Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 44 Post Jaw Surgery - Sans Bite Splint, Avec le Maquillage (makeup)!

     Yesterday was Day 43 -- 6 weeks and a day -- and I had my 6-week follow-up with my surgeon.  He removed the bite splint which I had since surgery, and basically I'm "done" with the OMFS (oral and maxillofacial surgery) guys until my braces come off. When the braces come off, my surgeon said to come back and have pictures taken so they can go in my file.... or... if I'm not finished with my braces by late-spring, come in anyway since he'll be reassigned in the summer.
It's difficult to see, but this is the bite splint. It's just plastic and it has grooves for my teeth to fit in (top and bottom). It curved behind my upper teeth and extended partially over the perimeter of my palate (the roof of my mouth) and that portion was all smooth so it wasn't uncomfortable.

      A little awkward to wear for 6 weeks, and difficult to eat or drink with, but not uncomfortable. Occasionally, the wires that were holding it on would stick out or move and the cut ends would poke at the inner part of my lip... but, I generally would try to bend them toward my teeth (GENTLY!) or, if that didn't work, I would cover them with dental wax. Either way, the 6 weeks went by fast and the bite splint was NOT the worst thing to deal with....

The Best & Worst of Jaw Surgery and Recovery

If I had to choose, I would say the worst things were:
  1. Not being able to smile or laugh for the first few weeks.  After the elastics were reduced to only 2 I was able to get more facial "exercise" by talking, stretching, massage, etc. The stitches were partly removed in week 3... any loose ones, that is... and they must have dissolved by now because I haven't seen any since. After that.... it became less painful to laugh or smile so it hasn't bothered me much.  OCCASIONALLY, I will smile too widely and it'll tug on the scar tissue but that scar tissue should loosen up and relax over time....
  2. Talking made me tired.  I talk... a LOT. Sometimes, too much.  When the elastics were reduced to only 2, I was able to talk a lot more. BUT talking wore me out significantly so, at first it was difficult to grow so tired just from talking. Like everything else, within a few weeks, this became less and less of a problem as my facial muscles grew stronger and relaxed a bit (if that makes sense).
  3. Just because I felt great and looked healed, didn't mean I was.  This was a difficult thing to deal with for my husband.  We both expected my recovery to be difficult, with swelling that would last weeks, bruises for weeks, fatigue and exhaustion, just plain misery. But it wasn't like that at all. After a couple of weeks, other than the fact that I wasn't wearing make-up, I felt and looked normal. BUT that didn't mean I was done recovering. I had to talk to my husband about that because there were some things I just did not feel up to.... like grocery shopping or going to the movies. The movies is understandable because I couldn't eat popcorn or drink from a straw.... but grocery shopping needed an explanation. 
     But then.... I had to turn around and give the same talk to MYSELF!  I had started working out again in week 4, but stuck only to weight-training instead of adding cardio.... then I couldn't figure out why I felt so run down. I was eating enough, nutrition was excellent, plenty of water, and even my recovery formula.... but I was forgetting that my body is still working harder to repair the bones, nerves and tissue from surgery so.... even though I felt okay and looked okay, I needed to remember that I couldn't push myself at 300%.

