Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

December was snow-free in Albany - until Christmas morning!  Mom and Renee came for a holiday visit (yay!) and we had an excellent walk around a snowy white Thacher State Park today.

Renee sitting on John's snow angel head:

John tracks:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jaws Unwired Open!

On Tuesday the doctor removed the front wires that were holding my mouth closed.  Finally free!  Sort of, at least.  Free enough to celebrate being able to open my mouth after 25 days.  Phew!

The wires on the top of the sparkling grape juice look awfully familiar...

The biggest "yay!" is being about to run AND breathe at the same time.  I don't need to clench my mouth closed to keep my teeth from jiggling.  I can get enough air in - as much as my current fitness level will allow. Time to ramp up (slowly of course) on the training.

I talked with a guy at work yesterday who had a bike accident a couple months ago - avoiding a dog, oddly enough - and broke his hip.  He was on crutches for a while.  I had a hard time deciding whether, given the choice, I would pick eating vs. running.  I still don't know, quite honestly.  It does make me thankful once again that the only things I fractured were above my chin.

The second biggest "yay" is being able to brush the insides of my teeth!  Ahhh, finally clean again.  I'm looking forward to a real cleaning at a dentist after all this.

I had assumed that eating would be a huge "yay" but that is taking some time and practice.  For sure, drinking is much easier and I'm very happy about that.  I no longer deal with little bits of stuff getting caught in the wires and blocking up the food access ports.

I'm using a spoon again, which is awesome.  Yogurt was the first achievement.  Applesauce!  Then soups - pea soup, potato/quinoa/spinach, anything that is really soft and doesn't require chewing.  I need to try again with the lentils and make them softer (or blend them) so they are more mushy.  Trader Joe's frozen sweet potatoes in the microwave are heavenly.

The doctor said I can chew soft food, but that is taking some time to get used to.  I worked my way through a small plate of white rice last night because that's what I was craving (first step toward the sushi that I really want).  It took quite a while and a glass of beer to wash it down and subsequently a lot of teeth cleaning, but I did it!  My teeth are tender and those wires on the roof of my mouth are really in the way now (trying not to complain TOO much).  Baby steps...

The only slightly positive thing I can say about those wires is that I've taken to blowing bubbles with them to amuse myself.  No one probably needed to know that.  Neither do you really want to see them, mostly because it involves a close-up of my face... I'm on the fence as to whether I'll post a picture at some point.

I'm using elastics to keep my mouth stable at night for a week.  This is a pretty minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.  But I'm counting down the days (nights) anyway.

My weight is stable, happily.  After losing 3 pounds immediately after surgery, my weight leveled off and hasn't fluctuated since.  I guess my food intake is working OK.  I'm still drinking one serving of Spiz each day to keep a good variety of nutrition while I experiment with what else I can eat, and I'm still doing smoothies and soups, but I stopped the Ensures at least.

No telling what will happen when I can really start eating - trying to figure out how much self-control it will take not to go crazy with that...

My doctor told me to exercise my jaw and get it working again.  The word "exercise" is right up my alley.  My jaw muscles are still stiff from being closed for so long, and there is a part of the arch bar that rubs the inside of my cheek in the back, but I'm doing my best to improve the range of motion.  Three days out, and I can fit 2 fingers-width into my open mouth.  Look, my tongue is visible!

Next stop = January 2 for removal of all the hardware.  That will be a big YAY!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Challenge Nation - NOLA championships

I was feeling good enough to fly and really didn't want to miss another championship race.  So we hopped on a plane last Friday and took a little trip down to New Orleans!  Ah, warm weather for a couple days.  A great time with our teammates Kip and Dave.  Blended gumbo - yum!  An urban racing experience - with jaws wired shut!  It was all a wonderful way to spend the last few days of not being able to open my mouth.

This was the first year for a Challenge Nation championships, and they decided to go with a semifinal/5-team final format.  We didn't think we really had a shot at making the finals since I could only jog (limited by airflow) but we had fun in the trying.

I'll toss Kip and Dave's race photos in the mix - they took a different route and smoked us (and everyone else) in the first race.  Great job y'all!

