Archive | May, 2009

Chewing

20 May

When I went to the oral surgeon’s office today, I was surprised that he didn’t do anything–save asking me how I was feeling–to verify that I was ready to chew again. There was no x-ray and no poking or prodding of the site of the injury. I now have medical clearance to chew everything except for “super-hard” foods. This class of excluded foods includes beef jerky, crisp apples, peanuts, pretzels, hard French bread, and carrots. The oral surgeon assured me that there is still “a ton” of food that I can eat, but my jaw just isn’t ready for the harder foods yet. I assured him that I wasn’t feeling psychologically ready for those foods yet either. Even though my jaw had felt strong for a while, I couldn’t imagine testing it on something hard yet.

The surgeon only looked at my mouth to see how far I could open it without the rubber bands, which I will no longer have to wear. He said that I still had some work to do, and he explained that in the next six weeks, we would be working on getting my mouth to open further and straighter. He instructed me to spend a couple of minutes a day just opening and closing my mouth in the mirror, making sure my chin remains straight. I’ll be returning to the oral surgeon in about three weeks, and he said that he’ll give me some more specific exercises to do if my jaw isn’t back to normal by then.

On my way back to campus from the oral surgeon’s office, I stopped for a falafel sandwich. I’ve tended to eat out very infrequently since starting graduate school, but this seemed like as good a time as any to splurge. The only difficulty in eating the falafel was getting it into my mouth, which required me to squeeze the (rather thick) sandwich a little bit. It was late to be eating lunch, and I was hungry, so I chewed and ate it quickly.

Since the first meal, I’ve been munching on various things. I’ve had a couple of different kinds of cookies, a frozen burrito, and a Trader Joe’s Spicy Spinach Pizza. The (cheeseless) pizza had been in my freezer since the week of the accident, and I found it to be a bit chewier than the ones that haven’t been frozen, so I took care to let it start to dissolve in my mouth before I chewed it. I would have liked to start cooking, but I didn’t have ingredients for anything until after I completed a shopping trip, and by then, it was late, and I was hungry. I’ll make a celebratory meal tomorrow, though.

A healed bone (I hope)

20 May

It’s been six weeks to the day since my surgery. I’m going to see the oral surgeon this afternoon, and if all goes well, he’ll find that my bone has healed and tell me that I can start chewing softer foods again. I don’t know how he’ll determine whether the bone has healed, but my guess is that he’ll take an x-ray.

Regardless of what the surgeon might say later, my jaw feels ready. There’s still a little bit of numbness in the area, and I still can’t open it all the way, but it has acquired a feeling of strength that wasn’t there a couple of weeks ago. Three weeks ago, as I approached the moment of my unwiring, my excitement was gradually replaced by nervousness, but (at least so far) that isn’t happening this time.

The remaining evidence

17 May

At the time of my accident, I didn’t take any pictures of the injuries in large part because I knew that my family would find the images disturbing. Now that the accident is six weeks behind me, I’ve taken a few photos that show just how little is left behind.

The most obvious pieces of evidence are in my mouth, where I have the arch bars, three rubber bands, and two chipped teeth.
My mouth, six weeks later
Next most obvious is my right elbow.

IMG_0778

There’s a little bit of a lump on my chin, where I had 12 stitches, still. It makes shaving difficult, but I don’t think it’s really as obvious as the following photo makes it look.

My chin, six weeks later

The weirdest remaining evidence is probably the dent in the palm of my left hand (below the pinky, almost on the wrist). The skin over that spot was torn off in the accident, and it seems that the muscle there was pushed off to the side.

My left palm, six weeks later

There are also a few pink spots on the backs of my hands and my left elbow. There are a few spots on my legs, too, but I don’t even know if those are from this accident. None of the wounds on my legs were serious enough that I (or the nurse at University Health Services) saw it fit to bandage them.

In related news, I’ve discovered that taking close-up pictures of myself is difficult.