The best parts of surgery and recovery definitely outnumber the worst:
  1. I had an excellent team of surgeons, staff, doctors, techs, and my orthodontist all working together with me and I had confidence in their abilities to perform their given tasks with regard to my situation, and all with my best interests in mind. Because I had my surgery performed by military surgeons in a military facility, I never once thought they were "just in it for the money" and I never once felt like the level of care I received was anything less than excellent. I didn't always feel that way... But, in hindsight as I have mentioned, I didn't understand that it's a training hospital and that the chaos and confusion I was seeing wasn't necessarily true chaos and confusion. That was my interpretation (prior to knowing) of what goes on in a training hospital.  Once my orthodontist explained to me what type of facility it was, I was able to adjust my mentality and also my approach with the surgeons and staff and suddenly things were a LOT EASIER!  
  2. Six weeks is a great length of time to improve good habits.  My nutrition prior to surgery was "okay" but I often slipped with junk. Being on a no-chew diet during my recovery forced me to think before just popping stuff into my mouth. On top of it, knowing that my body had a lot of work to do to recover and knowing that the body cannot perform optimally if not provided with necessary tools, fuel, water, and so forth.... this forced me to become even more diligent with my nutrition and I honestly don't recall a time when I felt healthier than I do at this very moment.
  3. My attitude improved a LOT. I wasn't necessarily negative before surgery, but I was filled with some self-doubt that seemed to keep creeping up on me. I was also struggling with confidence as I worked toward growing my business and also working on my first novel. Although I didn't get much writing done during recovery, I did learn a lot about myself and I reaffirmed knowledge (of myself) that I had already had but seemed to forget from time to time. 
  4. I challenged myself and it didn't even phase me!  When I went in to the hospital on the morning of my surgery, it was the first time I had been out without makeup on in probably 12 or 13 years. I needed that!  I was not going to complain about not wearing makeup when I was about to undergo major surgery.... I figured, I'd probably be swollen a bit but once the swelling went down I'd go back to wearing makeup. Well, the swelling was mostly gone within a week but I decided to challenge myself and not wear makeup the whole 6 weeks.  Why?  Well, sensibly speaking, with makeup on I would only disguise the effects of the surgery and I would be concealing things like bruising, skin imperfections, and possibly redness which could indicate a problem... it would also misrepresent my healing in any photos I took (I took photos almost everyday!). On a spiritual level, I'm a Buddhist and as such I often question the strength of my attachment to things I enjoy. Makeup I LOVE! So... it made sense to me to go without it. And.... apparently my attachment is not as strong as I thought. I survived all 6 weeks (43 days, to be precise) and this morning (day 44) when I applied makeup, I felt like it was nice, but not vital.
  5. I feel like I've done some good, but maybe some bad, too.  This is still part of the best of surgery though, because the good far outweighs the bad. By choosing to be this type of patient, and by maintaining diligent self-care throughout my initial recovery, I feel like I've demonstrated that this process does NOT have to be miserable and that's good. It's good for both other patients AND good for my surgeons.  The surgeons all seem to have this fear or concern drilled into them that everything they do hurts patients and that the bite splint is so horrible and the pain is unbearable and all patients starve or fill themselves with crap on liquid diets during recovery. They seem to think that patients will lose a ton of weight, sleep a lot, stay swollen, bruised and miserable for at least the initial 6 weeks.... but this is total BS.  I don't care what procedure you have done, with the exception of a few extreme circumstances ANYONE can recover easily, quickly, efficiently, and with a great attitude if I can do it.  On the other hand, I feel this may also be "bad".... Like all situations, there will be exceptions to the methods I used and not everyone will get the same benefit. Preexisting conditions can interfere with that, but so can attitude. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are NOT responsible for changing patients' attitudes and behaviors, that has to be up to the patient... But in the end, I feel it's important for the surgeons and staff I worked with to see that it doesn't have to be the way they have been led to believe it is. And it's important for other patients to see and understand this too.
Now What?...

     A good question!  Well, I forgot to ask my surgeon about what I can eat now, so I emailed him yesterday after my appointment. Apparently, I can eat foods at my discretion but it's best to continue soft food and increase as I feel comfortable.  While I was out, I grabbed some things at the store.  I needed more sweet potatoes and saw bananas on sale so I grabbed a bunch.  I happen to prefer bananas when they're still a little green and JUST turning yellow. The sugar content is lower so they're less sweet, the skin is thicker so they peel neatly, and the flavor is just better.... in my opinion.
      At home, I took the dogs out then started to prepare something for lunch and thought I'd try a banana (not for lunch, but to test out my new bite while I prepared lunch). Well, with the braces on I can't effectively bite into food anyway so I cut a small piece and tossed it in my mouth. As I tried to bite it, common sense hit me.  The bananas I buy taste better when they're less ripe (to me) BUT they're also what?  FIRMER!  I was there, by myself in the kitchen, with the dogs lining up in the doorway looking at me funny as I went "Ahhhhh! Uuurrrrrr!" and growling as I tried to chew that damn fruit.... I felt RIDICULOUS!  And, it was probably pretty funny so I'm sorry I don't record myself ALL the time haha...

