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Talking and teaching

1 May

Thursday is the day I stand up in front of undergraduates for four hours and talk about calculus, so it presented a big test for my newly mobile jaw. For the most part, things went reasonably well, but there were times when things had me worrying.

In my first section, I found that talking occasionally brought pain to the left side of my jaw. I didn’t think too much of it, but it was definitely a reminder that there’s still plenty that could go wrong with this injury, and a smooth recovery isn’t guaranteed. Toward the end of the section, two of the three rubber bands in my mouth snapped. Ideally, I would have replaced them right away, but I chose not to interrupt my teaching and waited until I had a break to replace them.

My break, unfortunately, was only ten minutes long, and replacing the rubber bands took close to half of this time. While it wasn’t particularly difficult, the new rubber bands kept breaking as I tried to put them in. My second section, fortunately, went relatively smoothly, and without any broken rubber bands.

The biggest scare of the day came in my third, and final section. I started off badly with this section, having discovered on my way to the classroom that I had lost my lesson plan. Fortunately, I had already been through it twice in the day, so this didn’t present too much of a problem, and I’m not sure if any students even noticed.  However, with about fifteen minutes left, I started to feel discomfort in the left side of my jaw near the site of the fracture. I noticed that the discomfort increased when I turned my head. This all seemed eerily similar to the way things felt in the three days between my accident and the surgery, and I wondered if my bone had broken again and shifted out of place again. A couple of minutes later, a rubber band snapped. I finished the lesson, trying to move my jaw a little bit less than before, and by the time I was done, the discomfort had subsided somewhat. I quickly tried to find a men’s room to replace the rubber band, but was unable to find one in the unfamiliar and infamously maze-like Dwinelle Hall. I ended up replacing it in the hallway using the back of my iPod as a mirror, my fingers still covered with chalk and visible to anybody who walked by.

As for the pain in my jaw, I managed to convince myself that I hadn’t broken my jaw again by tilting my head back, and observing that this didn’t cause the sharp pain that it gave me before the surgery. My guess is that there’s just a little bit of swelling resulting from the increased activity in the area, but I’ll probably call the oral surgeon tomorrow just to be safe.

It seemed like a good idea at the time

27 Apr

Lately, I’ve been having trouble catching buses that will get me to campus in time for my 8:10AM class. The general pattern is that I spend too much time blending things for breakfast or to take to the office with me, causing me to miss the last buses that come through the hills (lines 65 and 67) that will get me in on time. These buses only run every half hour, so if I catch them, they’ll get me there with at least 10 minutes to spare. As I said, though, I’ve been tending to miss these buses lately. The result is that I have to walk down the hills to other buses that run more frequently but require more walking on both ends.

Today, it occurred to me that I could save a bit of time by packing my breakfast smoothie in a container, catching the earlier bus, and then drinking my breakfast when I got to the office. In practice, it didn’t work out so well. I ended up missing the hill buses anyway, and when I got to the stop at the bottom of the hills, I saw a bus pulling away. I ended up getting to class six minutes late and hungry.

I still think the problem is more with the execution than the idea itself, but I’ll only have one more opportunity to get it right, assuming I don’t need to blend everything after Wednesday (and I don’t have an early class on Tuesdays). Even Wednesday, I’m hoping I won’t have to pack a full day’s worth of liquid food, since I’m getting the wires off in the middle of the day.

Caught up

23 Apr

I’ve managed to finish all of my problem sets, with the exception of one due tomorrow that I expect the whole class will be handing in late. At the beginning of the week, I wouldn’t have believed anybody telling me I’d have caught up by now, but some of the five problem sets I’ve finished the weekend have been easier than I expected.

This, of course, means that I should finally get around to writing about the first two weeks after the accident.

