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maryjo's jaw surgery journey

Personal Experience of Double Jaw Surgery/Recovery

Feb 16/16- Day 1 (24 hours post-op)

Inconvenience: 10/10

Nausea: 2/10

Pain: 4/10

According to my nurses and surgical team things are going great! Things are basically going as I expected although I  am slightly more uncomfortable than I thought I would be. I’ve been keeping the dilaudid/morphine/tylenol/advil into me as much as I feel I need to. Besides pain, everything is just really annoying haha. Eating, standing up, trying to talk… you name it, it’s annoying.

The swelling is definitely worse today and the bruising has started but that is to be expected. I had some X-rays this morning and my bite looks AMAZING! Very happy with how things are looking! My elastics are on quite loose which is nice but I am having some trouble keeping my teeth properly locked into the splint but the surgeon says with time I will get better at this.

Last night I may have gotten 1 full hour of sleep so I am hoping to get a bit more tonight. Fingers crossed. My parents are here visiting now and I am assuming they will be back tonight at some point before I go to bed.

 

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February 15th- Day 0 (surgery day)

Inconvenience: 10/10

Nausea: 3/10

Pain: 5/10

I did it! I’m going to try and make as much sense as I can in this post buuuuut I’m pretty jacked up on morphine among all kinds of other drugs right now, so bare with me.

I arrived to the hospital around 9:30 this morning. They registered me, got me changed into my hospital gear, and then I waited! My parents arrived at the hospital around 11am, so it was really great that they made it before my surgery. At 12, a nurse came to get me, so I said goodbye to my parents and headed down to the OR. The anesthesiologist, my surgeon, his fellow, and a nurse all came by to chat with me before heading into the OR to let me know what exactly they were going to do once I was in there. Once I was in, the had one last little chat with me and to sleep I went.

I came to whenever they were rolling me into a room on my stretcher. I asked them if they could take the breathing tube out right away- it was incredibly uncomfortable and made me feel like I was going to gag. So, they took it out, and kept an eye on me until I was ready to go to my room  (about 20 minutes later).

I’m told the surgery went very well. The procedure itself took a bit over 2 hours and I was in recovery for about an hour and a half. I’m currently in my room with my parents, and managed to get a semi-private room instead of a standard ward room so I’m thankful for that.

The nurse wrapped ice around my head to help with swelling and pain,  gave me a suction thingy so I can keep blood and whatnot out of my mouth, and gave me an oxygen mask to help with breathing.

I did not expect to be in much pain after surgery due to the damage they would cause to my nerves, but I am in pain. I am not sensitive to physical pain and have a pretty good tolerance, but this hurts. Even after the nurse gave me all the morphine she could, along with advil and tylenol, I’m far from comfortable. Really hope this improves over the next few days!!

I am incredibly weak and dizzy- even adjusting my position in bed makes me super lightheaded. So,  I doubt I will make it out of the bed tonight. Hopefully tomorrow afternoon! Besides my liquid advil and tylenol, I’ve managed to use the syringe to get a little but of water into me. This is harder than I expected because of how numb my lips are.

 

Here and some photos from today!! Swelling isn’t too bad, but will get worse over the next few days.

 

 

February 13th, 2016- apprx 40 hours pre-operation//before pictures

Nervous nervous nervous nervous.

Upside: I’m feeling much better. The flu I had was nasty. I spent a full two days in bed, and although I still have a slight cough, I will be fine by Wednesday (thank goodness).

Today is my anniversary- my boyfriend and I have been together for 8 years. We were able to celebrate on the weekend with a beautiful executive suite in the city, which was super relaxing and a nice way to spend some time together before I go for surgery. Today was spent packing some stuff to take to home with me to recover, and working on some schoolwork (which was pointless, because now classes are cancelled tomorrow due to bad weather).

The weather here has been terrible today, and the forecast for this week is no better. I am super scared that my parents are not going to make it over before my surgery because of weather and that I will be alone going into surgery and for my recovery which may not be the biggest deal to some, but will really bother me. But, at least it will get done! Not much can be done to change the weather unfortunately.

