitches under my upper lip this morning, as the area has been too tender to investigate before.  My first observation: my breath is terrible.  For this first week, I had been advised not to brush but use Peridex, an oral rinse.  This seems to get rid of the debris, but it does nowhere near the job needed to maintain a healthy mouth.  For this reason, I am left with a constant disgusting taste that is impossible to relieve.  My second observation was that a stitch appeared to have come loose, leaving a significant reddish gap.  My dad said that this was nothing to be worried about- the stitches are meant to dissolve and the gap did not look infected.  The right side of my face is still sore and I am hoping it heals quickly so that I may try and talk soon.
Another friend came over today: we took a walk around the neighborhood.  Though I was easily winded, I appreciated really being outside for the first time since surgery.  I had missed the sun on my face and the wind at my back.  The exercise was much needed as well- it was a welcome change from the hours of laying sedentary on the couch.

My friend said I'm looking like Lana Del Rey with my puffy lip!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 7: Dis-appointment

Emotions ran high today.  We drove two hours out to the surgeon's office as he promised to fix looser bands on my teeth than the wire-like ones I am wearing currently.  I approached the appointment optimistically, hoping that this meant I would be able to talk some as well as open my mouth a little.  Upon arriving, the surgeon cheerily assessed my profile and praised his handiwork, saying that I looked "great" and my surgery went "perfectly".  I typed out a message asking about looser bands, which he replied with, "Oh no, not today.  And nothing will change once you get them on anyway."  When will I get them off? When will I be able to open my mouth again?  "Six weeks."  SIX WEEKS.  SIX WEEKS? What?  Before surgery, he said the bands would be off in two weeks, and the splint would stay in longer.  But now six weeks of silence, syringes, not being able to rid the inside of my mouth of that awful taste that has worsened exponentially within the week?  How can I possibly resume any kind of normal life if I can't even talk?  Hit with the brunt force of this news, I basically just exploded.  I started sobbing uncontrollably right there in front of the surgeon, surely making him uncomfortable.  He was only there for about ten minutes until he left.  He did say that the reason I am unable to talk is that my upper lip is still too tender, otherwise I should be able to talk with my mouth closed once the swelling goes down.
I was absolutely miserable after this.  I took an unnecessarily long shower, scraping off the last remnants of glue left behind by the tape over the IV.  My friend then came over to comfort me, someone I've known nearly my entire life-- she's having a similarly shitty summer for different reasons.  We watched a movie, talked (on her end), and laughed (painfully).  Her visit made me feel a million times better- I think my self-prescribed isolation was a major reason I was feeling so depressed.  Now that I've accepted that things aren't going to change for awhile, I must get back to some semblance of a normal life.

I didn't get around to taking pictures today- I'll try to tomorrow.  The swelling hasn't changed all that much.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 6: Ortho Appt

(this was technically posted on day 7, but I'm cheating a little)

Having read yesterday's blog post, my dad came to the conclusion that I am suffering from what he calls post-operative depression(he's a surgeon).  Which may very well be true, but he made a point of telling each staff member as well as the orthodontist of my state at my appointment today.  Because I was unable to offer any contradicting words or emotions, they all met me with words of sympathy and encouragement.  My orthodontist told me that everything lined up well and was looking good, and that my swelling should decrease significantly within the upcoming week.  Despite this good news, today was an emotional day.  I met my first venture outside with the utmost resistance, reluctant for others to see me in my puffy, silent condition.  When I got home, I was overall just feeling terrible.  My eyes were throbbing, my back and neck were in spasm, my nose had resumed bleeding.  I was starving but had no desire to syringe-feed myself (I have now lost five pounds :( ).  I also was exhausted, a feeling that has persisted through my week of recovery.  Dejected, I went straight to bed at around nine, waking up several times throughout the night.

I woke up this morning feeling much better, though my neck is still bothering me.  Next stop, post-op appointment with the surgeon!

Here are the photos I took on day 6:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 5: Ugh.

I am growing more and more lethargic each day.  Today mostly consisted of sleeping, being congested, and trying to make myself eat.  I have lost the will to do anything.  Plainly, I am just exhausted.  Weak.  Lazy.  Despondent.  The tylenol with codeine, which I have been taking less frequently, I do not believe to be the issue.  Rather, it is a persistent feeling of complete uselessness that is preying on my mind.  Unable to speak, move much, or eat properly, I am feeling trapped in my home as well as my body.  I am beginning to resent this expressionless, bloated face I must call mine for the time being. I know things will improve in the future, but for the present, I'm just stuck.
The lack of energy may also stem from my liquid diet, which is much less than satisfying.  I have only lost two pounds, which is much better than I was expecting!  I still just feel awful in this recovery limbo.  Tomorrow will be my first day leaving the house since surgery in order to see my orthodontist who wants to evaluate my wires (or something).  I am reluctant for others to see me, but it's probably in my best interest to get out of the house.

 My parents keep insisting that my swelling is going down but I only see a little progress:

I've also developed some bruising on my cheeks.