Day 21: Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye

  • Pain: 1/10
  • Inconvenience: 5/10

You’d think someone who was banned from eating for 2 months would have every desire to go out for a big, fancy meal when that ban was lifted, but you’d be wrong. My very first meal will be Kraft Dinner. And it’s going to be the best damn Kraft Dinner that anyone ever did eat!

Today marks the end of my 3rd week post-op. You know what that means, right? It means I’m exactly 1/4 of the way to my full recovery! What a beautiful number!

I went to visit a friend yesterday. He just moved, so I wanted to see his new place. As soon as I walked in the door, he started laughing at how I sound. About 10 minutes later, he figured out who I sound like: Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye. Just for reference, I’ve apparently resembled the following voices to date:

  • Donald Duck
  • Kermit the Frog
  • Elmer Fudd
  • And now, Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye

“Oh! I just thought you were really shy!”

Anyway, since he recently moved, he was still in the process of furnishing his new house. He had a set of used lamps lined up for the living room, so we hopped in a truck and drove over to the lamps’ current home. A pretty girl let us in, showed us the items for sale, and continually looked at me quite awkwardly, as if I had an eye out of place or something (which, due to the fact that I can go cross-eyed at will, is not entirely out of the question). Eventually, my friend explained my predicament to this polite stranger, to which she responded, “Oh! I just thought you were really shy!” Of course, once she realized I could talk, she wasted no time in asking me all about it. I should have just pointed her here.

I successfully snapped both elastics yesterday. However, it only took a couple of minutes to put them back in! I have a new appreciation for those elastics now. When my jaw was free for a few hours, it decided to throw one of its hissy fits. With no elastics in place to restrict movement, my mouth tried to open way too wide, and it hurt. It hurt a heck of a lot. At least when the elastics are working, they stop my jaw dead in its tracks before it throws me into excruciating pain.

I decided to restock my Ensure supply at work today. I carried 2 new cases of it in with me this morning. My “Ensure shelf” is now the proud home of no fewer than 31 bottles of meal replacements. *shudder*

fellow jaw surgery hero was telling me she couldn’t blow air out of her mouth very well, so putting out candles was difficult. Then the idea of jaw surgery olympics was formed. I foresee the following events at the 2010 Jaw Surgery Olympics:

  • Bubble blowing
  • Whistling
  • Opening your mouth as wide as you can
  • See who the first person to detect water running down their chin is
  • Fastest elastics-changer
  • The Greatest Blender Concoction Challenge™
  • The Breath Test

I’m sure a crowd of 10 or 20 people would show up for an event of that scale, right?

28 Comments

  1. Hi Graham,

    thanks a lot for sharing your experience. I like your style of writing, it makes the entire experience seem doable and less scary. Thank you.

    I will be having double jaw surgery in a month. I don’t have family and really close friends here and will have to take care of myself. I will find someone to pick me up from the hospital and get me into a cap, but I will be home alone. I wanted your thoughts on it, do you think it is too risky, do I need to hire a carer?
    Monica

    • Hi Monica, I would recommend having someone with you for your first week at home following surgery for 2 reasons. First, it’s incredibly helpful to have someone who can prepare soup and smoothies for you during those first few days when you may have very little motivation and energy. Second, it’s best to have someone who can make a rational decision in case you start choking or vomiting.

      Note that things like choking and vomiting are not common or even expected, but in the name of safety, it’d be best to have another adult nearby.

      I hope you’re able to find someone to help for the first week! 😊

  2. I’m on day 4 after lower jaw surgery how soon can I expect to take these wires out and will my doctor replace them with elastics eventually because the metal is so inconvenient

  3. hello Graham, how are you doing man, hope you’re great 😀
    man Im sorry I need to ask you please. During recovery, what did you do to your lips to keep them moisturized? I mean mine are so dry coz no water is touching them and they’re always exposed which’s a must lol and my tongue cant reach them coz my mouth is shut :/ so any idea?
    I hit the 3 week mark today btw 😀 things goin awesome thank God 😀
    thank you a lot man, wish you the best

    • Ferrović, the best product I found for keeping your lips moist is Vaseline. You can use it as often as you need and will prevent a lot of painful cracking. It should be available in most any drug store. =)