A corollary and a question

14 May

This morning, when the person from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts told me that no claims had ever been submitted for me, it occurred to me that this meant that the oral surgeon’s office hadn’t yet submitted a claim. This isn’t a big deal, but if they were going to wait five weeks before submitting the claim, did they really need to call me for insurance information just two hours after the procedure, while I was still sleeping off the anesthesia?

Resolving the ambulance bill

14 May

I called American Medical Response this morning about the bill I received. I first said that I thought that they weren’t giving me enough time to resolve the insurance situation, and that the five day turnaround that they expected was inconsistent with the policy on their website, which says “Payment of the account is required within thirty (30) days of receipt of the invoice.” The customer service representative offered to extend the deadline by thirty days, and, naturally, I agreed to this.

I then asked whether they had any insurance information for me at all. The rep said they had that I was insured by BlueCross, and that I should contact my insurance company about an authorization. This wasn’t very helpful because both of my insurance plans are affiliated with BlueCross, but I didn’t press the issue further.

I next called Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts (my parents’ insurer) to see how I could go about getting an authorization for the transportation. The representative informed me that no claim had been filed by the ambulance company at all, and that, in fact, no claims had ever been filed for me on the plan. I told her that I’d call the ambulance company with my information, and asked whether I’d need an authorization. She looked it up and determined that I would not. She asked if I knew whether it was in-network, but I didn’t know. She told me that for emergency service, they’d cover the charges in full, but for non-emergency service, I’d have to pay 20% if it were out-of-network. She also mentioned a deductible of $250 per person or $500 per family.

I called the ambulance company again, and they confirmed that they only had my student insurance plan information. I don’t know how it happened that way because the EMT on the ambulance did find both insurance cards in my wallet. In any case, I gave the representative my information for my parents’ insurance, and he said they’d submit the bill that plan. I asked him if he could tell me what the due date on my bill was, and he told me that I could disregard that, and they’d send me a new bill if I ended up owing something after insurance.

I’m still not entirely convinced that the insurance companies are going to pay for this. I’ll believe that when I see it. If nothing else, though, at least I have some time for things to work out.

The first bill

13 May

My accident was five and a half weeks ago, and I just received the first bill from the incident today. This bill, from American Medical Response, is just for the ten-mile ambulance ride, and it came out to $1,592.90. Most of this should be covered by my insurance, but the bill tells me,

No authorization has been provided for this claim. If you do not obtain an authorization you will be responsible for payment in full for this claim.

I’m surprised that they don’t have an authorization from my insurance because the EMT on the ambulance went through my wallet (with my permission), found my insurance cards, and told me that my insurance information was “going through.” Obviously, this isn’t the same as claiming to have an authorization, but I don’t know what else he could have meant.

This message was followed by a customer service number, which was closed for the evening when I dialed it. I followed up by attempting to call both of my insurance providers, but they were also closed for the day.

The due date on this bill is May 18, which is Monday of next week. The invoice is dated May 8, which was Friday of last week, but the bill didn’t arrive until today.  Fortunately, any payment that I owe will only have to travel as far as San Francisco, but that still means I’ll have to put a check in the mail on Saturday, so I need to resolve the insurance situation by Friday.

Even giving American Medical Response the benefit of the doubt and supposing that they actually mailed the bill on Friday, it took them twenty-five business days to get any billing information on its way to me, and I’ll have two business days to sort things out. I’m very lucky that I can afford to pay for it if I have to, but I can’t help but see this as symptomatic of a badly broken healthcare system.

New rubber band update

13 May

I awoke this morning to find that all three of the rubber bands in my mouth had broken during the night. This is definitely not looking promising.

The new rubber bands

12 May

After dinner, I tried putting in some of the new rubber bands. None of them broke while I was putting them in, so it may be that these new ones are of higher quality than the ones I’ve had in the past. I would appreciate this very much because I’d rather not have to worry about running out of rubber bands.

