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)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Punkin' Chunkin'!

One final exciting weekend of "Science Autumn", this time we got to see machines tossing pumpkins (or "punkins") as far as possible.  Cool!  Kathy and Bob invited us down to Delaware for the annual World Championship event and we were very psyched to get to join them.  It's so awesome, even MythBusters shows up to film it.

The World Championship trophy:

Air cannons lined up and ready:

These things can blast a pumpkin high into the sky - and almost a mile away.  Totally cool to watch!


An event made for people watching.  Lots of camouflage, beers, and costumes.

Dressed warm and having a great time!

Hot cider  :)

A couple close-ups from Bob's camera:

Kathy's photo of the TV camera boom that followed the action:

If you can catch this on Discovery Channel, it's worth watching.  All of the stories from behind the scenes, the details of the competition, great looks at the various types of chunkin' machines from catapults to trebuchets - quite fascinating.

I tried to get some video footage, just for a small taste:

With a special "Punkin Head" appearance at the end:

The punkin isn't visible, but it took a nose dive in the dirt in front of the trebuchet - oops!

The next day on the way home we spent a couple hours at Hillwood in DC, including a fun tour given by a Russian lady with a great sense of humor.

On a whim we tried to seek out the high point of Washington, DC.  Based on old beta we ended up at the fence around Fort Reno.  Further investigation after-the-fact shows that the 2007 survey marker is actually on a small hill nearby.  I'm sure we'll be back in this area to get the proper photo.  So for now...

We had a lovely weekend, thank you Kathy and Bob!!