Monday, March 24, 2008

21st century wireless gal

Now where was I? Ah, yes, I left off at the part of the story where my jaw was wired shut. That kinda sucked, didn't it? Don't worry, sweet Internets. The wired Bella only lasted two weeks. I'm one of the lucky ones - some jaw surgery patients are wired for six weeks. I can't even imagine.

When I left the hospital, the nurse gave me wire cutters and told me I had to carry them with me AT ALL TIMES. Sorry for the use of the capital letters there, but they were very serious about this point. I even had to sign a document promising that I would carry them AT ALL TIMES.

I knew they weren't to be used if you were throwing up. (Apparently, you're supposed to use your fingers to open up your lips, bend over, and let the vomit run out from between your teeth. Mmmmmm. Fun.) I assumed their only use would be if your airway were obstructed or you weren't breathing and someone needed to perform CPR.

Bella: So, how do you use these?
Nurse: I don't know.
Bella: I should know how to use them if I have to carry them at all times, don't you think?
Nurse: I'll ask and find out.

I think I was the first person to ask this question. That's kind of disturbing, when you think about it. How many jaw surgery patients are carrying these things around with no real idea of what to do with them?

Nurse: You just give them to the paramedics if something happens to you.
Bella: Uh...okay.
Nurse: We've never known of anyone who's actually had to use them before.
Bella: But what if I need to?
Nurse: Just get in there and start cutting everything.
Bella: Alrighty then.

The infamous wire cutters that no one uses.

As you can imagine, I was not going to miss carrying those things around in my purse. Their very existence reminded me that I was in a precarious position, choking wise. Something I'd rather not think about when my jaw's wired shut for two weeks.

Other things I was not going to miss: crazy concoctions made in the blender that, more often than not, turned out to be very unappealing; talking through clenched teeth; and finessing one of my pills, which couldn't be crushed up, through the tiny space behind my back teeth so I could swallow it.

But then, the magical day came. The day I got with the 21st century and went wireless (thanks for that turn of phrase, DK.)

The boyfriend had gone to plug the meter just before I got called into the office, so I held the camera up as the surgeon cut the wires and took all these pictures myself. My surgeon asked, "You can take those all by yourself?" My response: "Trust me, when you're as narcissistic as I am, you become very good at taking pictures of yourself!"

The first cut is the sweetest.

Get that finger in there. Good times.

He also had to cut the rubber bands that were over the wires.
Those snapped back something fierce.

At least he knows what to do with the wire cutters.

Can you tell I'm having fun here?

It was a very involved process and went on for awhile.

Also, it kinda hurt.

Except delete the word "kinda."


It was a very weird feeling to have those wires off for the first time. It was actually uncomfortable. My jaw was sore and I could barely open my mouth. If you look at my mouth in the above picture, that was literally as far as I could open it after being unwired. It felt really unstable. At that moment, I would have been quite happy had he said he was putting the wires back on.

But then, he gave me a toothbrush and some paste and told me to brush.

And the heavens opened and there was much rejoicing. Because let me tell you - not being able to brush the backs of your teeth for two weeks straight = downright disgusting. My tongue had been brushing up against a layer of fuzz for a week at least, so brushing was a higher priority than being able to eat.

My teeth just after unwiring and before brushing.
Pretty gross, hey?

I brushed for about 20 minutes to get all the stains off. At first, I couldn't even fit the toothbrush into my mouth to get at the backs of the teeth. But I was determined to get that gunk off, so I held my jaw and pressed the bristles against my lower teeth until some of them went on the other side. It was the best feeling in the word. I was so relieved once I was done.

It was then that I realized - I can talk! (So, I babbled the surgeon's head off.) And then it dawned on me - hey, I can eat! (So, I stopped talking and got the hell out of the office so we could go for lunch.)

Now we know Bella's hierarchy of needs: Brushing, Talking, Eating.

The boyfriend and I grabbed a friend of mine who lives in The Big City and went to my favourite Mexican restaurant to eat My First Meal As Someone Who Can Open Her Mouth. I was still not allowed to chew anything, so I had to get something soft and mushy. I ordered the mexi dip, which is refried beans, fresh salsa and cheese baked in a tortilla shell. And I ate that mo-fo with a spoon and a side of guacamole and sour cream.

And it was sublime.


Jenn said...

hey there, bella. i discovered your blog about a week ago, and had my surgery on friday. your sense of humor about the whole thing is great. i'm totally jealous that you were unwired after 2 weeks. i'm not wired-- just strong rubberbands which honestly doesn't seem too much better-- but i'm a five-weeker. yikes.

anyway, just wanted to say hi and tell you how much i enjoy your blog. take care! :)

- jenn

The Duloks said...

this blog gives me hope!! 33 days wired!

