Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jaws Wired SHUT

Twice when I was young, I had to have my jaws wired shut. I had a joint problem called TMJ. My face was assymetrical and I experienced lots of jaw pain. This was in the years before TMJ was a commonly known malady so the doctors weren't sure how to correct the problem. I had braces in high school for 4 years and the orthodontist thought that they would help. They got my teeth straight, but didn't help the problem. My Mom suffered from the same thing and she was going through multiple doctor visits trying to find out what was wrong. By the time she had her surgery, she could barely fit a kernel of corn through her front teeth! It's a really rotten problem to have. Anyway, after my Mom finally found a doctor that could help I started on my journey.

By the time I had my surgery, I had been out of braces for a few years but I had to have them put back on because my surgery required that my jaws be broken and then wired shut for 6 weeks. I knew I was in for a rough ride but luckily, I didn't know just how rough it would be. I am told that when I was wheeled out of surgery my Dad saw me and broke down in tears. My eyes were swollen shut, my lips were so swollen they were curled inside out and I had a bandage the size of a helmet around my entire head. I loked pretty dang bad. My face was black and blue and I looked like a sad sap but things seemed really sad when I started speaking. Because my jaws were wired completely shut enunciating words was quite a challenge. "B"s sounded like "p"s, "d"s were really muffled, the "sh" sound was pretty messy and it always seemed like I was drooling and spitting a lot. Going out to places that were noisy was a challenge. Since I couldn't open my mouth, I couldn't talk very loudly. I had to get right close to the ear of the person I was trying to talk to so they ended up having to decipher what I was saying while dealing with spit dripping off their ear! Sweet, huh?

When your mouth is wired shut, you can't eat normal food. Everything you ingest has to be able to pass through a straw. This got really, really old. I don't really like soup all that much so finding something satisfying was a huge challenge. One day I was totally desperate for food that wasn't liquid so I got the idea to try and blend lasagne. I wasn't sure what to mix it with to make it soupy so I decided on milk because it was healthy. I blended up a nice pink sludge that looked horrendous. But I was so hungry I didn't care. You can't imagine the anticipation of having something tasty. After sucking that stuff through the straw for all I was worth, the sludge finally hit my tastebuds. Hip, hip......blecch! Pink, milky lasagne isn't as good as it's cracked up to be. I did get to feel tiny chunks of meat on my tounge and it was sort of warm but it just didn't quite cut it. I wanted to like it so badly. I tried to drink it but in the end I just couldn't stomach pink, chunky, milky lasagne. Boo hoo.

The surgery was sort of a success. The side of my jaw that the doctor worked on was doing well, but the side he left alone was still causing lots of problems. After a year or two of trying to hold out and grin and bear it, I knew that I was going to have to go under the knife again. It was really hard to do because I knew that I was going to have to go through having my jaws wired shut again. And this time, I was NOT going to try and drink lasagne through a straw. Nuh, uh, no way.

The second surgery happened pretty much as I expected it. Again my jaws were wired shut and agin, I was desperate for food. Solid food. My doctor warned me about drinking too much alcohol because if I were to become nausious and toss my (liquid) cookies, there wouldn't be any good way to rid myself of it if you know what I mean. I was given a pair of wire cutters when I went home so if I did indeed get sick, I could snip the wires holding my mouth shut and could avoid choking. Being a hard headed 20-something, I did not want the fact that I couldn't open my mouth stop me from going out and having a good time. And sure enough, I managed to consume too much beer and guess what happened? Yep, I got sick. Seeing as how I was a master hard-head, there was no way in heck-fire I was going to snip the wires and have to go through having my jaws rewired. I caused the problem and I'd deal with it.

I'll be kind and spare you the gory details. You're smart enough to figure things out. I will issue some very good warnings that anyone who has this surgery should heed. Don't overindulge. Drink soup not liquid lasagne. If you go out to a noisy place, bring a bullhorn - that way, your friends won't have spit dripping off their ears. Know that the doctor gives you guidelines to follow for a reason. He's not just talking to hear his own voice. Carry your wire cutters. Hopefully, you won't have to use them.

Laugh at me and with me.

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