Jaw Surgery

As it’s coming up to 3 months since my surgery, I thought I’d write a quick blog on the experience as a whole.

A lot has happened since my operation. Christmas has been and gone, a new year is upon us, and I’ve spent two weeks in Kenya as part of my Masters degree. I’ll admit I was more nervous for the latter than I was even for my surgery, but I had the absolute time of my life and I’m already planning to go back.

The first week after the surgery was hard, physically and mentally. The first two or three days were undoubtedly the worst – Sunday and Monday, after the operation on the Friday, were rock bottom. I was thankful I knew that would be the case though. There is comfort to be had in knowing that you are at rock bottom and that things will improve from then on.

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This was me only two days after the surgery. Swelling is not obvious from that angle but from my eyes down was swollen like a balloon, and completely and utterly numb. Like an idiot, I gave my dad free rein with my camera. He took pics of me right after I got back on to the ward after the surgery. I don’t remember that, I wasn’t fully aware of things, drugged up on morphine and still only just round from the anaesthetic.

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The stuff round my head is ice to soothe the swelling and in this shot I still have the drains in – they didn’t get taken out until 6am the next morning. At which point they took the morphine away, which made me sad.

So as you can see, the first few days were rough. It didn’t help that I was on awful drugs. I couldn’t chew or open my jaw much, so I was on soluble paracetamol and ibuprofen syrup, as well as antibiotics which had to be ground up into a kind of chalky paste. All three of those, apart from tasting utterly utterly disgusting, made me feel unbearably nauseous, to the point where I was willing to go without pain meds [which I still really needed at that point, although the ice did a lot of good, but swelling hurts more than you expect it to] just so I wouldn’t have to take them. My parents had to all but force them down my throat with a syringe and it was miserable.

After Tuesday, things started to look up. My dad called the doctors and after a lot of faffing about, got me some anti-nausea meds. I managed to swallow an ordinary paracetamol tablet, which meant I could stop with the horrid pain meds from the hospital.

I had my first post-op check up on the Wednesday, and managed to get dressed and go to the hospital without anything disastrous happening. The consultant was lovely and gave me more confidence to be able to eat actual food. I felt quite a bit better that afternoon, and had a bath in the early evening, around 7.30pm.

That was a mistake.

My mum stayed with me while I was in the bath – being only 5 days post-op, I wasn’t really able to wash my own hair or anything and needed help getting out and stuff. Which was a good thing, because I got out of the bath, and immediately felt bad. I told mum I needed to sit down, plonked myself in the chair, and didn’t feel any better.

Next thing I know, mum is screaming in my ear for my dad to come upstairs. I’d passed out, and only about 30 seconds after my dad arrived, off I went again. So dad went off to call 999 and mum had to calm me down – passing out for an unknown reason is terrifying and I still didn’t feel great, black dots in the vision, sweating and white noise in your ears does that to you. Mum and dad thought I might be suffering from low blood sugar, so they brought some lemonade up and started spooning that into me quickly. The woman on the other end of the 999 call wasn’t pleased about that but it did me good, woke me up a bit.

Then they decided I need paramedics and next thing I know an ambulance turns up, which freaked me out, because I was already reasonably stressed out by the situation and I’d never had to be treated by paramedics before and that’s scary and only happens to people who are really sick.

But the paramedics were lovely, the woman in particular – I dealt with her most because I didn’t have an awful lot of clothes on and so the man stayed outside in the hall with dad. She was very calming and they can do all sorts of tests, they did ECGs and took my blood pressure and blood sugar.

But the decision was I needed to go to A&E. Which again freaked me out – going in ambulance?! To A&E?! But you know, 5 days post-op is still pretty dangerous and apparently I was distressingly pale and clammy so off I went. Fortunately they didn’t blue light me. Dad stayed behind to get food [he is diabetic] and I had to sit in the ambulance and try not to be sick. I get travel sick and facing backwards on a trolleybed is not conducive to feeling great.

A&E seemed to be okay. I had needles poked in me again – the nurse couldn’t find my vein – and they all asked questions I could hardly answer cos I could still hardly talk from the numbness and swelling – the first day in hospital was a nightmare because my bag had got lost and I couldn’t talk at all and when my dad arrived and went to find my bag, with the pen and notepad in, it was wonderful – I could communicate again!