     I decided that bananas are not soft enough, so I just had some soup haha.... 

     This morning I made my carrot cake oatmeal with cream cheese icing swirl. Unlike real carrot cake and icing, this is high fiber and high protein, with little to no real added sugar other than what occurs naturally in the ingredients I used. Oh, I lie. There's a little sugar in the icing swirl but it's minimal.... 

      For the past 6 weeks, I have had to puree this and consume it using either a syringe or a disposable cake decorating bag....
Here you can see that it worked with a syringe....

     But, this morning I did not puree the oatmeal, instead I mixed it up, swirled the "icing" in and ate it with a spoon!  I never really took silverware for granted, but I found it was much easier and faster to eat it with a spoon than it had been to eat for the past 6 weeks... (Oh! I didn't eat this everyday, I had this maybe 3 or 4 times in 6 weeks... I have DOZENS of recipes so I ate a lot of different meals, but did try them all at least 2-3 times each to make sure the recipes produced consistent results.)
My oatmeal from this morning.... it even LOOKS delicious!

     This morning I put makeup on.... as I mentioned.  It feels good.... it feels like things will go to a more "normal" phase now since recovery isn't exactly "normal" for everyday life.  The makeup gives me a better feel for how my face has changed.... I LOVE how the nerves have regrown!  They grew SUPER FAST and I can tell when I apply my makeup since the tingling sensations are gone and all the feeling is back on my face except a little spot in the middle of my chin which tingles a bit but I'm certain it will be fully recovered in no time.... 
Day 44 - Bare Minerals Makeup in "Charmed"
I figured that was a nice set to go with since the color is noticeable but not too much to make it difficult to adjust after not wearing makeup for 6 weeks.

       I need to refocus more on work so I can get more done. Sometimes the work I do grows a bit monotonous and that can slow me down a lot... BUT I'm working on that!  When I work more efficiently I have more time for other things.... and right now I have a couple sites I need to finish revamping, plus my jaw surgery recovery site needs to go up.  I'm just about done with the design for it, I need to tweak a few things then create my templates and start adding the content... and I have TONS of content so it's taking a while.... but I'm hoping to have a good portion of it up and usable within the next 2 weeks!

A Little Sad Now...

    I mention in the video I made yesterday that now I feel a little sad.... it's not really "sad" or "depressed" it's more like when you finish something really big and important and then afterward you're like... "now what?" and a little down.  I spent a lot of time with the people at the hospital the past couple of months and I really like them all so I'll miss them.  But I can't ever forget them!  Every time I look in the mirror or touch my face I am reminded that they helped me so much! And... I'd like to think that they won't forget me either... I wasn't exactly their usual patient haha! 

     I am dedicating my surgery/recovery website to the surgeons, staff, techs ~ the whole department ~ and also to my orthodontist and his practice. It might help future patients - theirs or any patients anywhere - and it's the least I can do to display my gratitude... I don't think I could have maintained my positive attitude and diligence during my recovery if I didn't have the support I had from everyone involved, including my family and my husband! 

The new site:
**It's not up yet so you get the GoDaddy "this site is parked" page letting people know it's going to be available but it's not up yet... Once I finish the templates for the pages I'll begin publishing them so for a month or so after I initially publish the site I'll be adding more and more content. I may continue to add more content over time too, since I actually find this stuff interesting and the research I did for my own preparation lead me to other things I wouldn't mind researching so.... it may actually become a bigger site than I initially planned... BUT at the very least, it'll have all the info, tips, advice, menus and recipes that I followed for my super fast recovery :-)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jaw Surgery Recovery - Week 6 Re-Cap

     My recovery after jaw surgery has been NOTHING even close to what I expected.... Although this information is in the "crash course" form, I am finishing the design for my new site, and more detailed information will be available there along with a TON of resources and tools to make recovery easier and more efficient for others...

Food & Eating After Jaw Surgery

My first day home was a bit rough.... the left two pics are in the hospital before I was discharged... the right pics show my box-o-medication, most of which I never used, then me icing my face on the first day home, which was actually day 2 post-surgery, and the bottom pic is Atom keeping my company while I ice my face...

