Please note that this blog is not a subsitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult your doctor should you have reason to believe that your jaw may be broken or need treatment.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Freedom!

I have not posted for several days.  On Monday, I successfully had my arch bars removed.  I took the whole day off from work to recover from my anesthesia-induced haze.  Yesterday, I returned to work with the best intentions of posting an update, but work was so busy from said Monday out of the office, I didn't get a full lunch to update my blog. 

With that all said, here is my update.  I went into my oral surgeon's office bright and early on Monday morning for the removal.  I was not scared or nervous.  Strangely, I was not overly excited either.  Things have been so close to normal for the past few weeks, I knew it would not be a drastic change. 

I did stick with my earlier choice for general anesthesia for the removal.  I do not have any desire to be shot up more than a few times with Novocaine, and I knew the wires would be painful to take out.  My gums had grown over them and it would involve a fair amount of cutting into skin to take everything away.  The arch bars were kept in place solely by wiring them around the base of a few of my teeth on the top and bottom of my gumline.  It is a marvel to me how well they remained in place simply from a few wires.

After a few deep breaths of gas, I was asleep, and then awake again with a free mouth.  I was groggy, bloody and sore, but I knew I was free!  My surgeon advised me to apply a heat pack to my jawline and massage the muscles until the soreness dissipates.  I have been doing those things in the evenings when I am home.  I am tired from the anesthesia, of course.  I know by now to anticipate that.  I will take it very easy and go to bed early for a couple of weeks until the anesthesia feels like it is out of my system.

My gums are sore.  They bleed when I floss, but I expect this to heal soon.  Brushing my teeth and flossing is a gentle activity until then.  I can chew, and my jaw does get sore with every bite.  I am assured that this is normal and will improve as time goes on and those muscles are used more frequently.  For now, I'm just taking it a day at a time, resting a lot, and refusing to be too hard on my body.  Everything else will fall into place.  I am continually taking full advantage of the array of delicious foods that the world has to offer.  Last night, I ate buffalo chicken tenders!  I just continue to think how good things are now that my life has gotten back to normal.  Now, I can just focus on....living fully again.  I am 100% okay with that!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A half-marathon? Definitely!

Today was the day of the half-marathon.  I finished the beautiful, 13.1 mile half-marathon that wound through a hilly part of downtown Atlanta.  I was surprised to finish in 2 hours and 2 minutes - something that I did not expect since I have not trained adequately.  I was lucky to have my running buddy and good friend Janelle by my side during most of the race. Below is a picture of us post-race.  I am on the right - notice that I am not smiling huge because I am trying to hide my arch bars.  At least by this time tomorrow they will be removed!

I only wish that I had began running sooner during my recovery to keep myself motivated and energetic.  I love that when you run, you get as much as you give to better yourself.  I also love that the hours and miles spent alone preparing do pay off on race day! 

 Life is just so good when you have things to focus on, plan for, and you are surrounded by supportive, positive people!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The final week!

The timeline for recovering from a broken jaw is an odd thing.  In the beginning, you're hit with nothing but bad news.  You are told that your jaw is broken, you have to get your mouth wired shut, cannot eat food for weeks on end, the metal in your mouth is quite unattractive and makes it difficult to communicate.....in my experience at least, the first two thirds of the recovery are LONG and M.I.S.E.R.A.B.L.E.  There is no way around it.  All that you can do is wait, be easy on yourself, and remain as patient and good-humored as possible.  You owe yourself those considerations during such a challenge. 

The last third of my recovery, however, continues to be anti-climatic.  Once the fixation wires were removed and I began wearing rubber bands, I found no limit to good foods to eat.  A lot of meals can be dissolved in my mouth by just eating slowly and cutting into small pieces.  It already feels so much like being back to how I was before the break.  The rubber bands and the arch bars aren't too noticeable, and strangers don't look at me like I have two heads anymore when I speak.  Coworkers continue to ask if I had everything removed already.  It's nice, in a way, how quickly things return to normal.  Don't get me wrong - I'd rather have simplicity and routine days than to have discomfort, hunger and misery.  I just wanted to make a note of the observation in hopes that this is comforting to any readers going through a broken jaw wiring.  Things improve quickly once the fixation is taken out.  It is why I have posted fewer blog updates lately.  Not much is new, but no news is good news!


I went to my checkup appointment yesterday.  They took an x-ray of my jaw.  My surgeon looked at how wide I can open my mouth, as well as how aligned my bite looks when I close my mouth.  Everything looked great.  Without a hitch, we scheduled my arch bar removal appointment for early next Monday!  I am so excited, but things are already so great.  I don't expect to feel different once the arch bars are removed.

I confirmed my decision to undergo general anesthesia when they remove the arch bars.  My surgeon explained the options nicely.  He stated that "we can do Novocaine and numb your mouth, but the arch bars take five to ten minutes to remove.  More of your time will be spent getting enough shots of Novocaine to not feel those few minutes."  General anesthesia, however, is both faster and less painful for both parties involved.  I could only agree with his logic, thinking "Okay doc, if you put it that way!" 