First stop - the cemetery with Marie Laveau's tomb marked with X's:

Am I allowed to add commentary to Kip and Dave's pictures?  I'll leave this one alone for now...

Across a couple streets we located an out-of-state license plate with an X on it:

Dave and Kip found one too:

We opted to start on the west side of town while Kip and Dave traveled up to City Park first.  We purchased a toy at Office Depot to drop off for Toys for Tots at an Irish pub:

While heading back toward town we ran past a couple of Santa's - John had plenty of time to snap their photo and chat with them before catching back up to me:

Hiding in the bunker outside the WWII Museum:

We had a few extra minutes before the ferry arrival, so we jogged up to this statue of Ignatius J Reilly where I made a point to really show off my mouth metal for a reason I cannot currently fathom:

We jumped on the ferry for a ride to the other side and back, capturing the city skyline along the way.  This checkpoint certainly cost us some time, but we got to sit for 30 minutes instead of potentially having to run up and/or back to City Park so we figured it made sense in my current condition.  And it was a pretty day for this photo:

Dave and Kip got a picture of the Blue Dog in the sculpture garden instead:

One bonus for our ferry ride was finding someone from Florida (one of 4 states ending in the letter "A" that also has no income tax).  That was extremely lucky!

She was a good sport as we attempted to make the shape of Florida with our arms:

Hey, at least we did better than Dave and Kip!

We couldn't skip the northern parts entirely - we did manage to catch a trolley just as it was leaving in that direction.  We got out at Jeff Davis Parkway for a photo with Mr. Dreux - yay!

Our timing on the return trolley wasn't as good.  John suggested starting to run back, but I nixed that idea so we waited a few minutes and eventually our transportation back to the French Quarter arrived.

Back south - then it really was time to run.  We were trying to make it to the clock before 2:30 pm (we had to get a picture at :00, :15, :30, or :45) and I wasn't sure I could get there that fast.

It wasn't easy, but we got within a couple blocks and then decided we even had enough time to take our picture at the Cat's Meow.  This karaoke bar had been closed when Kip and Dave came through, but it was open now.  So we got to jump on stage!

One of the guys running the place posed with us while an actual karaoke customer sang "Call Me Maybe" and completely ignored us.  I was impressed with his focus.

We made it to the church and ran around the alleys for a minute before figuring out exactly which clock and horse we were supposed to be looking for, duh.  The clock was running slightly fast, but the chimes were right on time - does that count?

Breathing through my teeth...

Dave and Kip 45 minutes earlier:

One last clue - we had to share a beignet!  Luckily I didn't actually have to EAT one because we would have had to skip that checkpoint... unless there was a blender around somewhere...

Kip and Dave easily made the finals race, while we were a few minutes out of 5th place.  Still, 7th place ain't bad for my first (and with any luck LAST) urban race with my mouth closed!

We had fun walking and running around the French Quarter helping Dave and Kip where we could in the finals race.  It was a really quick affair, less than an hour for most of the teams, and only 8 checkpoints with 1 skip allowed.

Their first photo with a cannon, with Kip possibly yelling "noooooooo!" even though he didn't know it wasn't the right one at the time:

The "hands" bench near Lee Circle:

A plaque commemorating the birthplace of "Dixie":

Mr Fountain next to a fountain:

The "chief of chiefs" in Armstrong Park:

A plaque at the Old Ursuline Convent:

A T-shirt from a school in one of the bowl games:

Unfortunately Team Nads (Go... Nads!) made it back to the finish first, and all of their photos were good.  So they came out on top - congrats guys!  Kip and Dave were the 2nd team back by a few minutes, and other teams came running in close after.  Exciting finish!

Most of the racers from the finals:

Well done, Nads!