     Another thing I noticed a LOT before I had my surgery was people commenting that they could only eat chicken broth, canned Ensure, or pudding.... there were occasionally bloggers who posted a recipe for a shake they had "every day of their recovery".... and then there were some who reported eating pureed spaghetti-o's.... yuck! I have also received stories of pureed pizza (double-yuck!) and.... eww... pureed meats! GROSS!  I can't do it... just can't... no....

    The surgeons gave me a booklet that included tips like adding ice cream and cake to shakes to make them higher in calories, with the primary emphasis on calories alone. I'm sorry.... but that's just not going to cut it for me. First, I'm sensitive to lactose so my ice cream options are extremely limited. Second, I WILL NOT FILL MY BODY WITH SUGAR AND EMPTY CALORIES ESPECIALLY WHEN I'M RECOVERING FROM SURGERY!! Just can't do it....

     I anticipated the liquid diet would become the hardest adjustment for me. I love FOOD!  I eat all the time!  Literally!  I am eating almost every 2-3 hours from the time I wake up until before I go to bed... I also work out a LOT so, nutrition is an important factor for me. I sat down several times and put close to 100 hours, if not more, into converting recipes of mine for nutrition intake so they'd work with my liquid diet post-surgery.

    Unfortunately, my first day home from the hospital I was in for a bit of a sad dose of reality. I did NOT have syringes to practice with prior to surgery so when I got home I learned the hard way that nothing I thought would work was going to work. Soups were just not syringe-friendly.  On top of it, I'm a BIG fan of  tomato-based broths so a lot of my recipes were also too much for my newly-reshaped mouth. The stitches would hurt, sting or burn if I tried to consume tomato-based soups and the same goes for acidity juices like orange, pineapple, and so forth.

The bottom-left picture is moments before the zip-n-squeeze bag burst open and the food plopped into my lap. It was frustrating!
The upper-right pic is one of my most-swollen days... the bottom-right pic is on the way to my one-week follow-up appointment, about 3 days after the swollen pic above it.

    So I was frustrated!  The day of my surgery I ate nothing.... I had some water throughout the night after surgery while I was in the hospital, but no food. The first day home, I ate less than 600 calories... and, I wear a BodyMedia Armband which tracks my calorie expenditure at about 2700 to 3300 calories OUT without exercise. I burn a LOT of calories!  I felt like crap... I was on the verge of tears and I was thinking about all the miserable people I had come across on the internet.... and at that moment I made a choice.

Choosing an EASY Recovery

     I had a choice... I could either wallow in self-pity, feel miserable and depressed for the next 6 weeks, and practically starve on minimal calories since my recipes weren't going to work.... OR.... I could wash up, go to bed, and wake up with a new attitude, then start from scratch.  I chose the latter.  I went in the bathroom, washing up, squirted the Peridex mouthwash along my teeth as best I could, applied my regular moisturizers and eye creams, then went to bed.

     When I woke up the next morning, I washed my face and teeth again, had some recovery formula even though it was a little citrusy, took the ibuprofen, antibiotics, sudafed and other meds I was supposed to take, then I started from scratch. I made a shake that provided just over 400 calories with about 30 grams of protein and 4-5 grams of fiber. The FDA suggests 25-30 grams of fiber daily, and I usually consume 35 to 50 grams of fiber, which might upset some people's GI tract but I consume 120 to 180 ounces of water daily too so.... I manage. Not all fiber is the same, also... but that's another story for another time.

     It took me almost 90 minutes to drink that damn shake, but I told myself I was not to get up until I finished it. ALL of it!  And so... I did.  And I felt a TON better!  Then, I did the same thing at lunch time.... with a completely different recipe, also original and about 400 calories or so with high protein and higher fiber.  That first day (with my changed attitude) I got about 1200 calories. After that, I managed 1500 to 1800 calories on average, without ridiculously high sugar intake, all high-protein and high-fiber, with tons of micronutrients to improve my body's overall ability to HEAL.

     Now, I have dozens of original recipes with a focus on (1) nutrition (2) preserving muscle and (3) sufficient calories.... ALL of these recipes and my menus will be on the new site, along with templates for menu planning, determining your nutrition needs, and keeping life from sucking while you recover....

