Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My secret weapon

A few weeks ago, I wrote about going to acupuncture to try to get the feeling back in my chin, post-surgery. At that point, I estimated that I had 98 per cent of the feeling back in my chin and lower lip after a few acupuncture treatments.

Well, let's just say that I spoke too soon. Shortly after I wrote that entry, I came down with the nastiest flu ever. It hit everyone I know pretty hard, but I seemed to get it much worse. I'm guessing it's because my immune system has been compromised by the surgery and the healing process. I was away from work for two weeks straight and was unable to get out of bed for the first week because my whole body hurt.

I'm not sure if it was all the coughing, my inability to keep down nutritious food, or the fact that my body was fighting off a virus instead of focusing on healing, but the feeling in my chin regressed back to about 80-85 per cent during that time.

It was upsetting and frustrating and scary. Did this mean that the nerve damage was permanent? It was one more thing to worry about that I really didn't need to add to the mix.

I went back to acupuncture and that helped a bit. Getting the coughing under control with a bronchial inhaler (I ended up with bronchial spasms after I got over the flu. Fun with a broken jaw, let me tell you) helped a great deal with the tension in my jaw, too.

But the one thing that made a really big difference was totally unexpected.

I am a big sucker for the clearance section at my favourite Canadian drug store, Shoppers Drug Mart. One day, not too long after my surgery, I found an amazing sale on the Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System. I had always been curious about it, so I thought it was a fair indulgence after having my face cracked open and all.

I had chipmunk cheeks and huge yellow bruises,
so anything to help me feel better was quite justifiable,
in my humble opinion.

I started using it on a regular basis while I was at home recovering from the surgery. It is a hand-held vibrating sponge that you use to spread gritty cream around your face. You concentrate on each area of your face a maximum of one to two minutes. Each time I used it, I thought I noticed more feeling in my chin. I wasn't sure if it was just getting better on its own or if the vibrating and stimulation was doing something to help restore the feeling. All I knew is that it was getting better.

Anyway, after my numbness returned, I started using the microdermabrasion more often and I noticed the difference right away. I have no idea if there is any medical evidence for this, as I have been unable to find any online, but I all I can say is, "Hooray for facials!"

Now, if only I could convince my insurance company that going for facials is an essential part of my jaw surgery recovery, I would be a happy gal indeed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Surgery support link action

For those who have stumbled across this blog looking for more information about jaw surgery, I have a number of links posted in my sidebar that I'd like to draw your attention to.

When I was faced with making the decision to have this surgery, I was terrified and didn't know where to turn to answer the multitude of questions whirring through my head.

Then, I came across a blog by someone who had the surgery who took the time to write about it and post pictures. She also linked to the Yahoo orthognathic surgery support group, which was a wealth of information with helpful people who had been through it themselves and were willing to answer questions and share their experiences.

Because of the answers I found through these links, I was able to make an informed and confident decision to have the surgery. I went into it with my eyes open and I knew exactly what to expect. I credit my positive experience with the fact that I did my research and I was prepared.

That's why I started this blog - to help other people find the information they need to make the right decision for them. Being told you need surgery is a scary, scary thing and research is the key that changes that fear into power.

If you look at my sidebar, you'll see a heading called Online Support Group Links. These are message boards where people can ask questions and talk about their experiences.

Below those, I have two groupings of blogs listed. The first is Pre-Surgery Blogs: people who are preparing for the surgery. The second is Post-Surgery Blogs: those on the other side of the surgery and are either still in recovery or have completed the process entirely. Your surgeon or orthodontist is a great source of information, but there are certain things that you'll learn from people who have been through it that you won't learn anywhere else.

Beneath the blog links are some information links as well as links to homeopathic remedies, recipes and products that I found useful when recovering from surgery.

I would like to link to many jaw surgery blogs as I can so that there is a wide variety of experiences represented here. If you have a blog about your surgery, whether you are still waiting for it to happen or you're well beyond the bone saw, please email me or leave a link to your blog in my comments so I can add it to my list.

I hope you are able to find the information you're looking for. Good luck!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Animated illustrations of jaw surgery

I was searching for diagrams illustrating the surgery I underwent and I came across this really cool page from the Mayo Clinic that has animated illustrations of each of the surgeries.

Check it out.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tools of the trade

Tomorrow marks the two-month anniversary of my jaw surgery. It's hard to believe that eight weeks has passed since my super high-five happy times, but here we are.

The bruising is gone, the swelling is gone, those awful wires binding my jaw together are gone, and people tell me that I look like a million bucks. And yet, my recovery is not over. Not in the least. There's the small matter of being able to open my mouth and chew things. Yeah, that little detail.

After I got my jaw unwired, I could only open my mouth a few millimetres. My surgeon gave me some exercises to do to help get my opening back. After one month, I was only able to open my mouth 15 millimetres.

In case you're wondering how much that is, here's a ruler. Put some household objects up to it and imagine only being able to open your mouth that wide.

15 mm = One thumb's width.
The diameter of a small coin.
Less than one Scrabble tile.
And keep in mind, it's 15 mm, teeth to teeth.

Do you know what you can eat when you can only open your mouth 15 mm? Not a whole lot. Unless you chop it up into eensie teensie little pieces.

The situation of sharing the same food as my friend's baby was getting kind of old. I had to get on top of that sucker. So, I ran to my physiotherapist, stat.

She stretched my jaw, moved it around, massaged it, and then handed me this:

I wondered if perhaps she was giving me some tools
so I could break into the pharmacy late at night
and swipe some of the good drugs
so I would no longer care that I couldn't really eat.

Alas, this was not the case.
I was supposed to use this device to stretch my mouth open.
That piece on the end goes into your mouth,
and then you use the grip to crank it open.

Look, I don't like you, and you don't like me,
ut we're in this together, so we better make the best of it, alright?

At first, I couldn't even get my mouth around the thing.
But after a few stretches, I was ready.
I wasn't able to crank it open for quite some time,
but after a few weeks of baby steps...

Crank, crank, crank, crank, crank.
That's five, in case you were counting.
25 millimetres.

25 mm=two finger widths
The spine of a substantial self-help book
The width of a fork.

And might I mention,
it feels as comfortable as it looks.

The thing is, 25 mm is not enough. My surgeon won't let me go back to my orthodontist for braces adjustments until I reach 30 mm. And I am not considered fully recovered from this surgery until I have a "functional opening", which is around 40 mm. The physiotherapy torture device has 10 clicks on it. I have only been able to reach 5-6 clicks at this point.

This is what the torture device looks like when open 10 clicks.

More than a little daunting.

Infuriating, really.

But mostly depressing.

But I'll keep at it. I'm a trooper that way. A pathetic trooper who can't open her mouth wide enough to eat an ice cream cone, but a trooper nonetheless.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More before and after photos

My surgeon's office just sent me the pictures they took of me one week before the surgery.

And now I know what I would look like in mug shots.
I mean, do they
try to make the "before" pictures look bad?

Here are some shots that have been taken in the last few weeks:

A silly shot taken on Day 45,
on the way to sushi, which guess what?
You don't have to chew.

A profile shot taken at the sushi restaurant.

You can really see the difference in my chin/profile in this shot.
I used to avoid profile shots like the plague.
Now, I loves them, I do.

If you compare this smiley shot to the smiley "before" picture,
you'll see that my smile is no longer lopsided.

A serious shot to show my lovely new chin...
and the new hairdo to go with.


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