Now that my classes are cancelled, I suppose tomorrow will be spent making sure my hospital bag and all other bags are packed and ready to go. Other than that, I guess I should take advantage of being able to lay on my belly and on my face, and EAT! The hospital will call me tomorrow with my appointment time and whatnot. Hoping it’s an early one so I can go in and get it over with!

I’ll probably post tomorrow or even Wednesday morning before surgery! But in the meantime, here are my before pictures! My jaw is relaxed in its natural position (rare event), and no makeup so that there’s no contour to make my overbite look less severe. SO EXCITED to see the end results.

 

 

February 8th, 2017- ONE WEEK before surgery

So, my surgery is in a week.

Also, last night at about 3am I woke up with the flu.

Not the most thrilling combination I must say. I have spent the entire day in bed pumping gravol, cold medication, powerade, and crackers into my body. I have a fever that does’t want to go away and I am having a hard time getting any sleep. I plan to contact my surgery clinic tomorrow to hear their thoughts on this situation- I have a week to recover from the illness, but when I get the flu its symptoms tend to begin as a traditional flu then move on to a head or chest cold over a couple of weeks. I’m terrified that they will need to cancel but I really hope they only cancel if the patient is contagious or has a high fever. Time will tell!

Besides the terrifying thought of my surgery being postponed, spending a couple days in bed prior to surgery was not in my plans. This week was for eating ALL the food, spending time with friends and family, and squeezing in some final time at the gym. Not to mention, I’m now going to miss more classes at school than I had anticipated AND I had to get a shift covered at work tomorrow.

However, I am trying to stay even slightly optimistic. This sucks but it could definitely be worse.

In other news, I had my surgical hooks put on my braces on Monday. I will eventually post photos, but these are essentially extra metal pieces that stick out of the majority of the brackets in my mouth. They trap about 3x as much food as my braces did before and are driving me a little batty.

Hopefully this all goes as planned!!

February 1st: 2 weeks pre-operation

Today I had my pre-op appointment at the hospital where I will be getting my surgery.

Today is also the day that everything that is going to happen really sunk in.

Today is ALSO the day that my surgeon told me I should be undergoing double jaw surgery + genioplasty (chin) and not just lower jaw surgery.

So, I am pretty overwhelmed right now to say the least. I will first take you through my day, and then explain the whole upper jaw surgery bit.

I left home around 6:55am and was signed in at the hospital by my appointment time at 7:30am; traffic was really great this morning which was a nice start to the day. Someone finally came to get me at 8:15, and we started the appointment with some pretty (just kidding) pictures of my face, my bite, etc. After these were done I was sent back out to the waiting room for a bit. Shortly after this, a surgery resident took me into an exam room to measure my overbite, my teeth, my jaw, etc., and to tell me all about the surgery and what to expect. He told me about the three components to jaw surgery; upper jaw, lower jaw, and chin. I was confused about why he spent so much time talking about upper jaw, but he told me that my surgeon would talk to me about my actual personal procedure later, so I thought that discussing all components of the surgery must be their policy. After I was done talking to the resident, I was sent back out to the waiting room for a bit. The next step was getting all kinds of X-rays taken, along with plenty of moulds of my bite… anyone who has had braces knows what I am talking about lol. These moulds are less than enjoyable for sure. After these, I had an hour break so I went to grab a coffee and for a walk, and when I got back I met with my surgeon but I’m going to save that discussion for later. After meeting with my surgeon, I went to pre-admissions where they did up all my papers, hospital ID’s and bands, and told me what to expect the day of surgery. Basically, they will call me the day before my surgery with a procedure time and tell me what time to arrive at the hospital. I will arrive, be admitted, and then wait! The waiting is definitely the part I am most nervous for, but the RN today assured me that if I was having a really difficult time waiting that they would get the anesthesiologist to come help me out (thank god). After checking out the waiting rooms and whatnot, they sent me to my final destination; the blood clinic! I was done earlier than expected at around 1:30pm.