Facial Swelling and Bruises After Surgery

     People tend to be swollen for a while after this type of surgery. Some people are swollen for weeks, even more than a month. The swelling isn't that bad right after surgery, it gets worse between days 3 and 4, possibly day 5, then starts to dissipate.
     I have had several people ask me if I took herbal supplements to reduce swelling so fast. No... I didn't.... here's the thing.  You can reduce swelling with COMMON SENSE. I like common sense... it's FREE.

    What is swelling?  In its most basic sense, swelling is fluid accumulation. The surgeons gave me a prescription for a medicine called Medrol which was supposed to reduce swelling, but I couldn't take it. I tried to... but after crushing it and trying to take it mixed in liquid through a syringe, the second it got in my mouth and touched my tongue I was ready to throw up.... I'm hypersensitive, and THAT was just too much. So I didn't take it. I did, in all fairness, ask my surgeon what it's for and let him know I wasn't taking it.
My most swollen days were day 3 and day 4

     Instead, I used ice packs for about 20 minutes at a time throughout the first two days. When the ice packs were refreezing I'd give a light face massage to improve circulation, always moving my knuckles (with very light pressure) toward my hairline NOT toward the middle of my face. I also avoided salty broths, soups, and bouillon while consuming at least 90 ounces of water each day. I didn't sleep in my bed, I slept in a recliner, with my head sufficiently elevated and I refused to nap during the day, only sleeping at night. During the day I would walk around, I'd take the dogs out, I'd cook my meals, do light housework like dishes and laundry, etc. Staying active but not exercising.
Day 8, on my way to my one-week follow-up appointment....
note the bruises on my face and neck.

    From the third day on I alternated heat pads with the ice packs, continuing the facial massaging and water intake. By day 8, when I attended my first follow-up after surgery, my swelling was almost gone. The massage also stimulates circulation to help reduce bruises quickly and, between that and nutrition, my bruises were pretty much gone by my week #2 follow-up appointment.
Day 15, on my way to me week-two follow-up...
Bruises almost gone!

     By using dental wax along my braces, I reduced the swelling in my lips in like 24 hours! I also reduced pain from the brackets and hooks snagging my swollen lips and stitches. They recommend using vaseline on your lips for moisture, but vaseline doesn't moisturize -- it "protects".... I applied vaseline to my lips and the corners of my mouth when I ate using the syringe to reduce discomfort from food on my face and skin. All other times I applied the tube of medicated Blistex to my lips and consumed plenty of water. I've had bouts with dry lips, but it has not been that bad at all.

Day 22, at my week-three follow-up appointment.
Swelling pretty much gone, bruises gone, and generally I just felt great so.... my way worked!

Syringes Are Awesome

     Syringes are awkward but awesome. I used pieces from an oxygen tube on my syringes and it gave me significantly more control over using it to eat. Unlike some people, I can manipulate the big 60cc syringes with one hand.... BUT I took piano lessons, was a cake decorator, lift weights regularly, engaged in martial arts, etc. so my hands and fingers are strong enough to apply even pressure to the syringe with one hand. The oxygen tube made this easier...
A 60cc syringe with the brown-ish catheter tube on the end... 

Me, using the brown-ish tube syringe... 

A 20cc syringe with the clear tube on the end, designated for coffee and cocoa use...

That syringe again, this time with cocoa...

My recovery formula and amino acid supplement, with designated syringes....

Syringes, soup, water, Blistex and vaseline... 
Plus towel in my lap to catch any mess haha

     I used different syringes for different types of food and flavors to avoid flavor contamination. Again... hypersensitive. I have a syringe JUST for water, another JUST for recovery formula, and another JUST for my amino acid supplement. I have other syringes for hot cocoa or coffee, for sweet liquids, for savory or salty liquids, and so forth.

     Proper care keeps them usable for longer, but the syringes wear out easily if not cleaned immediately after use, and sometimes if you use them with hotter liquids frequently then they wear out faster. So... I asked for plenty.

    Even though I can use a cup now, I still use syringes for some things, like coffee to keep it from seeping into the bite splint and adding stains to my already grumpy teeth. With the bite splint it's hard to brush completely so I'm being as careful as I can. I also use the syringe for water and fluids that have dyes in them like my amino acid drink to reduce stains or, in the case of water, to drink efficiently.