Teaching through the wires

16 Apr

Today was a big day for me. For the first time since my accident, I taught my three sections. I knew that my speech wouldn’t be perfectly normal, and so it still might be hard for students to hear me if the room were full of chatty students. I also knew that it might be hard for students whose first language wasn’t English. To resolve these issues, I prepared detailed notes for the lesson and told the students that they could take them and leave if they wanted to. I expected that since most of my students were only taking the course to get into business or medical school, most of them would exercise this option. This would have the dual effect of giving the students another way of getting my lesson, and keeping the background noise in the classroom at a reasonable level. My expectation proved correct, as I had only six students among the three sections stay the whole time. Many of those who left didn’t even bother to take the notes.

I’m always a little tired after teaching three sections in one day, and today is no exception. Other than that, though, I feel great.  Less than a week ago, I struggled to get even just a word or two out of my mouth, and I was starting to lose hope that I’d be able to teach today. To have been able to get up and teach for four hours under these circumstances is a huge psychological victory that low attendance isn’t going to take away from me.

In all fairness, I owe some credit for today’s success to Vega. I teach two consecutive sections with only 10 minutes in between, which means that I have to go about three hours without eating. On a liquid diet, that would ordinarily be very difficult for me, but after my Vega breakfast, it was not so bad.

A drug-free me

11 Apr

Yesterday, I struggled mightily to stay awake in my classes. At first I thought this was just because I stayed up late Thursday night, but then I began to wonder if Vicodin, which I had been taking twice daily, might have been playing some role. When I was in the office, I thought that the only side effect on the label was dizziness, but it occurred to me that it might actually have been drowsiness, and I had misremembered or misread.

When I got home, I checked the label of my container of Vicodin, and sure enough, it warned that the drug may cause drowsiness. I wasn’t experiencing much pain, so I decided I’d try to stop taking it.

I haven’t taken Vicodin since yesterday morning, and so far everything is going well. I don’t feel tired, but that may well be because I slept better last night. The most noticeable difference when I woke up this morning, though, was that I was able to talk reasonably well. My speech is still far from normal, I think that most people would find me comprehensible. I do struggle with certain sounds. For example, I can’t pronounce the “th” sound, so I have to use the “d” sound as young children sometimes do.

For the first time, I feel genuinely hopeful that I’ll be able to teach my classes next week.

In all fairness, I don’t know if my ability to talk has anything to do with my newly drug-free status. It may well be that it’s just a consequence of my mouth being a little bit less swollen. However, I do think it’s very much plausible that a narcotic like Vicodin would make it harder to exercise the relatively precise control required to speak clearly.

Teaching (sort of)

9 Apr

Thursday is the day that I’m supposed to teach three sections of calculus. I anticipated not being able to teach this week and arranged for people to fill in for me. However, because I had an exam to pass back today, and the people filling in for me weren’t there for the grading, I went along to return the exams and try to answer questions people had about the way they were graded. I wasn’t really able to answer questions out loud, but I was able to write things down when issues came up.

On an unrelated note, one of the friends who filled in for me raised the question of whether I could do math while on Vicodin. It hadn’t really occurred to me that the medication might cause a problem, but it is a narcotic, so it’s possible. I really haven’t gotten any math done since the accident, and it’s possible that the medication has some role in this. I’m only taking the Vicodin twice a day, but it’s something to consider.

The hospital

5 Apr

Upon arriving at the hospital, I found myself waiting in the hallway for an room. A man–whose position was not made known to me–asked me a number of questions about the accident. He also asked about my medical history. He asked if I’d ever had surgery, and I said I’d only had wisdom teeth removed, which he translated as a “no”. Somebody cut my shirt off of me, an act which rather annoyed me because I felt very much capable of removing my shirt myself, and I resented the loss of the shirt.

Eventually, they did find a room with space for me, and they proceeded to move me into the room and ignore me for a while. I found myself periodically whimpering, half because of the discomfort in my jaw and half because I thought it might make somebody pay attention to me. Lying on the bed, I had some time to examine my wounds–at least those which I could see. Both of my hands were bleeding: my right hand on the back side, and my left hand on both the front and back. I had scraped my right shoulder and both of my elbows, and it seemed like there was some blood on my face, but I couldn’t see my face. I also noticed that my top and bottom teeth weren’t lining up normally.