  4. Haha, thanks! My imagination has been running wild with things that could go wrong. My surgeon was laughing at me because I told him your catheter story and that is the last part of my body I want to be worried about when I’ve just had my face ripped open! But he told me it was very unlikely I’d need it and for girls it isn’t that bad (which I only half believe)

    Thanks so much for writing this blog! It’s been so helpful! You’ve even encouraged me to write one of my own, for sanity and posterity and the good of mankind and such 🙂

  5. Preparing to undergo this surgery. Being totally neurotic here…but between swelling in the mouth and all the gunk in your nose is it possible you’d be asphyxiated? In an emergency, how would you ever get a breathing tube in? Both orifices are pretty well blocked off…yikes. I am terrifying myself.

    • T, I promise you will not die from lack of oxygen. Your nose may be plugged for the first month or so, but you’ll be able to breathe through your mouth the entire time. Your surgeon can reassure you of this as well. The most important thing you can do in this regard is to keep calm. =)

  6. Graham,

    I just hit day 22 post op and have been reading through your blog along with a bunch of others. I had a quick question for you. Did you have sinus problems after your surgery, and if so how bad and how long did they last?

    I don’t think my nose was perfect before surgery but since surgery I’ve had severe sinus congestion, sinus headaches, my left nostril is extremely inflamed and my right nostril is like a cave. The piece of cartilage between the nostrils ( the septum?) is slightly pushed over into my left nostril and it wasn’t like that before. My husband keeps telling me that I am either imagining this or it’s due to the sinuses still being swollen.

    It’s very hard to breathe at night no matter if I sleep sitting up or laying partially down. And when I wake up I’m even more congested then before I fell asleep. Since I can’t breathe out of my nose I have to breathe through my slightly open mouth which hurts cause my lips are still a little numb so it feels like I am sucking in freezing cold air and it gives me stabbing pains.

    I have used the afrin, sudafed and slain spray the doc gave me but it doesn’t help. I’ve even tried a neti pot but that doesn’t help either. I honestly think I have a sinus infection but when I asked the doc last week he said this was normal and I was fine.

    Any info about your experience witht his would be amazing.

    • Hi Liz,

      I did not experience any abnormal sinus pains or problems following the operation. My nostrils were fairly closed off with blood for the better part of 6–8 weeks, but breathing through my mouth seemed to handle that issue. My nose returned to normal by the end of the second month. Having clear nostrils again was certainly an immense relief.

      I wouldn’t worry about your nose for at least another couple of weeks as it is likely still swollen, somewhat numb, and has dried blood inside. I couldn’t find any remedies for this, but it should go away soon.

      If you need more insight than this, perhaps your surgeon knows of a way to relieve the pressure you’re experiencing. Best of luck! =)

  7. Graham,

    Wow, you replied so quickly…you’re awesome! 🙂 I on the other hand have shamefully taken over a week to reply. :/ Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my plethora of questions…not to mention the venting session I had. I know you understand though, hence, your famous blog, right?! All your advice and wisdom is much appreciated! Have you ever considered changing your blog name to: The Double Jaw Surgery Guru?! =P

    Well, I must say things are feeling better and looking up but as of this week (Week#4, Day 30) I too am craving everything imaginable. Last night, I was a little devious and treated myself to a root beer float…ohh so yummy (I know Ortho’s recommend no soda…but couldn’t help myself. hehe) =) Anyway, I’m praying I won’t have to deal with any cavities as I’m unable to floss or brush my tongue clean…ohh how I miss complete oral hygiene.lol.

    So, thanks to your explanation and your little nudge I was faithful in wearing my elastics, and as of Monday my surgeon gave me permission to wearing only two of those lovely bands during bedtime, hallelujah! Also, a week from today I will officially go back to work or as you would call it, go back “ to shepard children into higher learning” (clever, a new personal favorite). I’m nervous but excited to try to go back to some normality and feel like a coexisting adult, even though I can’t eat like one. Lol.