Numbness and Nerve Damage

   Nerve damage from surgery tends to take several months to heal. When you're older, like me, the nerves sometimes don't grow back completely and you're left with permanent numbness. To be clear, when I say "numbness" I mean no feeling whatsoever. There is NO tingling or pins & needles feeling. As I started to recover, there was some tingling in my face, and as I recovered more the tingling became noticeable when I'd wash up or apply lotion.
Poking at my swollen, numb face a couple of days after surgery...

Me, just gabbing.... but I mention how the feeling is almost all back now...

    When I saw my surgeon last week, at me week #5 appointment, I started to tell him I have the feeling back in my face and he said, "It will take several months to come back." I explained that it's all back, except for one spot next to my nose on the left where it creates a tingling sensation in my upper lip when I tap it applying lotion, and the middle of my chin is still numb too. He was surprised... but yeah, it's like all back.  I have to credit quality nutrition, above all else, with my healing and recovery speed because my nutrition before surgery wasn't even this good and I usually take a long time to heal when I am recovering from something.

     Either that.... or I'm part mutant.....

My Jaw Recovery So Far....

    Honestly, it's been nothing like I expected. I've felt great since the beginning with the exception of that first day home when I struggled.... I've healed fast, I've eaten well, I have no felt deprived or craved any regular foods.... I even survived Christmas and New Years without feeling miserable!  I have not envied or felt jealous of people eating when I couldn't... I haven't obsessed over food like, some people make lists of what they plan to eat as soon as they can chew again... and, I haven't cheated or tried chewing anything!

    I've felt great.... I haven't had any bouts with depression or boredom, both extremely common after surgery and for people who tire quickly of being home all the time... I haven't hidden my swelling or bruises, I haven't worn makeup (other than mascara), and I have even run errands on my own within 10 days of having my surgery so.... a lot of that is attitude.  Sometimes, you just need to be a grown-up about it... or a mutant....

If I am a Mutant...

     If I'm a mutant... I want to be a mutant-ninja!  A lot of my recipes have significant nutrition disguised as awesome deliciousness and I think that's definitely ninja-worthy.... I've managed to keep my head (emotion/psychological/etc. stability) even though surgery is not something that's easy to go through.... I've healed fast and efficiently.... yeah.... I'd say, if I have a choice, I'm a mutant-ninja haha

     Next time, I'm totally signing up for the adamantium upgrades!

Jaw Surgery Recovery - Day 42!

    On 13 December 2011 I had jaw surgery and my initial recovery period lasts about 6 weeks. Today marks day 42, exactly 6 weeks since I was in the hospital.  So... this is sort of a "recap"...

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Just a little rambling about things, talking a bit about my new website which should be up in a couple weeks, and talking a little about the syringes and using oxygen tubing instead of the brown-ish catheter tube...

Prior to Surgery

     Prior to surgery I began conducting research into the different types of procedures I was having, may have, and similar procedures to those... all in order to get a feel for what to expect. During my researching I discovered countless blogs and forums on the internet, including videos, from patients for the past few years who had all undergone similar surgeries and partially documented their recovery processes.  I imagine, with the easy availability of the internet for almost everyone, this is considerably common nowadays.

     One thing I noticed is that most people do not document their surgery and recovery efficiently. There are scattered videos, an occasional picture, but most people post only their before and after pictures and maybe 2 or 3 videos weeks after their procedure. If they do post pictures and/or videos at the time of surgery or shortly after, they are mostly miserable. The self-report from the blogs and media I came across also reflects an overwhelming sense of misery.  So, NATURALLY, this is what I came to expect.

     In addition to research into other people's experiences with surgery, I conducted massive research into current scientific consensus regarding nutrition, healing, supplements, micronutrients, and so forth. While I didn't necessarily feel supplements and vitamins were the answer, I wanted to make sure that I was prepared to give my body what it needs to heal and I had hoped to prevent (as much as possible) muscle atrophy because I work hard for the muscles I have and I know, from past research in starvation and refeeding, that refeeding after significant calorie changes results in large amounts of newly stored fat to replace the fat and muscle loss during starvation.