I was just happy to be a part of the whole event, close up and in the middle of the action.  Time to get back in shape for some real racing in 2013  :)  See you there!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jaws wired shut - food edition

Current "Soups around Albany" list:

  1. Homemade red lentil/carrot/onion soup!  I'm drinking some right now.
  2. Pea soup (minus the ham) from Uncommon Grounds coffee shop
  3. Bruegger's Butternut Squash - almost pureed enough to not need blending (almost!)
  4. Trader Joe's Cream of Portabello Mushroom
  5. Campbell's Pea Soup
  6. Amy's Lentil Vegetable
  7. Panera Garden Vegetable with Pesto

Although no one probably really cares, since I've given myself permission to talk about food I somehow feel the need to make a list of what I've been eating these days.  As someone who *loves* to eat, this is a pretty pathetic list to work from for 25 days, but I'm trying for variety where I can.  The bright side is that I don't need a straw anymore - just cups and bowls and few napkins.

Chocolate SPIZ - one serving a day (split between morning/evening)
Ensure - one bottle a day (lunch)
Liquid multivitamin
[So at least I'm getting a base set of calories and range of nutrition]

Smoothies - various ingredients such as juice or almond milk, berries, banana, apple, mango, pineapple, avocado, spinach, carrots, Greek yogurt, protein powder, milled flax seed, honey, oatmeal, and I've recently started experimenting with Nutella  :)

Soups - the main source of legumes and vegetables, see above plus a staple of Trader Joe's purees such as squash, sweet potato bisque, and carrot-ginger right out of the box (no blending needed!)

I recently bought some Kefir and have been enjoying this for a bit of variety.

Various drinks - orange juice, local cider, other fruit juice, chai latte, ginger ale, chocolate soy or almond milk, and a little bit of high-calorie eggnog!

I've been walking about an hour every day and my weight has been constant since I dropped those first 3 pounds after surgery.  Now it's just patience for another 8 days...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Surgery follow-up

I saw the doctor for the first time post-surgery and got a few questions answers.  He nudged some of the wires flatter against my teeth so they weren't poking the inside of my mouth so much (thank you!) and I got another set of wax to continue covering up any remaining pokies.  John helped me clean off all the gazillion pieces of wax a few days ago so I could clean my teeth for real (that is true love, folks).  Toothbrush, Water Pik, mouthwash - at least the outside of my teeth is clean now.

So the answer to the "wires over the tongue" question is that I managed to fracture my jaw in several places and in a rather nonstandard way (if there even is such a thing as a "normal" way to break your jaw).  Two of the fractures are on the top right jaw at 90 degrees to each other, and there was a risk that the teeth might not heal in the proper place to line up correctly.  Hence the extra stabilization.

The good news is that my tongue has trained itself to work around the wires, and now it doesn't hurt at all to swallow or talk.  No more pain meds!

I expect the wires will be in the way when I can finally use a spoon again, but I also expect I'll figure out a way to deal.  Anything to move on to the next step away from a pure liquid diet...  I'm excited about my ability to drink directly from a cup or bowl now, but I think the no-straw excitement will wear off in a couple days.

Yep, it has gotten rather monotonous.  The biggest highlight I can drum up is a ranking of "The best blended soups around Albany":
  1. Trader Joe's Cream of Portabello Mushroom
  2. Panera Garden Vegetable with Pesto
(it's a work in progress, don't want to run through all the options right off the bat)

More interesting (to me, at least) is that I've been able to get out and walk for up to an hour a day in Pine Bush.  Uphill speed is improving.  I just have to be careful not to relax my jaws too much or it jiggles my teeth a bit on the downhill - a slight amount of pressure works great and is worth it to get out in the woods for a while.  We have seen little snow flurries this week, waiting for the first layer to stick.

The requisite close-up shot with the mouth hardware - possibly the ugliest picture I have ever posted on this blog... worthy of the "Annabelle Lecter" moniker we came up with recently:

14 days until the front wires are cut off and I can open my mouth again!  Then it will be a soft food diet for several weeks, I'm looking forward to that.

Eat something crunchy for me  :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Surgery and the start of recovery

Well, I can't speak very well so I'm happy to have a blog where I can express myself occasionally, just a little.  I suppose this blog has always been self-indulgent, so although the subject has turned into "me" instead of "what we are doing/seeing", that's not a huge departure from the norm.  It does take some getting used to on my part.

