The musings of a final year medical student

Friday, 4 September 2015

5 weeks post double jaw surgery.

Somehow another week has flown by! I have to pinch myself to realise that indeed, 5 weeks ago today I had the bimaxillary osteotomy.

The past week has been mega. I had to go to hospital to have my broken elastic fixed. That same day, I packed up all my belongings and moved up to uni to start my next year of medical school. I had 3 days of full-on lectures and commuting in and out of the city, as well as seeing my mates again. Then I got the three and a half hour train back to my parents' house, and today I have had an orthodontic appointment! I have one day left at home and then I travel back up north to continue with my studies. It has been extraordinarily exhausting.

For the first 4 weeks I've been very inactive, spending most of the day sat down. This week I've been lifting and moving furniture, walking all over town, rushing from lecture to lecture. It has made it really hard to find time to drink liquids and clean my teeth throughout the day. I have seen a noticeable difference in my body, in that I have still continued to lose weight. I have zero energy. But I have been talking a lot and the pain in my jaw is much less. Since the operation I have consistently had pain and discomfort on the left side of my face, never the right. 

Fortunately, my friends and family have been very supportive. My Mum has been great at keeping my spirits up and my sister lived with me in my new house for the 3 days we were there. My medic friends have been so kind, they even made me a smoothie, bless them! They have given me lots of compliments and shown a lot of interest and helped me feel as normal as possible. I've told them how self conscious I feel with the elastics and they've done their best to reassure me. 

In terms of sensation, my mandibular area and lower lip are absolutely normal. I can feel sensation and pain in my upper face, but I still don't have full control and normality of my upper lip, nose and cheekbone area. As a consequence of the numbness of my upper lip, eating can be embarrassing. I still dribble quite often and I always need a tissue to hand as I eat to wipe my mouth. I also keep getting my clothes stained with food falling on them, so if I'm wearing something nice I put a towel over my shoulders. My lower gums are fine but my upper gums and palate are completely numb.

So, today I had to miss lectures to see my orthodontist at hospital. For the past 3 weeks I have had extremely restrictive and unsightly elastics at the front of my brace and on the lateral sides, too. This week I have much looser elastics and they are 'class 2'; they are diagonal and go from a bottom molar up to an upper canine. They are so subtle compared to what I had to contend with before! I am delighted. And it gets better. I am allowed to take them out for eating and social occasions, so I can start to try to eat normally and speak normally! And really, to feel normal again.

I am ecstatic, but also scared. I am simultaneously dying for food and hate the idea of it. The reason for this is that my stomach has now shrinked loads, and I get a sickly feeling so easily if I have too much liquids. Despite the hunger pangs I get, when I do try to eat I get absolutely stuffed after only 2 mugs of soup! I still cannot open my mouth wide at all because it is painful to do so. I will gradually have thicker substances like Weetabix, scrambled eggs, and then work my way up.

My next appointment is in a month's time so I anticipate the elastics will be taken off during that appointment. Hooray! 

In terms of emotions, I have been much better, but not perfect. I have had three moments where I thought I was going to burst into tears when things got too much, but I have been strong. I now know that things will get better. My negative feelings were mainly caused (I assume) by the fact I had no idea when I would eat normal food again, or start to feel normal again. Now I know that the elastics aren't going to stop me from eating what I want because I don't wear them during meals. I can now start to have normal food, talk to people without unwanted stares. I can truly feel like myself again. Before, I was constantly asked by friends and family when the liquid diet would end, or when were the elastics coming off, or the braces. It really upset me because every time I go to hospital I ask those same questions and never a get an answer. It just depends on the progress. 

During my appointment today, the orthodontist said I still have some tweaking to do with the braces, and I should get them off at Easter. My heart sank. I told him that I'm dying to get them off, so he said we should aim for Christmas instead. To me, my teeth alignment and now my bite look great. I don't care about perfection, but I know my teeth are almost perfectly straight. I just want them off so I can finally feel like I have grown up and I can be an adult. I turn 20 this year and I do NOT want to be 20 and have braces. I know, first world problems hey. But after almost four years of braces I am bloody fed up of them. 

In terms of sleeping, I can sort of sleep on my side, but it does hurt after a while. It is still only truly comfortable to sleep on my back. I am used to sleeping on my stomach, but right now that is far too uncomfortable. 

I am excited for my second year at medical school, and my boyfriend is moving back to university next week, so it will be great to see him. He hasn't seen me since the day before the surgery, so he'll be in for a shock! But hopefully a nice one. 


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