    While I did not expect to starve, I do know that not all calories are created equal...

Pre-Surgery Anxiety

      Prior to surgery I started having some mild anxiety. Not enough to debilitate me, but enough to stress me out. I had never had anesthesia before but was inefficiently sedated for another procedure and I was afraid. This is totally normal!
      I did conduct some research into anesthesia, and I discussed my questions with my surgeon and the anesthesiologist (one of them) to get a better understanding of what I should expect.

Facial Changes from Jaw Surgery

     Something I was never concerned about was my appearance. Since posting my videos and in this blog, I have received many questions from others who will undergo similar surgeries. Many questions involve changes to appearance. Honestly, it NEVER crossed my mind.  I had confidence that if my surgeon felt the surgery would alter my facial symmetry to an unattractive degree, he would include additional procedures to counter that to improve my overall satisfaction. I also had confidence that if my surgeon foresaw any major facial changes, they would have been on the top of his list of things to tell me... it's all part of "informed consent" but also something you come to appreciate when you spend enough time working with someone. Since I had confidence in his ability to perform the surgery, I was able to relax despite anxiety and thoughts or concerns of major appearance changes never crossed my mind.

     Has my face changes after jaw surgery? Sure, a little. But here's the thing.... they do NOT do anything to intentionally cause changes that you will be unhappy with!  The whole point of this surgery is "IMPROVED QUALITY OF LIFE" and I have to say that when it comes down to it, I would rather be able to eat and preserve the teeth I have than continue to suffer needlessly with difficulties chewing, biting, talking and sleeping.  The changes to my appearance are subtle... enough to improve the appearance, particularly my profile, but not enough to raise eyebrows.  Let's face it.... I'm not exactly "front page news" like Bristol Palin or Ashlee Simpson haha

The angle of the profile pic in the top is because I wasn't taking a "profile" pic per se, I was trying to show the back of my new haircut which I cut short to make it more manageable after surgery. This pictures were taken about 3 to 4 days before surgery.
The bottom pictures are from this week, so about 6 weeks after surgery, and by that time the daily pictures become a little "old" so that's why I'm making a face haha

Monday, January 23, 2012

Atom vs. The Toothbrush: A Tiny Dog That Loves Oral Hygiene!

         I thought I'd take a break from the jaw surgery posts for a second and talk about my Atom! Atom is my smallest dog. He's a 4-year-old Pomeranian, but contrary to what I initially believed, he is all black (well, mostly black with a little white on his nose and paws). I had thought all Pomeranians were orange.

     Anyway, since Atom is so tiny (3-lbs. soaking wet!) he has tiny teeth all crammed into a tiny mouth. To prevent gum disease, which can lead to heart problems among other conditions, it's essential that I brush Atom's teeth regularly. Anyone with dogs knows that most dogs do NOT want their teeth brushed!  But Atom is a little different...

    Unlike the other dogs, Atom doesn't really ask or beg for people food... unless it's vegetables!  Seriously... a dog that loves vegetables.... His favorites are red bell peppers, crunchy lettuce, cucumbers (with seeds removed), carrots (if chopped real small), and he likes watermelon too -- watermelon isn't a vegetable, but it's on his list of favorites. Funny thing is, with red bell peppers Atom is especially picky. I can give him other colors, like orange or yellow, but he will take a few minutes to inspect them and look at me before deciding to eat them. He KNOWS the difference! 

Atom LOVES his red bell peppers!

     At night, after I brush my teeth, I brush Atom's teeth -- with his own toothbrush and special doggy-safe toothpaste, of course! Since having braces, brushing my teeth at night takes a bit longer. It doesn't have to, but I like to make sure I'm cleaning all the food and tartar out of my teeth, plus rinsing with mouth wash, etc. And since having surgery, this process takes even longer. 

     Sometimes Atom will come sit in the bathroom doorway waiting for me to finish and offer to brush his teeth, but lately he will walk away and wait somewhere else. Watching his Mummy brush her teeth isn't exactly "entertainment" in Atom's book haha

     So I finish with my routine, prep his toothbrush and call him, "Atom, wanna brush your teeth?" He literally comes running! It's adorable! And then he sits there and lets me get the top and bottom teeth on both sides, then the canines and his teeny-tiny front teeth. We also brush his tongue, in a sense. He loves it! It's nice that he's so excited about oral hygiene :-)

I hold his head gently to help guide the toothbrush, and to prevent hurting him since he likes to move around a lot. It also allows me to use my left thumb to help keep him from biting down on the toothbrush.

