Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011 -- 12 Days After Jaw Surgery

Happy Christmas!
     Today marks 12 days since I had surgery. I thought I'd make a video, attempting to speak throughout the recording, to provide some information and updates. This is helpful for me as I compile information from my experience, but I'm sharing because it may be helpful for others who are also going through this or who will go through this or similar types of jaw surgery. It also helps me share the experience with my family and friends, so no one worries :-)

     I have made significant healing progress so far. I had my 1-Week Follow-Up appointment on Wednesday last week and that went exceptionally well. I had expected to have all of the elastics replaced after the doctor initially removed them (so I could clean my mouth a bit better) but then he came back and decided I only needed two elastics for now. That made things a bit easier but also a bit trickier.... now I can talk more but it also wears me out like crazy!  I talked to my Mom on the phone twice, I think, and both times it was a short conversation (compared to our usual conversations) but I was just exhausted from talking like this that I have to end the phone calls within a short while. 
    Oh! I made this video (below) in the car after that follow-up appointment:

     Anyway, I won't be biting into turkey or anything this Christmas, but I am quite pleased with the variety in my liquid diet so far. Not just variety, though.... nutrition has been my top focus. Sufficient healthy calories, protein and fiber plus supplements to assist in my body's recovery such as nerve repair and to protect my muscles from significant loss... I am tempted to try blending a cookie and milk though ;-)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Talking & Eating After My Jaw Surgery

    I've had some people ask me how I am doing with speaking after surgery. Honestly, not so great. Well, I'm communicating effectively, but not necessarily speaking, per se. I made a video to demonstrate!

 (If the video doesn't show up, you can see it here)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jaw Surgery Video Update - 4 Days Post-Op

     I made this today (Saturday, Dec. 17th) before I put the jaw bra back on. It's basically just showing the swelling and all so I have a reference for later, but I'm sharing because I know, like me, there are many people who have to go through this and information I provide may help some.

Apparently the video is temperamental and doesn't work every time, so here's a link to it.

     Honestly, it looks far worse than it is.... I'm not going to be running marathons or over-exerting myself anytime soon but I don't feel as bad as I expected to feel....

A Few Days After Jaw Surgery...

     My surgery went well.  I went in early on December 13th for all the prep stuff and the last thing I remember before waking up was the nurse helping me with my bra because I had left it on. I'm like that... they're heavy. I didn't think it would be a problem haha

Part of my hospital wardrobe... I laughed at my "happy feet."

    Anyway... When I woke up it didn't really seem that traumatic... My husband gave me my phone and set up my iPad on the little cart so I could type into the Speak It! app.  You see, I anticipated being unable to speak clearly and I have this thing about being misunderstood.  So when I received the iPad last year for Christmas, Speak It! was one of the first apps I installed, knowing it would come in handy after surgery. Of course, at that time, I hadn't realized I'd be waiting a whole year before surgery.... but, it's done.

     There was a blood clot in my lower jaw or something so when I first woke up I had this tube coming out of my mouth. That's what that was for. 

I tried to put the video here but it seems to not work all the time. Here's a link to the video I made after surgery while sitting in the hospital overnight.

    I had to stay overnight, and yes, one night is common unless there are problems. I was so thirsty it was absolutely ridiculous!  I had a great nurse staff that helped me all night, though, and they sort of got a kick out of me because I was so "self-sufficient".

    Wednesday, my husband came to get me. First I had to see my surgeon again for x-rays and to have the blood clot tube thing removed. They gave me stitches for that spot so.... I don't actually even know how bad it looks. With my lips swollen, I'm not motivated enough to push them open to peak at my mouth and honestly, I'm probably better off not looking until it's healed some. After my x-rays they gave me the run-down on my medicine regimen and a whole ton of other things. They were all quite impressed with the Speak It! app, as well, and that was fun. When you remove the frustration of not being able to talk clearly (or at all) and the surgical team's frustration of not understanding you, things run a lot smoother. 

    I found it quite funny that the thing on my head is called a "jaw bra" and the surgical team was tasked with stuffing it full of gauze. (Haha! Seriously!? A stuffed jaw bra?!) Primarily, the gauze was to catch drool and all since my lips were swollen and my mouth was still kinda "eewww"... I started laughing but it hurt so bad haha so I typed in the Speak It! app so they could laugh about it too. It's a training hospital too so a lot of the doctors are getting their hands-on experience and I try to be understanding and keep the mood lighter...

    I must have been complimented a dozen times, though, on how it's so great I can still be so funny and positive even when I feel like crap. Honestly, I FEEL my body is working harder to recover, but I don't feel like "crap" completely. This is considerably easier to deal with than a cold or the flu, albeit longer. But things could have been worse. And.... if I can't keep my sense of humor at times when I need it most, I might as well just throw in the towel.

   Anyway... the swelling got worse on Thursday and probably Friday too, but that's common. Today, Saturday, it feels as if some of the swelling is going down, although slowly. There's no real "pain" but the tingling from the nerve trauma is a bit uncomfortable, especially when coupled with the swelling. I'm tired... but that's probably common too.  But I feel okay, with all things considered. It's actually a pleasant surprise because I expected to feel much worse.