The half-marathon is coming up in five days.  I have continued to live my life as normally as possible, and kept running in preparation for the big race.  I have comfortably ran 12.6 miles nonstop (at close to my original pace goal, nonetheless!).  Running feels better and better.  My jaw muscles became less sore with every run that I have taken, whereas they used become tired from keeping my mouth closed while running.  I am still going to take it easy on Sunday.  My pace goal is a non-issue at this point.  I don't want to push my luck by burning a lot of energy to get a good result time, running nonstop and full blast.  It would most likely make my recovery from the anesthesia sluggishness all that much longer.  Instead, I will be leisurely jogging the race and maybe walking a little more than just at the hydration stations.  I am going to consider it a victory run - it took a lot of energy and focus to train for the half with a wired jaw.  I am going to savor every minute and every mile on Sunday morning! 


The plan for the next several days is this - enjoy my time for the next four days, run the half-marathon on Sunday but take it pretty easy, and then Monday morning's surgery will be here before I know it!  That all sounds good to me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Keep on keeping on...

Things have been good since I switched to rubber bands  - really good!  I have eaten out at two restaurants.  I have a new-found appreciation for foods, soft or not; every meal leaves me in awe over the flavor and feel of food in my mouth.

The rubber band mortality rate continues to rise.  I have snapped two bands and accidentally flung another one onto the bathroom floor, at which point I refused to reuse that one.  I am down to just one spare rubber band left, and will most likely swing by my oral surgeon for more supplies.  It is only a matter of time that I brake my final back up band, and I might as well prepare for the inevitable.

I ran seven miles yesterday.  I was surprised to notice how tired my jaw felt just holding it shut during the run.  It is a little ironic; your muscles atrophy so much that it is difficult to open your mouth for quite some time.  I had never thought about the opposite - that not having to do the work of holding one's mouth shut for a month makes it tiring to keep the jaw closed once the fixation is removed.  I hope that part gets better before the half-marathon.  I am in a time crunch and did not properly train for the half. I will be running a lot this week and a bit next week to be better prepared.  I am hoping that the jaw soreness gets better before October 3rd. 

My mouth is opening wider each day.  I savor brushing my teeth and tongue in a way that could not be appreciated prior to my fracture.  I am looking forward to the day I can get my teeth properly cleaned at the dentist.  I noticed that my gums are growing over the arch bars.  This is quite normal, but it makes it difficult to hook my rubber bands back on.  I hope that is some incentive to my oral surgeon to take the arch bars off sooner rather than later.  I also seem to have a symmetrical bite, which is not always to be expected when you are recovering from a broken jaw.  I think it may have to do with my overbite.  For once, my imperfect teeth have become something that I am grateful for rather than unhappy to have.

I realized that my arch bars may be removed the Friday before my half-marathon.  That makes me a bit nervous that I may not be able to attend the race.  I have decided to opt for anesthesia to have them removed.  I know from experience that the last dose of anesthesia made me feel like an absolute, exhausted, slug.  I don't think I will be able to sustain both that and running 13.1 miles all in the same weekend.  Still though, there is nothing that I can do but wait to see what date my surgeon decides for on Monday.  I have become more patient, and waiting will be the name of the game for just six more days before I have an updated timeline.  Truthfully, if I have the choice between completing the half or removing the metal from my mouth, I am going to take the metal removal!  There will be plenty of other halfs to enjoy later, when I can plan and train adequately once again.

I have been feasting on all good foods that are soft lately - cookies, cake, oatmeal, grits, eggs, pasta, fried rice, unstrained soups, my favorite chili recipe (just in time for football).  Strangely enough, though, I've kept the protein powder and milk part of my daily routine.  I still drink an Ensure each day as well as a dose of FRS for vitamins.  They are healthy and tasty supplements, and I plan to take those parts of my wired shut routine with me as I resume running and kickboxing.  I never was good about getting enough protein when I work out; I have to admit I am healthier in a way now than I ever was before the injury. 

As far as weight gain, it looks like I've only gained back two and a half pounds.  I am sure this will change soon!  I am not eating up a storm like I was afraid I would, and the weight will probably come back when my body goes out of starvation mode.  It is nice to feel good, strong, active and healthy again.  It is almost like the arch bars and rubber bands are as freeing as I felt before having my jaw wired shut.  My gratitude continues to soar as I enjoy simple basic freedoms once again.

Tonight I will enjoy dinner with my boyfriend's family for the first time that I can eat with them again - his mom's famous spaghetti!  Life is so good!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fixation wires are off, rubber bands are on!

Yesterday was a step in the right direction!  I went back to the oral surgeon to have my fixation wires removed.  This means that the wires keeping my mouth shut were taken off, but the metal arch bars wired around my gums and teeth were left on.  The bars will remain in place for an estimated two to three more weeks.  During this time, I will wear two rubber bands on either side of my mouth when I am not eating or brushing my teeth.