So what did my surgeon say?

Basically, my bite will be okay with just lower jaw surgery. His concern, though, is that because my upper jaw is to the right about 3mm (sounds very tiny but in the world of jaws it’s significant enough), that if only lower jaw surgery is performed that I will not be happy with my smile because my teeth still won’t line up. When I say “line up” I mean that the center teeth on the top will be over about 3mm to the right of the center teeth on the bottom. He also said that he wanted to let me know upper jaw surgery is an option because he has seen people decline to do it and then become upset when they don’t have a perfect smile after all they went through.

Although I am leaning towards going ahead with the double jaw surgery, I am not fully decided. Essentially, all that adding the upper jaw will do to my recovery is make it a bit more uncomfortable. I will have a lot of congestion and headaches (considering they are moving the part of my face where my sinuses are, this makes sense) and I won’t be able to blow my nose for a long time. A lot of people (I believe the majority) do have both upper and lower jaws done when getting surgery. The upper jaw part of my surgery would be very minimal in the realm of things; most people who have their upper jaws done get A LOT of intense work done to them whereas mine is relatively minor.

Apart from the upper jaw decision I need to make, the rest of the plan is staying the same. They are bringing my lower jaw out about 8mm (that’s a big overbite, I honestly never realized how bad it was) and then they are going to bring my chin out so that it “matches” my new jaw placement.

Many people ask what recovery entails so here you are:

  • My mouth will be closed with very tight elastics for about 2 weeks, at which point they will give me new elastics that allow for a bit more freedom. There will also be some plastic piece over my teeth to help guide my new bite.
  • The liquid diet is expected to last a solid 6 weeks.
  • At 6 weeks people are normally allowed to begin a soft diet and progress from there.
  • I can’t return to the gym (for heavy lifting, something I love) for at least 6 weeks.
  • The hospital stay is two nights.
  • The swelling peaks at about day 3 and takes at least 3 months to completely disappear.
  • Pain is normally minimal.
  • The reason pain is minimal is because prior to surgery you experience extreme numbness in the face. Usually, most people gain complete feeling back within 1 year. However, some people do permanently lose feeling in some small part of the face.
  • Talking will be challenging at the beginning.
  • If upper jaw is done, the nose becomes very congested, small nose bleeds are normal, but over time that improves, especially when you are allowed to blow your nose again.

I am nervous. Very very nervous. Other areas of my life are super busy right now and it’s overwhelming me and staying optimistic is challenging. However, in the back of my head I know it will all fly by and be worth it, so that’s what is keeping me going!

That is all I can think to add for today! Please feel free to share your input with me on the double jaw surgery possibility.

 

January 29th-2 weeks 3 days pre-operation

There is so much to be done in preparation for this freaking event!!! I never thought there could be so much to do.

I am a Masters student at a university in Nova Scotia. I study gerontology and family studies, which is a fairly heavy workload as a full-time student (which I am). My professors are great, and have been willing to grant me extensions if I need them; I’m also keeping ahead of my work so that I can take it easy the first few days of my recovery. I’m lucky enough to have a Spring reading week that begins the Monday following my surgery (a Wednesday) so that gives me extra time to get caught up… the timing worked out very well.

I am recovering at my parent’s house on P.E.I, and the surgery is in Nova Scotia, so when we leave the hospital after my 2-3 night stay, we will have a four hour drive home. I am trying to get everything completely packed and ready to go for then. The biggest hassle is going to be my cat (although I love him dearly) and getting his kennel, litter box, food and toys picked up on our way home from the hospital.