A doctor came in and introduced myself. He looked at my wounds briefly, and seemed particularly interested in my bleeding hands. He suggested, “Maybe you should wear gloves next time.” I half expected him to look at my bleeding right shoulder and suggest that I also wear a shirt next time, too.

The first person to see me for any significant amount of time was an x-ray technician (or whatever the person who takes the x-rays is called). He complained repeatedly that the doctor should have just requested a CT scan of my head because he wanted so many different angles. He did, at least, assure me that I was a good patient, although I don’t have any idea why he thought this to be the case. There was also apparently some problem with the equipment, and so some of the shots had to be retaken several times. I heard the technician talking to somebody else in the room where he controlled the x-ray machine, and it sounded like he was saying that something was far out of place. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I suspected it had to do with my x-rays. The technician came back into the room and told me he just needed one more x-ray. He told me to lean my head back for the shot, but I found it too painful to my jaw to lean that far back, so he found an alternative position.

When I returned to the bed and waited to be seen by the doctor, it occurred to me that I had been carrying my iPod Touch on my bike at the time of the accident. This was only significant in that it could be confused for a phone. I found the bag of my possessions near the foot of my bed, and–sure enough–the iPod was in my shoe, and my phone was nowhere to be found. I knew that I’d get my phone back whenever I got my bike back, but I didn’t know when that would be. I figured I could probably take a bus down to the fire station to pick up the bike, but I didn’t know how long it would be before I’d feel up for the trip.

Eventually, the doctor came back and asked me how I was doing. It seemed like a strange question, given that the answer should have been apparent from my very presence in the emergency room (not to mention my appearance). I tried to be optimistic, answering, “Pretty well given the circumstances.” He answered, almost as if he was trying to undercut my optimism, “Well…you broke your jaw.” He told me that I’d have to see an oral surgeon as soon as possible during the week so that the surgeon could “fix [me] up.” He then explained to me how hitting the right side of my head had caused a fracture on the left side. He also started to tell me about “the other way to break your jaw”, which apparently involved hitting the front of one’s chin. When he finished explaining, I told him, “I guess I’ll have to try that another time,” attempting to sarcastically allude to my lack of interest in another way to break my jaw. He didn’t seem to appreciate my morbid sense of humor, answering, “No, I think once is enough.” He didn’t tell me how the oral surgeon would be fixing me up, but he said that I’d need to be on a liquid diet at least until I saw the oral surgeon. I couldn’t imagine chewing with my jaw feeling the way it was, so I wasn’t at all bothered by this restriction.

The doctor and a nurse then proceeded to clean off my various wounds. In addition to the ones I had seen, there was a cut on my upper lip, a cut on my chin, and a few abrasions on the right side of my face. The chin, I was told, needed to be stitched. As the nurse and doctor cleaned and stitched me, my thoughts turned to my teaching job.  After a subpar fall semester, I’ve put a lot of work into teaching this semester, and I was concerned that I might not be able to finish the job with the broken jaw.

After my chin was stitched, the doctor raised the question of whether my lip needed to be sutured. I felt my lip with my tongue, and it felt as though something might have been stuck in the cut. I wondered if it might have been the fragments of my chipped teeth. The nurse and doctor proceeded to examine the cut, and sure enough, I heard the doctor comment that it looked like there was something in the cut before the nurse exclaimed, “It’s his tooth! His tooth shattered in his lip.” She seemed genuinely excited, as though she had never seen a case like this before. Within a few minutes, the fragments of the tooth were cleaned out, and the lip was sutured. The nurse mentioned that I was almost ready to go home, before leaving me to call my mother, who had called while the doctor was stitching my chin, on a hospital phone.

A short while later, a nurse told me I could leave as soon as I had clothing. Fortunately, my shorts weren’t damaged, but I’d need a shirt to replace the one that was cut off of my back. They found a black shirt for me, although I don’t know where it came from. A nurse gave me several sheets of paper with information about my injuries, a prescription for Vicodin, and a note that I should take three days off from school. I was more than a little bit surprised that they were releasing me without even bandaging any of my wounds, but I was glad to get out of the hospital and into the taxi that would take me home.

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