I am not allowed to chew anything, so I will be sticking to a soft-food diet.  As I have been warned, I could not open my mouth very wide.  I was able to open it maybe 1/3 of an inch.  I am very happy, however; it was enough to brush the top and insides of my mouth.  The rubber bands are a bit time-consuming to take off and place back on.  It's almost easier to stick to liquid meals while I'm out in public for that reason alone.

I can't wait to get my teeth cleaned, and maybe whitened, once the arch bars are removed.  I missed flossing and brushing so much last month!  It was the first thing I did yesterday after eating a small order of McDonald's fries!

I tried to have fried rice last night for dinner - rice is tough to eat right now, but I had better luck with my fry splurge yesterday and my much-missed oatmeal this morning.  I also made a beeline to Waffle House for lunch today, and thoroughly enjoyed the cheese eggs and grits that I have been craving nonstop for weeks!  

I think I am lucky, compared to what I have heard, to be able to open my mouth as wide as I can.  It is not painful, but there is sort of a stopping-point that I hit when I try to open it.  That's okay, for now!  The oral surgeon said that I should be back to a normal opening width by around the end of September.  Until then, I am content eating my delicious soft foods and waiting.

I have found getting the rubber bands on and off to be the trickiest part of this change.  They are hard to lace on the arch bars, and I've already lost two in the process of taking them on and off!  I think it will get easier as I get used to the process.

This update is a bit anti-climatic after writing about the ordeals of the past four weeks, but I am extremely satisfied with the change.  I will go back to my oral surgeon in ten days for them to assess when my arch bars can be removed once and for all!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Doing a happy dance!

I just left my three-week checkup at the oral surgeon's office.  I have to put today up there with the other happiest days of my life!  My recovery is every bit on track for where it should be.  Next Thursday, I have an appointment to have the wires removed and to have the rubber bands put into place! 

I flat-out asked the surgeon about the two things I care most about - (1) Can I eat soft foods while wearing the rubber bands? and (2) So, uh, if I were to pick running back up, would that be okay.....???  Yes, we all know I've been running, but my doctor does not, and I wanted to keep it that way. ;-)

To answer the first question - yes, I can remove the bands to eat "as long as I'm smart about it."  There is absolutely no chewing allowed, of course, during the time that I am banded.  I have read several blogs that describe how painful it is to try to open one's mouth after the wires are removed - they talk about opening a few centimeters if they are lucky!  It takes days if not weeks to even start to get back to normal.  Still though, visions of soft-food diet bliss are floating through my head.  I'm trying to keep myself from running out and buying baby forks and spoons right now in preparation for the big day.  Even if I can just get a little bit of scrambled eggs and grits in there, I will be the happiest girl ever! 

As far as running, I am officially fine to run.  Yes, I plan to do the half-marathon come Hell or high water.  The advice that my surgeon had was that I can even run now (ahem, okay great!) as long as it's more of an easy jog.  His primary concern was tripping, and to always be aware of my footsteps.  I did not tell him that this has already been my biggest worry for the past week and a half, too!

The only bad news was that I may have to wear the rubber bands for three weeks instead of the original two weeks, but I am just excited about the prospect of getting food on my tongue eventually.  It is certainly the next step towards recovery, and I can't wait to take it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Halfway there!

Today is the three-week marker for being wired shut.  I am finally starting to feel like myself again, and am getting my energy back to where it was before I was injured.  I ran five miles yesterday, and it felt great.  It could be just the accumulation of resting over the long Labor Day weekend, but I am happy to have some of my old energy.  I have said that not being able to eat is nowhere near as frustrating as the lethargy that I could not seem to shake.  My hope is that, should this good feeling continue, I will be able to pass the next three weeks without much new stress or frustration.

Tomorrow I go back for my three-week checkup, and next week at this time I should be switching my wires out for rubber bands.  I will know more about what to expect once I speak to my oral surgeon again.  I will be happy to change to rubber bands simply for the fact that it brings me one step closer to recovery.

I continue to get more brave, or perhaps desperate, in the food department.  I made a chocolate peanut butter smoothie this weekend, and was delighted.  It is the most rich, heavy and satisfying food that I have found up to date.  High in calories and protein, this will be a staple for the weeks to come.  I made this shake using about a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter, a cup of chocolate ice cream, and a cup of milk.  The result was simply amazing!  I also blended meatless spaghetti sauce with a bit of pasta last night.  Where this would have repulsed me probably even two weeks ago, I found it to be delicious yesterday.  The spaghetti can be thinned out with tomato juice without compromising the taste or texture too much.

I also wanted to mention that the FRS Healthy Energy powder is a nice boost for energy in the middle of my workday.  I am using at least one powdered drink mix a day, both for the energy and the vitamins that it provides.  

I will post another update once I can meet with my oral surgeon tomorrow for more information.  Until then, take care.