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: www.JawRecoveryPlaybook.com
**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 :-)


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