    Actually, this past weekend I was kindly reminded by my friends that I had missed “a spot” on my mouth when wiping away excess soup that didn’t quite make it in my mouth. Ohh friends…aren’t they the best?! None have said anything mean…so far. Jk. They are all very supportive! However, I’m probably the first and the worst to criticize my swelling & point out my resemblance to a chipmunk. Lol. I know, it has only been a month but I guess I didn’t picture how long the swelling would stick around (according to my surgeon another 5 months…ughh). I want to speed through time already but then I remind myself, “this is only temporary, slow and steady wins the race,” just like the classic story of, “The Tortoise and the Hare”! 😉

    • Mayra, that’s great to hear that you’re down to just a few elastics (although by now you may be free of them altogether)! Also, every jaw hero needs to walk around with food on their face at least once. It’s a right of passage, ya’know? =)

  8. Hi Graham,

    Can I just ask, how on earth did you find the energy to keep up with your blog, especially immediately after surgery?! Props to you my friend! Seriously, I am amazed because I felt like death the first week and the second week I was barely recovering from the first. Today, is the 3-week mark… I’ve actually made it 1/4 of the way (also feeling a little more myself)…woohoo there is hope! lol.

    I truly am so grateful to be on this end of the recovery process but I would be lying if I said that I was all smiles. It helps when I get out and try to be a part of society again but, at the same time, I can’t help but feel estranged by it. I don’t know if it is because I have spent more days indoors or maybe it is how people see or treat me? Either way it’s all very strange. I am having a harder time then I expected as I am naturally a social butterfly. Ugh, not being able to communicate effectively or with the same ease is frustrating. :/

    I know I need to stay positive & keep my brain busy so I stop having these pity parties ( a lot easier said than done). This surgery has definitely taught me a thing or two about patience and attitude. So thanks again for humor and good spirits that you’ve transcended through your blog! 🙂

    Anyway, I had a few more questions for you. As of Sunday (two days ago) I started getting the jaw spasms you mentioned on Day 19 or 20( if I remembered correctly). It feels like a tiny electric shock that pushes my bottom jaw forward. I thankfully did not have to wear a splint like you but I am required to wear 4 elastics on my front teeth. So, when my jaw spasm occurs it is especially painful with the elastics on. Hence, the reason I have opted not to wear them every night, in order to get some sleep. Is this a unwise? To be frank, I don’t wear these elastics as directed by my surgeon. I just find it much more painful and tiring as I need to eat every 4-6 hours a day and try to practice talking. If you would be so kind, could you please explain the purpose of these elastic bands and why I should keep wearing them?

    To add, did I note that I do not have an open bite but I also don’t have much mobility of my jaw. I can barely fit a fingernail into the small opening of my mouth. Is this normal? Literally, I have people still ask me if I am wired shut. lol. In fact, reading that other people have started eating pancakes is quite discouraging…I love pancakes.lol. Seriously, should I be concerned? I would like to stop the dizzy spells and get my energy back.

    Lastly, my question is whether or not to go back to work? I am a substitute teacher (Grades K-8) and require a lot of talking and energy. Wasn’t sure if this would be wise…I’m willing to give it a try but afraid I will strain my jaw. My friends and family think…I should hold off? What is your take… how much longer before I can go back and effectively do my job? Also, are there any jaw exercises I can do in the meanwhile to help open my bite?

    Well thanks for your time! I apologize for all the venting and my super lengthy post. Hope to hear from you soon. 🙂

    P.S. I have my own blog and would like to share it with you. However, I will send you the link after I’m done updating…Im a couple weeks behind. lol. Again, you are true jaw surgery survivor inspiration!

    • Hi Mayra,

      You’ve done an excellent job at describing how physically and emotionally strenuous this recovery can be. As for keeping up this blog, I honestly just needed to talk to someone, and since I couldn’t physically speak, the Internet was there to listen. =)

      To answer your questions:

      1) The purpose of the elastics is basically to keep your jaw in the correct position as it heals. They’re tight enough that your jaw will generally stay in the right form unless it spasms or you consciously move it around. That being said, most surgeons and orthodontists go a little overkill on things like elastics and braces because they’d rather be safe than sorry. I’d be faithful to your elastics until at least the halfway mark at week 6.

      2) The rate at which the muscles in your jaw stretch back to normal differs for each person. It’s very normal to barely be able to separate your teeth at your stage of recovery, so don’t worry about anything at this point.