Bella said...

You can do it gals! I have faith. Just hang in there and remember: You can still melt down chocolate and slurp it through a spoon with your jaw wired shut ;)

Jenn said...

I sort of had an epiphany on my 2nd day post-op when I was still in the hospital and thinking, "Dear god what have I done?! This was a huge mistake!" The realization was-- I'm stuck with it now, so best to get through it as positively as possible. Not exactly a situation where you can say "Actually, I've changed my mind. Can you take this stuff off now so I can go back to normal." So I HAVE to do it, whether I want to or not, at this point. :) Melted choc sounds good. So far I haven't ventured beyond Ensure and yogurt smoothies.

mylene said...

Hey there,
just found your blog and I love your style.
Wire cutters, huh. Never heard that one before. Looking forward to having my own set!

Bella said...


I'm a total control freak, so going through this surgery was really difficult for me, because it's the ultimate relinquishment of control to be unconscious with someone else taking a bone saw to your face.

But I did the same thing as you - I can't do anything about it, so I might as well be positive.

It served me well, and I hope your recovery goes as swimmingly as mine has.

Other good things to slurp through your wires: applesauce (and other pureed fruit sauces), pudding, minigo, scrambled eggs with melted cheese and extra milk whipped up in the blender (kind of like devilled eggs - loved it), any drink at Starbucks with whipped cream on top.

Good luck, and positive thoughts to you!

Andrew said...

I'm currently going through jaw surgery myself, however in my case both jaws were broken- upper and lower (I also had all my wisdom teeth removed in the same procedure). Like Jenn, I was elasticed-shut (is that a word?) instead of wired. However, I was lucky and had them removed 2 weeks after the surgery like you did. I'm still supposed to wear elastics most of the time, but can take them out to eat, exercise my jaw, and brush (honestly, I only ever wear them at night when I'm in bed since, while I'm awake, I can keep my teeth lined up myself and don't see any other purpose the elastics could serve). During the surgery, they attached a disc to my upper teeth via my braces that acts to kinda hold the upper jaw bones in proper form while they heal. They left it attached when the took my elastics off and it's my last annoyance following the operation. It wasn't so bad to have it while the elastics were keeping my jaw shut, I'm really sensitive to cold and, being unable to chatter, my teeth would instead clench, so being able to bite down on the disc probably saved me a few damaged teeth. However, the disc was not designed with the soft-food stage in mind. EVERYTHING gets stuck in it. It's worse than braces ever are for getting gunk in it because it traps food particles up behind your teeth and how the hell do you get them out??? The tooth brush can't reach it, you can't floss, mouthwash (even the crazy anti-gingivitis stuff the doc prescribed) is useless. I made sort of a hook-shaped toothpick dealie out of a paper clip but I'm afraid I might unknowingly dig into my gums, since I haven't got that much feeling there yet and could do a lot of damage without realizing. Thankfully the disc will be removed a week from Thursday (2 weeks since I was un-elastic-ed). Once the disc is gone I'll feel truly myself again. That has been my experience since my jaw was opened again. Oh and for people still in the wired stage, 2 good recipes I didn't get tired of over my 2 weeks:
-1- Blended Chef Boyardee (doesn't matter what kind of pasta it is- it's all gonna end up the same anyway, but I think you get more pasta per can with spaghetti than lager kinds, also I liked to get the kinds with meat- beef ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, etc., extra protein never hurts) with tomato soup (or pasta sauce- just make sure it's a thinner sauce or else you'll get stuff stuck in your teeth spaces and won't be able to eat- the purpose of this ingredient is to thin out the pasta and make it drinkable). I made this in bulk, one whole can of pasta plus one whole can (or equal amount) of tomato soup/pasta sauce.

-2- High Protein Ensure + Ice Cream was a healthy staple. My absolute favourite was Vanilla Ensure mixed into Mocha-Fudge Ice Cream (the brand was a local dairy, so I'm not sure if the name is the same everywhere, but basically look for something Mocha and Fudge/Chocolate). Delicious. You can be less creative by mixing like flavours- strawberry ensure with strawberry ice cream, chocolate with chocolate, etc. I also made a tasty mixture of Eggnog flavoured Ensure, Vanilla Eggnog (again, local dairy), and Vanilla Ice Cream. One thing I found after a few days was that the area where they cut through my mouth to get to the bone became really sensitive to cold, but I found nuking the shake for 20-30 seconds brought it up to an acceptable temperature.

YMMV, but I credit my sustained sanity through the wired process to these two main recipes. Oh, by the way- while wearing elastics I was supposed to carry around a small pair of scissors I was given at the hospital (the same kind of scissors you'd find in a first aid kit) in case, as you mentioned above, I should stop breathing and need CPR.

Noah said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



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