So anyway, it has been a week since my jaw surgery.  The surgery itself went fine and the people at Albany Medical were so great, all highly professional and helpful and caring.  The experience was as good as it could have been, seeing that it was a hospital and surgery and all that.

All dressed up and ready to go:

The anesthesiologist spent a lot of time with us beforehand, explaining everything and answering questions.  I believe his accent is British (although I've been wrong about accents many times) so that was a bonus.  They had to use a nasal breathing tube so apparently they brought in an "airway specialist".  I didn't notice any aftereffects from that, so he must have done a great job.

Surgery itself lasted a couple hours and I obviously remember nothing between being wheeled into the OR and waking up after it was over.  The oddest part was the initial moments upon reawakening - my brain went into fast-forward and for a few minutes everything happened at high-speed like a movie sequence that took only a couple seconds.  Weird!  Must have had something to do with coming out of anesthesia.  I think I went back to sleep after that for a while.

I could breathe out of one nostril just fine, but until I was able to also clear the mucus from my mouth to give myself an alternate breathing path I was a bit on edge.  I have no confidence in my sinuses in terms of staying open enough for me to take in air.  The nurse stayed with me as they brought me from the initial recovery area up to my room, and eventually I got a sip of water and was able to sit up and breathe more easily.  They brought John in and everything started getting better from there.

When I started "CTFD" training a couple months ago, I could hardly have imagined I would be using it for this...

I could barely speak, so the nurse found me a clipboard and pen (yes, I had brought one myself, I'm sure some of you won't be surprised at that, but John wasn't there with my Bag-o-Stuff yet).  It brought to mind this episode of Buffy:

I started writing notes to John like crazy.  Page 2 starts with "We may need more paper"

The pain level was pretty low, and continued to be manageable with basic meds for the next few days.  They had done some exploratory checks around my eye sockets but determined that the damage there was less than expected so they didn't need to repair anything.  Excellent, I was hoping that area could heal on its own.

Obviously they put my jaw back in place and then wired it shut with arch bars and wires.  The left side hinge feels normal again (as opposed to bound up after the accident), at least as far as I can tell without actually moving it.

What's frustrating me are the 2 wires across the roof of my mouth, from just above my teeth from left to right.  I can only guess that they are there as stabilizers in the left-right direction, but not only did I have no idea they would be put there, I can't find anything online that describes where anyone else has had the same thing.  If I could move my tongue inside my mouth with free rein (come to think of it, I do feel like a horse with a bridle on), I believe I could talk and eat closer to normal.  As it is, I have spent the past week relearning how to swallow and speak without causing the wires to cut into my tongue.  So that's the weird part of this experience so far.

My "clear liquid diet" started that evening with some apple juice, chicken broth, and tea.  John took care of the jello and orange sherbet for me.  He commented that he would not have imagined that there could be any human condition that precluded eating jello, but that's apparently not true.

It took me a couple hours to get through my first "meal", almost finishing in time for the second one to arrive.  That one went a little faster.  I finally realized the tea had caffeine in it and asked for decaf the next morning.  Not sure why they are serving caffeine to post-surgery patients, but what do I know?  I didn't sleep much that night, maybe related to the tea or simply figuring out how to breathe and relax enough to be able to doze off.

They let John stay overnight with me (yay!) and he sacked out in the big reclining chair.  It was great having his help to get to the bathroom (instead of having to call for someone to come in), between unhooking my calf squeezy machine and rolling the IV stand along with me.  They were getting plenty of fluids into me and my bladder was working just fine.

I must have been doing OK because they released me to go home the next morning.  Besides feeling weak and dizzy for a couple days if I tried to walk much, my recovery from surgery went well.  Lots of sitting and sleeping (a lot!) and taking it easy.

A fun homecoming gift - thank you Kathy, Bob, and Mr Kidd!!

The past week has involved slow improvements.  I've been outside walking every day, a little longer each time.  Today I actually felt like I was walking with purpose instead of just ambling.  I even broke out into a short (very short!  like "Eco-Challenge Borneo" short) run because I felt like it.  It will take time to get back into shape after this, I can only be thankful I was in good shape to begin with.