Of all things I did in prep for surgery, I believe that cleaning out my kitchen was probably the smartest. When you can't talk and you can't eat, there's a lot of comfort in at least knowing you won't struggle to find stuff when you go to the kitchen to prepare your liquid meals...

My medicine regimen.
Honestly, though, I'm only really taking the Ibuprofen for inflammation, sudafed to prevent sinus trouble, a saline and medicated nose spray (also to prevent sinus trouble), and an antibiotic. They gave me medicine for nausea, medicine for constipation, medicine for pain, and even additional medicine for swelling... but most of that seemed unnecessary because I wasn't nauseous and I'm not constipated (i.e. from the diet change or from the medication) and the pain isn't enough to warrant taking something stronger than the Ibuprofen....

Oh, there's a Rx mouth wash too because it's difficult to brush at the moment. I'm supposed to still brush the parts of my teeth I can reach but I can't really reach much so I rinse with the mouth wash using a little angled syringe to do my best... 

And my syringe... I have several, but this one is my favorite. One of the night nurses made this for me using a different tube on the end. I believe this is a nose tube haha, but it is firmer than the other tubes the surgeon gave me and shorter so I feel there's more control.

For the record, I am NOT a Redskins fan, The cup is from a football game we went to last year but it's stable and convenient at 32oz. so I can keep track of how much water I'm drinking...

Thursday December 15th -

Friday December 16th -

This was moments before the pouch exploded and the contents flew up and plopped right in my lap!
Personally, I find the syringe easier but a lot of people like the pouches better so I gave it a try.

Saturday December 17th - without the jaw bra on, after washing up. It's really not as bad as it looks, I think.

A lot of the swelling makes it difficult to see what happened to the bones. I'm getting the photos and x-rays and all from my surgeon later and going to add them to one of my larger sites. But for now, there is a difference. I can see it and feel it and it was nice that my husband made several comments about it too... Guys aren't always to most observant but, if he can see a difference and know it'll be an improvement then I trust something was done right :-) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bodhi Day 2011

     As the National Buddhism Examiner for, I write articles about Buddhism and Buddhist Teachings. I try to include a variety of topics, and sometimes I fall behind on publishing new articles, but I have been working on improving my consistency.

    Today marks the 8th day of the 12th month, and although I'm referring to the Gregorian calendar, this day is now commonly celebrated as Bodhi Day among Buddhist sects in Japan and other regions. I am a member of Soto-shu Buddhism, which is Zen Buddhism from Japan, and specifically I am part of the Soto Mission of Hawaii.
    Bodhi Day marks the Buddha's Enlightenment and as such, it's a big deal to Buddhism although not a "big" holiday. When I first went to my temple, it was in December 2007 and the minister was telling me about Bodhi Day. His service that week would celebrate Bodhi Day along with the regular service. Coming from a Catholic background I made the comparison, saying, "So.... it's like the Buddhist Christmas?" It was funny but not completely far off since both are meant to celebrate an important event that's central to a belief system; for Buddhists, it's the Enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha and thus the creation of Buddhism, while for Christians, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus (even though many have decided Jesus was actually born in the spring -- but that's a different story for a different day).
     I wrote about Bodhi Day last year but when I went and reviewed the article I found it somewhat lacking. I wrote what I believe is a better article for this year's Bodhi Day, although I will probably find that one lacking next year. And that's okay! Like all other Buddhists, I am forever learning more and more about being Buddhist and as I learn my opinion and views change (sometimes). I would be disappointed in myself and my personal growth if I look back on this article next year and think it's "perfect" haha....

     Anyway, Happy Bodhi Day! I will miss the services in my temple this weekend because I have lived on the mainland for the past 2 years, but I will eventually return. In the meantime, I continue learning and I continue trying.... and perhaps one day I will attain Enlightenment too (^^)v

Here is a link to my Examiner article for Bodhi Day 2011  At the bottom of that article I have links to some of my other National Buddhism Examiner articles that relate to Bodhi Day, for those who may be interested.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Preparing for Jaw Surgery & Liquid Diet

                For my procedure, I will have both my upper and lower jaws operated on in order to correct my bite. There are a lot of risks with stuff like this, but primarily the big risks are permanent nerve damage and TMJ issues. TMJ issues involve the joint that attaches the lower jaw, which I already have occasional trouble with since the first time I had braces so I figured it can’t get much worse. The permanent nerve damage could be in my face or in my lips or just in part of my face or lips, but this is apparently “rare” for most people, but the risk increases as you get older.

Liquid Diet for 6 Weeks!

                Following the surgery I will have to stay on a liquid-only diet for 6 weeks, followed by 6 more weeks of liquids and soft foods only. During the first 6 weeks I’ll have a sort of bite-guard wired to my upper jaw (I think) to force me to adjust to my new bite and all liquids are consumed through a syringe (no cups, no straws). So… it’s probably not going to be much fun.