I want my recovery to be as “enjoyable” as possible, so I have searched all the blogs I can find in order to see what tools/etc are handy to have nearby. Here is a list of the things I have purchased, will purchase, or already own that I will be taking with me to aid in recovery:

-Arbonne protein mix (vanilla)

-Arbonne fibre boost

-Arbonne greens essential balance

-Ensure all-in-one nutritional shake

-Many flavours of baby food

-Thick chicken and beef broth

– Heavy duty blender

-Smoothie ingredients (bananas, frozen berries, spinach, OJ, milk, yogurt are my go-to ingredients. This is also how I take in the protein mix and greens mix)

– Giant syringes for pushing food into my mouth. I am not allowed to use a straw or spoons for a while

-Neck/travel pillow

-Baby toothbrush for when I am finally allowed to brush my teeth

-Baby spoons

-Body pillow

-Super powerful lip moisturizer (apparently my lips are going to feel like the sahara desert)

Feel free to let me know of anything you think I will need that I may have forgotten!

The list aside, I have lots of packing to do. I have to take my cat and his ridiculous amount of belongings, my books/computer/school articles, clothing, etc with me. I’m hoping I get all the prescriptions I will need at my pre-op appointment so I can fill those in advance.

My pre-op appointment with the surgery clinic on Wednesday so I will write then. Interested to see how it goes!

January 25th/17 (Bell Let’s Talk Day)- 3 weeks pre-operation

I’ve been asked a few times how, besides the obvious physical recovery, jaw surgery has/will affect me. So in honour of Bell Let’s Talk Day, I decided write this up quickly.

Anyone who knows me well (or maybe even not-so-well) knows that I have struggled with anxiety disorders since the 10th grade (I was diagnosed in 2015 with obsessive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder). Both became more challenging after an incident a bit over a year ago. These two illnesses have wreaked havoc on my brain some days, but there’s been days on which I feel “normal”. Battling with your brain most certainly is not fun, but in the past couple years I have drastically improved my coping methods and I am currently in my best shape ever, both physically and mentally… I would like to say I am “cured” of my mental illness, but I don’t think I am. I have however gone from a “10” on the anxious scale to about a “2”. I have become more involved with physical activity, which gives me an outlet for all my extra energy and obsessing (which used to and on occasion still does keep me up all night), I have dedicated time to reading anxiety self-help books (sounds cheesy but there are some great ones), I have dedicated time to myself to think and relax, I have found great joy in school and working towards my future career, I found an effective medication, and I have a wonderful support system of family, friends, my pets (they rock so much) and colleagues. I still have bad days, and I still see my anxiety creeping through into each and every day, but there has been tremendous progress and that’s what I hold onto to get me through each day, whether that day is a good day or a bad day.

Back to the jaw surgery now… give an obsessive/anxious person a big surgery and you’ve got a little problem. I have spent countless hours doing nothing except obsessing over every little detail of this upcoming event. I know I am doing it, and doing it much too often, so I try to control the obsessing and worrying, sometimes with success and sometimes not. Now that is is getting closer (and I am pretty sure I have worried myself dry until the morning of surgery) I am trying to look at the positive side of things: the results, the support system I have, and how this means I will have my braces off in the near(ish) future. Unfortunately I have had to go through withdrawing from my medication because I can’t talk it during recovery, and that was hard. It’s a relatively mild medication but the effects of withdrawal on my brain were very, very noticeable. But now that the worst of withdrawal is over, I’m focussing most of my energy on coping by other methods and staying positive about the experience.

Mental health is important and just like how jaw surgery will affect my physical health, my mental health will be impacted. There is a stigma around mental health that I am not okay with. No one would look at me as weak if my physical shape is affected by jaw surgery and its recovery, nor should anyone look at me as weak if my mental health is affected by the same situation.

So today, let’s talk about mental health.

 

January 24th- My Story (3 Weeks 1 Day Pre-Operation)

Holy sh*t I am nervous!

Reasonably so, I suppose. Jaw surgery is (apparently) a big deal, especially for me who has not had any surgery besides the classic wisdom teeth removal.