The 48-hour post-surgery clear liquid diet kind of sucked.  There's only so much you can do with that, and it mostly involves sugar and salt as the main ingredients.  John picked up some natural ginger ale from the co-op and that was the highlight.  I was so happy to move on to soups, smoothies, Spiz, and apple cider starting on Sunday.

During the 9 days between the accident and surgery I didn't lose a single pound even though I was on a liquid diet the whole time.  Since the surgery I've dropped about 3-4 pounds but I've been working hard to keep from losing any more.  It's not easy - it takes a lot longer to suck down a smoothie through the wires, so John has to help finish each of them and I'm not going through them at anywhere near the speed I was before.

Last night I got tired of raspberry seeds getting stuck in the straw, so I said "what the heck" and started drinking right from the cup.  Hey, I can drink from a cup now!  The seeds got stuck in the wires instead, but cleaning them out was worth it.  Also - chai latte tea from Trader Joe's, not through a straw anymore thank you!

My latest trick - I just downed an Ensure directly from the bottle.  Progress in strange places.

Thanksgiving was a "chill" affair this year.  We drove up to Thacher State Park to enjoy some sunshine, an overlook down toward Albany, a bit of trail running for John, a nice walk for me, and some driving just to get out and see something different.  Very pleasant.

I'm thankful for:
- Facebook for helping me stay in touch with so many people.  I have not felt alone this week, and as long as I have internet access, I don't think I ever will  :)
- Everyone who has sent good wishes, cards, gifts, loving and caring thoughts.  It means so much and makes me smile.
- Spiz for something I can easily drink and know that I'm getting at least one serving of all the basic areas of nutrition even when the rest of my diet is rather lopsided.
- Trader Joe's for pureed soups and chai latte
- Our new blender!
- Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and Car Talk for making me laugh on my walks
- Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, and Glee for being such excellent seasons this fall and keeping me entertained
- Games Magazine for mental challenges and shared enjoyment with John
- The birds and squirrel outside my window - yes, it's all about keeping me entertained lately!
- Having a work laptop that I can bring home so I can attempt to keep up and not have to take a buttload of vacation days that I don't have
- I'm thankful that this wasn't any worse... I'm currently at "OK" but haven't hit "bad" at any point so far and things are getting better all the time.  Also the timing - could have been much worse.
- Last and most - my loving husband John, who knows how to take care of me, look at me without seeing the strangeness that is my current face/mouth, make me laugh, be there when I need it most, and make me happy.  I am one lucky gal.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Normally about this time I'd be compiling photos and stories from a weekend of urban racing in Las Vegas.  This year - something completely different.  Not an adventure I would have chosen for us, but I guess it's still semi-interesting enough to report on.  I wasn't really inclined to write about this right after it happened, but there have been enough good things that it shouldn't be too much of a downer.  If you're overly squeamish you might not want to look too closely at the photos.

Recently there was Daylight Savings Time.  I've been riding my bike to work and back most every day, and I did remember to bring a bike light for the first ride home in the dark.  I didn't remember to check that it had any charge in the battery.  No charge.  Ah well, there were streetlights over the sidewalks, I turned on my red blinkie on the back so cars would see me from behind, and I figured I knew the bike trail well enough to ride that ~mile or so section in the dark.

Just cruising along, I was coming down a small hill with enough ambient light to see the bike path.  And there is never anyone out there.  "Never" is a strong word, OK, there is very rarely anyone out there.  So it was a huge surprise when a black and white dog dashed in front of my wheel.  Somewhere between braking and veering, I ended up on the ground and immediately knew that something wasn't right.

The dog's owner came over to apologize profusely and see if I was OK.  I was also apologizing for being an idiot and riding without a light, and I was hoping the dog wasn't hurt - he looked fine at least.  The guy found the bike lock that had come out of my backpack and told me my nose was bleeding.  Most of me felt fine, my legs and arms still worked great.  But my head seemed out of whack and my jaw didn't fit together like normal.