Top and bottom, left and right.... canines and front teeth.... 

Did we get them all?  How many teeth ARE in your tiny little head?! 

And we brush the tongue a little...
(I love how he puts his paw on my hand ~ like he's making sure I do it right!)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 37 Post-Jaw Surgery ~ Updates, Etc.

     I saw my surgeon yesterday (18 January) for my week #5 follow-up. It was funny because when I went in, one of the residents and then my surgeon both approached me saying something about being excited to get my bite splint taken out. I corrected them, both, explaining this was only week 5, I had one week left haha... Don't get me wrong, I'd prefer not to wear it, but I already made arrangements to see the orthodontist next week right after the appointment with my surgeon to remove the bite splint so.... this week just wouldn't work.

     We joked about my super-human healing abilities... I went to mention how the feeling in my face was back and before I finished he said, "That will take several months..." I said, "No, it's back like 100% except for the middle of my chin." (I talk about that in the video a bit...)

     Anyway, I am always super motivated when I leave my appointments with my surgeon. I don't know if his enthusiasm is contagious or if I just feel great because they tell me how great I'm doing (haha probably a little of both) but I made some calls after lunch ~ YES, even with the bite splint, because surgery can't keep me down! ~ and I secured the domain for my new recovery website. The site will be at

     I tried to use just Recovery Playbook, but in test searches I kept getting computer software so I added "Jaw" to clarify it. Unlike this site, that one will not be a blog. Instead, it's a resource or tool with everything I have learned, researched, asked, and experienced as well as a focus on practical application and adapting my methods for faster, more efficient, EASY recovery to suit different situations. 

     As I mention in the video above, I almost feel "cheated" like I've done something wrong to have such an easy recovery.... I wouldn't want things to be difficult, but because I have yet to come across someone who healed as quickly or had an easy recovery like mine, I feel like I'm the odd man out, or something. I'm not convinced anyone needs to suffer during their recovery, whether for jaw surgery or anything. So, hopefully, my resources can provide others the information, tools and guidance they need to make their experiences easier, at least.

A Few Pictures of Some of My Meals

**Recipes will be up on the new website, and all recipes and photos may be shared IF the sharing includes proper citation AND links back to my original content.
For print-sharing, contact me for written permission to avoid copyright infringement trouble...

After the elastics were reduced to only two, and I was able to open my mouth safely and comfortably, I began incorporating disposable cake decorator bags so I could consume slightly thicker foods than the syringes could handle. It also allowed me to layer foods (as you see in many of the pictures) to get a varying taste in every mouthful instead of just taste after taste of the same flavor...

I still use syringes, especially with coffee and other things that will stain my teeth. I can't brush them completely until the bite splint comes out so I'm doing what I can to prevent too much trouble...

Atom LOVES to share with me :-)

 The Bite Splint

    This is extremely difficult to photograph alone... but, I tried to show how it covers the bottom of my upper teeth and extends behind the teeth, covering part of the roof of my mouth (palate). When the bite splint is removed next week, I'll snap a few pictures of it for reference images to add to my new site.

Using a compact mirror to sort of give an idea of how it fits...
The splint is not level with the upper teeth, but it does completely conceal them in the back and extend just under the teeth, like a "lip-edge" on certain tables or trays. 
It is closer to the roof of the mouth and has a smooth curve to it so there is room for almost-proper tongue positioning and rest and the teeth do come together with grooves for the bottom teeth to fit "into" the bite splint as the teeth close. 

The bite splint has little metal loops that hook over the brackets plus traditional orthodontics-type wires that are interwoven and twisted tight to secure the bite splint in place. 
The wires suck... no two-ways about that haha
They're sharp, and they collect wax and food. I cover them with wax when they start to irritate me, and if they move around to the point where the cut/twisted ends are stabbing me, I try to bend them toward my teeth, if possible, or just cover them with wax.