There are three reasons I created this little blog:

  1. So I have something besides typical recovery activities (schoolwork, netflix, knitting, staring at my cat do weird stuff) to do for the couple weeks which I will be pretty tired and whatnot,
  2. As a way to keep my family and friends updated on what exactly is going on with my jaw and my life in the weeks leading up to and after my surgery. I am going to be very busy in the week before surgery and very (very very very) out of it for a bit after the surgery so I will probably fail to update many of you on how I am doing/feeling,
  3. As a way to help anyone else who may have to go through jaw surgery. It seems so minor to a lot of people who have not/will not go through it but let me tell you, IT IS A BIG DEAL. They are changing my face, dude. I am going to look like a different person and that is scary. Also, if you keep reading through this post/other posts, you will quickly realize how intense and life-altering the recovery after surgery can/will be. Lastly, I have read countless other blogs on jaw surgery and they have really helped me learn about what to expect, and things to do to aid with recovery.

So. Why am I even getting surgery? Seems like a lot of pain just to look better. Right?  

It is NOT about cosmetics… let me explain.

It all started in the 9th grade (2008-2009). Like many awkward, barely post-pubescent kids, I needed braces. But I didn’t just have crooked teeth, I had a nasty overbite- my teeth stuck out ten miles (I blame my parents for not taking that DAMN soother when they should have, lol) and my jaw was receded (much father back than normal… I blame genetics, not parenting choices, for this one). I met with the orthodontist in the 9th grade and had my gorgeous braces on by the 10th grade. Fast forward to near the end of the 12th grade (2012) and boom they’re gone! Yay!! Perfect smile (despite the receded jaw which didn’t bother me), no pain, felt like a 10/10, braces off by prom, no one could make fun of my teeth anymore, couldn’t be better!! Right?

WELL.

Fast forward again to my first year of university (also 2012). I woke up one morning and to put it quite simply, I could not open my mouth. Not a centimetre. Nothing. What did I think of this? Same thing most people would think… “what the f*ck?!”

I panicked (reasonable reaction I say), and then googled. I googled a lot. Google told me that I had lockjaw. Per usual, google cannot be trusted during medical emergencies, so I just kind of waited it out. 3 weeks later, I could open my mouth, but barely. I could not eat much, and when I did it hurt. It really, really hurt. I kept waiting, and about a year later, I could open my mouth a reasonable amount but it hurt all the time, especially when eating. Also, now my jaw was clicking/popping every single time it opened, it felt “dislocated”, meaning it felt like it was moved to one side and back further than before. I decided it was time to see someone.

I started by seeing my regular dentist (2013). They did a check up and an X-ray and she told me that this was happening because my wisdom teeth were coming in. I thought that my severe symptoms and the duration of their existence suggested another issue, but she was the expert so I trusted her.

Bad idea.

In 2014 I had three wisdom teeth removed (the fourth is a late bloomer or will never make its appearance).The three that were coming in were sideways and all had cysts around them so it wasn’t a cute experience. I opted for the anesthesia because I did not see the point in being awake for such a terrible experience. I woke up in the recovery room stoned out of my mind, swallowed a pill because the nurse asked me to, and then walked out to the car to experience a 2-hour drive home  with my parents feel like two minutes because I was so out of it. That part was great but the fun ended there.

Disclaimer: I am not a wimp. I have a rather high tolerance for physical pain.

I expected the days following surgery to be painful, but I was in absolute agony- but only on the left side. I had all my medication gone within the first 72 hours (should have lasted a week) and I demanded more. Surprise surprise, surgeons don’t just hand out oxycodone and etodolac for fun (too bad for me) so I made an appointment with the doctor at the office where I had my surgery because I thought I must have an infection or dry socket.

Nooope. Healing perfectly.