I walked the bike for a bit and then rode the rest of the way home, called John, and looked up the nearest urgent care place.  John was home quickly and drove me to urgent care.  They took one look at my face and pretty quickly assessed that we should head for Albany Medical since it was a head wound.  The bump on my head turned into a big knot and they rightly told us to get that checked out somewhere with additional diagnostic equipment.

So we drove downtown to the ER and checked in.  I had been alert and moving on adrenaline up to that point, but after getting onto a cot I kind of faded into more of a state of shock.  I don't remember everything from the next several hours, just getting questions that I had trouble answering.  "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain you have felt in your whole life, how much does it hurt?"  Well, it doesn't really hurt but my jaw doesn't fit together right.  "Who is the president?"  Um, today is the election and I have no idea who is winning, although yes I know technically that wouldn't change the answer but it still confuses me.  "What year is it"  OK, that one I do know I just couldn't get my mouth to form the words.  So maybe I am a bit discombobulated.  John stayed with me and it was a comfort to know he was there amid my brain fog.

They sent me for a CT scan of my head and came back with the good news that my brain was fine.  Yay!  So what about my jaw?  Hmm, they did an examination and decided another CT scan was in order to figure that out.  We waited a while and John and I eventually dozed off.  After they woke us up to take me for the 2nd scan I felt a lot more "with it" and alert.  The 2nd scan showed some broken bones, I found out eventually one on either side of my jaw and one near each eye.

I got one stitch in my chin - the first stitch in my life.  I asked for a second one, because who gets "a stitch" instead of stitches?  But he wouldn't do it.  Then they sent us home and I slept solid for what remained of the night.

Go Team V?

We were supposed to fly to Las Vegas for the Great Urban Race championships the next weekend, and I thought I might still be able to go.  Then my teeth started causing pain and I started questioning the wisdom of dealing with the stress of travel when we couldn't actually race.  Painkillers helped my teeth, I slept a lot, and the swelling around my eyes eventually came down.  There are still some interesting colors in my face, but surprisingly little pain once my teeth stopped hurting.  We stayed home and supported our friends with online clue solving.  And Kip and Dave won!  Congratulations!!  I slept a lot more on Sunday.

The photo I posted to Facebook - people said I looked tough, he he:

I don't generally write much about food even though it is one of my favorite things in life.  Well, y'all are just going to have to get used to it for a little while because I'm splurging a bit on the food talk.  I can't chew and won't be able to for a few weeks, so we have been playing with the liquid diet thing.  My task is to get enough good stuff in to fuel my recovery.

First step = purchase a good blender.  My new favorite buddy!

I cannot say enough good things about this particular smoothie recipe from Martha Stewart:

I've been adding a scoop of whey protein powder and 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal flakes, also ignoring the ice.  The "liquefy" setting on the blender does a marvelous job of making the oatmeal completely easy to swallow without chewing, I don't even know it's there.  So that's at least some oats for the day.

Another favorite smoothie involves frozen raspberries, a banana, and chocolate soy milk.  That's more for dessert.

Last night I cooked up some red lentils from Trader Joe's with vegetable broth and parsley, then blended my serving.  Wow, that was particularly awesome!  Tonight was homemade vegetable/bean soup, also delicious.

I've been drinking a full serving of Spiz every day to be sure to get some of everything.  Also enjoying some pureed soups from Trader Joe's and some natural apple sauce.  At this point I can drink through a straw or a cup and eat with a spoon as long as it doesn't involve chewing.  So that's a luxury that I have appreciated because on Friday I go in for surgery to finally repair my jaw.  After that my teeth will be wired shut for 3-4 weeks.  No more spoon for a while.  I wonder if I will miss licking things like the rubber scraper when cleaning out the blender.

I expect another period of recovery, with any luck it will go as well as the last 8 days because I feel great right now.  I don't expect quite that level of ease, but at least I have a wonderful caretaker of a husband and a good start on some recipes that I'm excited to have discovered.  Learning how to eat through my teeth should be interesting - I wonder how messy that could get.

The initial goal is to figure out the basics.  Then go from there.  If you're interested, I'll post again the next time I'm up to it and let everyone know some of the details.

In the meantime, a couple things from John that make me giggle:

(Raccoon face, in case it's not obvious)