      3) Since you need to speak a lot at work (and clearly, to boot), I would advice you to take another couple of weeks off before returning to the classroom. You’ll want to be decently confident in your speech before attempting to shepherd children into a state of higher learning, haha. Try whistling (to break up scar tissue), chewing gum (to strengthen your jaw), and simply speaking to regain your muscle movement and confidence.

      You’re in good shape and you’ll notice big changes over the next few weeks. Remember to be careful when doing things like chewing gum, though. Slow and steady wins the race. Cheers! =)

  9. So ive been reading and i say that you said that you couldnt open your mouth very wide even with the elastics off. im on day 18 post op, same surgery basically and i seem to be much further ahead than you. i got the okay on wednesday to take my elastics off to eat soft foods and brush my teeth. but anyways i was wondering how long it was before you were able to open your mouth wider? also how long before you were able to open it completely? Thank you so much.

    • Bailey, it sounds like nobody took quite as long to recover as I did. Perhaps that’s a good thing, though, because if you’re expecting the worst, all other outcomes will seem easier in comparison.

      I was able to start opening my mouth wider about a week after I had my splint removed. As for opening it completely, that didn’t happen until around the 10 or 11-week mark for me.

  10. Chris, I most certainly had dizzy spells for about the first six weeks. I attributed them to both hunger and a general lack of energy. These are completely normal and they will go away in time.

  11. I’m currious if you had any dizziness 3 weeks in? I find that I have dizzy spells if I stand up too quick, or if I’ve been laying down and sit up. I can’t tell if it’s just malnourishment or just a common thing 3 weeks after the surgery?

  12. I love how us jaw surgery heroes adjust our dining habits to revolve around restaurants with “meals that can be blenderized.”

    Nice work on finding meals that work for you. I was lazy and spent most of my meal times with Ensure and Chunky soup, but you’re living a much better recovery. =)

  13. I made it to day 21 so I thought I’d check on where you were at this time. Reading through the comments I saw PANCAKES! Yum! I know what I’m having for dinner tonight!

    Love your Jaw Surgery Olympics idea. I would definitely come in last on the elastics changing as I have 4 total. Probably the only one I’d stand a chance on is the blender event. I’ve started to scope out take out restaurants that have soupy meals that can be blenderized. My favs are a good Thai Curry (I add a bit of coconut milk to make it more liquidy) and Qdoba’s Mexican Gumbo with an extra shot of tortilla soup. They don’t look all that appetizing, but all the flavors are there so they’re delish.

  14. Hey Chu,

    Most of my drinking Ensure for such a long time is because I was too lazy to make other food. I figured I could enjoy food again once I was all healed up, so I just took the easy road and bought Ensure.

    Porridge and pancakes would have definitely been better. 😉

  15. I stumbled upon your blog while looking for dinner ideas (yep, fellow double jaw surgery patient here), and I can’t believe you’ve only been drinking Ensure and soup for SO LONG! I’ve caved in to rice porridge, soft bread, pancakes… and this is only my second week post-op!

  16. No worries, Anna! I’m still in awe of how many people have the same jaw/teeth issues as I do. I thought I was the only one, but apparently I’m really not that special at all. =)

  17. Your blog is hilarious! I have 2 years of treatment ahead of me for the same problem you had – it’s helping to cheer me up, so thanks!

  18. Dude, I’ve been eating mac and cheese for three weeks.

    😀 RIGID FIXATION NO BANDS WHAT

  19. YOU HAD MAC’N’CHEESE FOR DINNER?!?

  20. Jaw surgery makes you appreciate the simple things. I miss sandwiches. 🙁

    As for the Olympics, if you and I were competing, here’s how things would go:

    * Bubble blowing: You’d win. I can’t close my mouth easily.
    * Whistling: All you. I can’t whistle.
    * Opening your mouth as wide as you can: I’d win. I can get more than two fingers in there.
    * See who the first person to detect water running down their chin is: Me. I’ve had feeling there for a while.
    * Fastest elastics-changer: Ooh, tough. We both have two elastics.
    * The Greatest Blender Concoction Challenge (TM): Tough call. I am the one with the jaw food blog, though.
    * The Breath Test: Draw. I’m not even going to speculate.
    * Taunting: I ate mac and cheese for dinner, neener neener. 😀

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