Anyway they moved me out of triage into the treatment area and I kind of realised – gonna be a wait here. So I settled on the new trolleybed. But space was kind of cramped and a nurse asked me if I could hop off the bed and go and sit down in the waiting bit. I didn’t feel fabulous but I agreed. Halfway across the room I started to feel bad again. My parents rushed me to the chairs, and it was like a parting of the waves – my dad called out that I needed to sit down quickly and people quickly got out of the way. I still didn’t feel good once I’d sat down and my dad went and asked a nurse for help, getting told that they were busy with a patient and couldn’t help. And then I fainted again. Which was kind of useful, because my dad just bellowed ‘We need some help here, now!’ and I came round to about 5 or 6 doctors and nurses around me, trying to stop me falling onto the floor and get me onto a trolley bed.

Fainting in A&E, whilst not recommended, is useful. At that point they have seen you lose consciousness and you get bumped up the waiting list. I got put back on a trolleybed and given my own bay to lie and wait in. Someone took my blood pressure. After not very long an A&E doctor came and assessed me, and then whacked me on fluids. They called the on-call doctor down from the department which did the operation, and he was super lovely and spoke to us for ages about the operation and everything. The fainting was a simple vasovagal attack – in other words, through lack of fluid from not eating and drinking much, the hot bath, and being upright sent my blood pressure crashing through the floor.

They kept me in A&E til 1.30am, until they saw that I could walk a lap of the hall without passing out and my blood pressure was more normal. The next few days were mostly taken up by boredom, because after that I wasn’t allowed off the sofa without supervision – the A&E doc had advised that I was quite likely to pass out again, and so I wasn’t allowed anywhere alone. I felt quite a lot better by this point, in terms of swelling and pain, and I was off all the nasty meds, so I was HUNGRY, and I quickly started climbing the walls.

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I look reasonably cheerful here but I was losing my sanity with boredom and fed up of dribbling everything I ate/drank all down myself because my lips were numb.

And here are the all-important before and afters. Because this is, after all, what it’s all been for.

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Before

 

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Today is the day.

So this is it. D-day.

In a little under 1 hour I will be leaving to go to hospital to have the surgery which will be the climax of 3 and a half years of braces and many more years of orthodontics, x-rays, and waiting lists.

I’m scared.

I’m excited too. And there’s no turning back now.

No going back now…

Today I had my final set of appointments before I go in to hospital in just over two weeks to have my jaw broken and pinned together and six metal plates stuck in my face. By which I mean get orthognathic surgery.

It feels a bit weird, saying bye to the people who I’ve seen every 6-8 weeks over the last 3 and a half years and knowing that the next time I see them I’ll have a different face, pretty much. It’ll still be my face, but it’ll look pretty different.

Pre-op was a long process complicated by address issues. It was kinda nice to go to the main hospital though. My appointments are in an outpatient bit, we don’t see much hospital stuff happening. And I quite like hospitals. I always have. I wanted to be a doctor until I hated chemistry at A-level. Although it’s exceptionally easy to get lost in hospitals, especially since I am always distracted by the signs. They are populated with such interesting destinations as ‘cardiac catheter unit’ and ‘intensive care unit’ and I am fascinated by them.

Anyway, the pre-op assessment. Endless questions about how I am, family history of illness, do I know what’s going to happen, this is where you have to come, this is when, you can’t eat anything after 6.30am on the day of the surgery…I got given reams of paper, leaflets about what I can eat afterwards – whatever I like as long as it is totally totally liquid. No lumps at all. Otherwise my jaw could bend. Nice image, that. Blood was taken, height and weight measured, blood pressure and heart rate taken.

I have pretty much the perfect BMI scoring so they would prefer me to not really lose much weight after the operation – which could happen as it’s kinda hard to get all the nutrition if you can only eat liquid – so they’ve pretty much given me the go ahead to eat whatever I like for the next two weeks, all the kinds of stuff we’re normally supposed to shun, to try and build a little buffer. So that’s kinda cool.

And then I had to go up to see the treatment team. Which I was not looking forward to, as yesterday I developed a mouthful of painful ulcers. But they had to try out the surgery splints to make sure everything would be okay for the operation. They have little casts and models of my jaws and teeth and what they will look like at the end, in a big fancy hospital box with my name all over it and important surgery things in bags of sterilising solution. It all feels very important.

Suddenly it feels more real than it has done up to now. Apart from all the ulcers. When I am at uni I don’t much think about it. The work is starting to kick in and I have too much else to think about. But now I have to think about getting to hospital, plan when to arrive and stuff. They told me about the aftercare, all the pills I will be sent home with, the morphine drip, the ward that I spend the night on that’s in between an ordinary ward and ICU. This is happening, in 15 days.

No going back now.