                I worried about nutrition, though, so I have taken time to compile and adjust recipes for the liquid diet to make sure I’m getting enough micro and macro nutrients. I want to give my body the best fighting chance at a full recovery!

Information on Jaw Surgery

                I also, like many, scoured the web looking for what other people have done. I found a lot of people who complained of only being able to eat chicken broth or canned Ensure during their liquid diet. I would not survive on that!  I decided that when I finish my menu I’m going to put it into a PDF with all my recipes, nutrition info, tips, and FAQs from my work with my surgeon so I can share it with others who may be in the same situation. I am also getting all of my photos, images, and information from my surgeon so I can show just how bad my open-bite got and how the surgery improved it (knock on wood!).

                My surgery is going to be a week from tomorrow, on December 13th… I was initially told I’d be ready for surgery in December of LAST YEAR, so it’s been a frustrating journey, and I’m really anxious about having the surgery done now but I’ll be so glad when it’s behind me! I might be stuck on a liquid diet throughout the holidays, but I see it as “temporary discomfort for improved long-term quality of life!”

                For anyone that stumbles on this blog post looking for information on jaw surgery, what to expect, or information for help getting through the liquid diet during recovery – stay tuned! I’ll post a link to my site when I finish the page. If you need the info sooner, leave a comment and I’ll email you the information. Thanks!

My Road to Jaw Surgery... So Far!

                When I was a teenager, like many people, I wore braces. I wore them for about 2 years. They were pretty awful but I dealt with them. The braces came off when I was about 18-years-old and I was given a set of retainers…. But it wasn’t enough. The braces worked to straighten my teeth and temporarily close my open-bite, but over the course of about 10 years my teeth moved, and moved, and moved… and moved some more. Finally, I had reached a point where I was only able to chew food with 4 teeth in the way back on both sides. The saddest part? I still had all four wisdom teeth so you can imagine how uncomfortable that is if that’s all you can chew with.

Braces as an Adult

                Last year I decided it was time to seek treatment… again. I had noticed that my speech was starting to be affected by the open bite, so even if the chewing wasn’t bad enough, the speech difficulty was enough to push me to see an orthodontist. On top of that, I had started grinding my teeth more while I slept because they weren’t lining up properly, and that was causing a whole mess of problems all on its own!

                I went to an orthodontist hoping to get something like Invisalign haha…. Good luck!  They immediately informed me that my problem isn’t “tongue thrust” as I was always told. That problem is actually somewhat “archaic” and the real cause of my open-bite and problems was a malformed jaw. Basically, as I grew up my jaw grew (or didn’t grow) as it was supposed to and the result is my chronic open-bite and subsequent eating, speaking and bruxing (grinding) issues.

                The orthodontist explained that I would need traditional braces which would actually make my open-bite worse while preparing my jaw for surgery. Surgery would then fix the alignment and sizing issues to correct my bite permanently and the braces would complete their work straightening any uneven teeth afterward.

Orthognathic Surgery

                Now… I can’t speak for everyone in this situation, but when some doctor tells you that the only way to fix your teeth is to literally remove your jaw from your skull and reshape it…. There’s a bit of panic! But, I took my referral and went to my regular doctor to have the referral put into the healthcare system so I could see a surgeon and be evaluated. Once the surgeon evaluated me and I was given the approval that the surgery would be covered by my insurance, I went back to the orthodontist for braces to start the process.

                Initially, I was told that I would have braces put on in July 2010 and by December 2010 I’d be ready for surgery. Well, I had braces put on in July 2010 and by December I went back to my surgeon to find that my surgeon had been reassigned and I now had a new surgeon. This is common in military healthcare facilities so I let it slide and went through the evaluation with the second surgeon. He told me I wasn’t yet ready for surgery and I would need my wisdom teeth extracted. The kicker is – when they extract your wisdom teeth, you have to wait at least 6 months for surgery to allow the bones to heal!  I went in for the teeth to be pulled in March 2011, and they took only the bottom wisdom teeth. I had been under the impression all four were coming out, but they explained (with thumb-popping motion and all!) that if the upper wisdom teeth need to come out, they can just “Pop!” them out during surgery haha….

Still Not Ready for Surgery!

                So, I waited. I waited until September which was 6 months from the extraction and when I went back I again had a new surgeon. I was frustrated but remained as pleasant as possible. Flipping out or getting upset wouldn’t make me feel any better and it certainly wouldn’t make them work any more efficiently, so it seemed pointless. This third surgeon seemed a bit more capable, though. But again, I wasn’t ready!! 

FINALLY Approved for Jaw Surgery!

                I gave disapproving looks as they explained that my teeth just weren’t quite where they needed to be yet. This was quite frustrating because I was having more and more trouble speaking comfortably and eating because of the wider open-bite. But, I had to be understanding. I certainly didn’t want them to rush my procedure and screw up! So I went back to the orthodontist for more adjustments and when I returned to the surgeon in November I was given my approval for surgery!

                But… then the reality of the situation sets in and I started to stress out and worry a lot.