“Okay, so now what?” I thought. What the heck am I supposed to do to get rid of this pain?? As it turns out, there was nothing I could do besides wait it out. So I waited, and waited, and waited, for about 4 weeks. This was the point where the pain subsided enough for me to try and eat some normal food again. It took about 9-10 weeks for me to get back to eating a normal diet without any issues, but the pain never completely went away. Symptoms kept getting worse… the left side of my face often swells, and I feel pain from my ear to my neck. I get headaches that resonate from my jaw, and often the problems with my jaw and inner ear make me feel light-headed and dizzy.

I reached my breaking point and went back to my original orthodontist in 2014. He felt terrible for everything I had been going through. He did some looking around, some X-rays, and other orthodontist-type things, and came to the conclusion that I had severe TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder). There doesn’t seem to be a whole heck of a lot besides the basics known about TMD in the medical world, and what is known is often met with opposition. But in my case, the general idea of what happened is that my poor bite (overbite, multiple teeth not touching) created pressure when I would bite down. Apparently, I clench my jaw in my sleep (that was news to me) which caused the TMJ to finally dislocate itself. Eventually, where the joint once was became home to lots of scar tissue and now they say I have a good change of someday having arthritis in my jaw. Yuck. Also, I wasn’t crazy for feeling as if my jaw was moving- the TMD changed the position of some weird internal parts that I am not familiar with- the constant clenching and whatnot also causes my face to swell which means one side is different from the other. My orthodontist did not want to go forward with surgery to adjust my bite right away, but knew it was a likely outcome. I started with a bite plate and lots of anti-inflammatory medication, and stuck with that until 2016, when I decided that it wasn’t helping (orthodontist agreed) and that we needed to go forward with surgery.

That meant braces again.

It really, really, stung to have to get those back on- I was SO excited to have them off back in the 12th grade and I did not want them back on for the second time. But in Fall 2015, on they went… 22 and in a Masters program with braces is not what I expected but I’m making the best of it- dealing with the braces is easier knowing that I am working towards a reduced-pain, perfect smile outcome. For the past year and a half, the braces have been essentially making my teeth worse (creating spaces, moving them to weird looking places, etc) so that once the surgery is completed the surgeon and orthodontist can work together to create my new (perfect, finally) smile.

The surgery that I am having isn’t exactly to fix the joint itself, but it is to adjust my jaw to improve my bite so that I don’t clench, which takes pressure off the joint on my bad side, and will help prevent the same thing from happening on the other side. In the world of jaw surgery, the surgery I am having is relatively simple. It’s called a mandibular osteotomy; the surgeon will make cuts behind my molars and lengthwise down the jawbone, and then move my jaw out into its new position. It’s held together by screws. The surgeon will also be doing a small surgery on my chin (genioplasty) which involves cutting behind the chin bone and bringing it out into its new position. All together, the actual surgical procedures are expected to last between 2-4 hours.

My orthodontist is in P.E.I (where I am from) and my surgery is in Nova Scotia (about 4 hours from my hometown, but also where I am currently attending university). I have my pre-op appointment with the surgeon on the 1st. This will be in Nova Scotia, and it is an all-day appointment. I go in at 7:30am and I will be there until about 3:00pm. This time will be filled with moulds of my teeth/my bite, X-rays, blood work, and meeting with my surgeon and anesthesiologist, among other small things. I go back to P.E.I on the 6th to get my giant, metal surgical hooks on and see my orthodontist one last time before surgery. My surgery is on February 15th, currently scheduled for 11:30am (this time could change) which means we will have to be at the hospital for 8am. My lovely parents are making the drive over and staying in a nearby hotel until I am ready to go home (I’m recovering in P.E.I) and will be at the hospital from the time I go in until I am safe and in recovery. It is expected I will be in the hospital for 2-3 nights.

I have great professors at school, and I have been granted extensions if I need them. However, I hope to get a lot done in advance before surgery to help make my recovery more relaxing. Being at my parents with people to help me out (and my dog and cat) should make things easier.

My next post will talk about my most feared area of the surgery recovery- the diet. *cries*

Overall, I am scared BUT I am excited to see the outcome of the surgery once I am healed.

Stay tuned.

  • Mary Jo

 

 

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