After I put the rubber bands in my mouth, I decided to see how far I could open my mouth. The answer, it turned out, was far enough to break the rubber band in the front of my mouth. When the band snapped, it hit my lip, and my lip stung for a little while. I replaced the band with another one, opened my mouth not quite as far as the last time, and the rubber band I had just put in broke. I replaced the broken band again, and decided to keep my mouth shut for a while. However, this apparently wasn’t good enough for the rubber band on the right side of my mouth, which snapped a few minutes later while my mouth was closed.

I guess I’d say that what I’ve seen from these rubber bands isn’t particularly promising so far, but I’m doing my best to be cautiously optimistic.

Culinary triumphs

12 May

I mentioned yesterday that I was making a No-Bake Black Bottom-Peanut Butter Silk Pie when my blender died last night. I had to adjust the recipe a little bit, mainly because I don’t have a pie dish. I just used a cake/brownie pan. I probably wouldn’t have tried this substitution if it required baking, but (as the name suggests) it didn’t. The dessert didn’t finish setting until early morning, so I went to bed without having tried my creation.

During the day I was able to confirm that my blender died for a noble cause. This pie was pretty amazing (and perfect for somebody who can’t chew). I don’t really know what else to say.

For dinner, I made a lasagna using the Cashew Ricotta from Veganomicon (and Follow Your Heart Mozzarella). The taste probably wasn’t exactly like diary-based ricotta, but the cheese was incredibly rich and delicious. I used the new blender to prepare the ricotta, and it seemed to work well, although I never made the recipe with the old blender, so I can’t compare. I was somewhat concerned that the lasagna noodles might require chewing, so I boiled them for a long time before using them, even though they supposedly didn’t need to be boiled at all. I also wanted to make sure that the top layer of noodles didn’t dry out in the oven, so I only baked the lasagna for as long as it took me to clean up the mess that I had made, which I’m going to guess took about 20 minutes. The result was a great meal (plus plenty of leftovers). It was rich, creamy, and delicious, and the noodles were soft enough to cut into smaller pieces and swallow without chewing.

I also wanted to get some vegetables in my diet, so I made a smoothie with some spinach (and frozen blueberries for flavor). I was impressed that the new blender tore the spinach to shreds in just a few seconds. There’s no way my old blender would have done that job so quickly.

Incidentally, I thought about posting pictures of my food. I decided against it because I don’t put much effort into making my food look good. Furthermore, my apartment has devolved into a cluttered mess since the accident, and I’d prefer not to be posting photographs of that mess. Anyway, this isn’t a food blog but a blog that sometimes mentions food, so I don’t see pictures being necessary.

Checking in with the oral surgeon

12 May

Today was my two-week check-in with the oral surgeon, although I’ll actually only have been wireless for two weeks as of tomorrow. I went in to the appointment not expecting much to happen, and the appointment pretty much lived up to expectations. The surgeon asked if I had any problems or questions, and I mentioned to him that I’d need more rubber bands. He looked at my mouth and observed that I had done a good job putting rubber bands in. He asked if I had any more questions, and I mentioned that I had noticed that my mouth seemed to be opening a little bit further on the right side than on the left side. He had me open my mouth and close it a few times, and he told me that it looked pretty straight, but he could see what I was talking about, and that the exercises I’ll start next week will help with that.

The oral surgeon gave me some more rubber bands, “a whole bunch of them”, as he put it. These rubber bands came in a sealed plastic bag, which stood in contrast to the white paper envelopes I had received previously. I’m usually not a fan of plastics, but in this case I appreciated the difference of materials because the small paper envelopes have tended to fall apart in my pocket. The rubber bands inside were different, too. While the old ones were a yellowish color, the new ones were almost transparent. As I left, I hoped that these new rubber bands would be better quality than the ones that had been breaking so frequently over the last two weeks.

I made an appointment to return to the oral surgeon next Wednesday. After that appointment, I will no longer need to wear rubber bands, but the arch bars will remain in my mouth. If all goes well, the arch bars won’t actually be needed, but in case something should go wrong and need rubber bands again, it will be easier if the arch bars haven’t been removed. Also, I expect that after my next appointment, I’ll be able to start chewing soft foods again.

%d bloggers like this: