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Words of encouragement from a 90-year-old broken jaw survivor

26 Jun

Reader Melinda, whose mother broke her jaw last summer, sent me this picture of her parents. I first heard from Melinda last August, when Melinda commented,

My mom broke her jaw in two places last month. She is having the wires removed the day after tomorrow and I don’t think she has any idea that she won’t be having a big bowl of spaghetti upon her return home. I certainly didn’t know. This will give me a chance to prep her for what is to come, so all those disappointment tears you all shed will not go to waste. It will save my mom from being disappointed. She’s 89 and very fit. This has totally exhausted her. Just trying to get 1800 calories in a day has been challenging. She will appreciate knowing she’s not alone. With any luck, she’ll actually start using the Galaxy Tab we got her and she can post, ask questions, etc. with you as you all recover. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery to you all.

In late September, she gave the following update:

She had the wires removed on Thursday and was immediately in better spirits. And no rubberbands! Her jaw range of motion is remarkable. She was eating, and LOVING real food. Still can’t wait for a salad.
I found that Bertolli has stars pasta, like the tiny stars from chicken and stars soup. Really mini pasta. She also wanted cheese, mozzarella was soft enough. And scrambled eggs. She proves over and over what a strong person she is.
The other thing I noticed was the second the wires came off she was not as scared and timid. She said she was so fearful of falling or choking.

This week, Melinda posted another update:

I do have good news to report. My mom fell last August and broke her jaw in two places. When I tell you how old she is, you’re going to think it was some old lady mishap (I guess it was). She turned 90 last month. She has all her faculties. The good news it, she is fully recovered. In 10 months!
She even had a steak recently. But no more popcorn, ever. 😦
So, hang in there. I know it’s easy for me to say, but if my mom used a computer, she’d tell you the same thing. A good attitude helped. My dad helped (he’s 92). But most of all, getting enough nutrition helped. And enough water.
We made a list of all the things she had to consume everyday. 1800 calories in liquid form is a tough order! And even when she said she never wanted another bowl of soup, she ate it. She says now that all she did for the time she was wired was suck. Morning, noon and night. But she is perfectly healthy. Her only complaints are her lips “don’t feel like before” and her chin is a little tingly.

Melinda also wrote in an email to me today, “My mom would say, ‘If this little old lady can get through it, so can you.'”

If you would like your broken jaw story featured in a post, send me an email.

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If you can’t talk at all

22 Nov

Reader Jude sent me the following, which will surely be of use to anybody directed not to talk while wired:

I am new to the “club” and thought you may like to add some info to the Wired Communication link.  While my jaw was wired up and doc recommended no speaking at all, I linked with SprintIP relay for FREE telephone service.  I signed up with the help of a speaking family member and then was provided with a relay service telephone number via internet where I would type in a tele number and the relay operator would call that number for me.  The relay service would read my typed info to the person on the other end of the line and then the relay operator would type what the person was saying back to me – including whether the person sounded caring, loving, or angry.  You are also able to receive calls through the relay service provided you have the internet on and set to receive the call.  I found this service extremely helpful because I lived alone and was now able to make doctor appointments, get information to my employer, speak with loved ones, and handle life despite being speech-disabled.  SprintIP relay also provided 911 service for me if I had needed it – which thankfully, I never did.

On a side-note, all conversations are completely private and when I contacted my boyfriend who had been enjoying a night with friends ala good Canadian beer, the sprint operator even noted when he was “burping” into the phone.  Certainly wasn’t the best conversation when I couldn’t join in with the fun, but I was delighted to have the ability to enjoy the party during my wired-up recovery time.  Actually made me forget my pain and woes for a bit that evening.

Bleeding gums

19 Jun

When I had the arch bars removed, I was promised that my gums would bleed easily for the next two or three weeks, particularly when I flossed. The gums have recovered faster than I expected, though. They bled in about three places the first night of flossing and two places for a couple of nights thereafter. There was one spot that bled for a couple more nights, but by now the bleeding has stopped altogether.

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.

The shirt

5 May

After my accident, I was mildly annoyed about not being given the chance to remove my shirt without having it cut. I’ve been meaning to post this picture for weeks, but a few days later, I looked at the cut-up shirt (which came home with me from the hospital), and I saw that the shirt had already lost its usefulness by that point. In addition to three large holes in the back, there’s a smaller hole in the right shoulder. Incidentally, I don’t know how I managed to get the holes in the back of my shirt without any damage to the skin in the area.

The shirt I was wearing at the time of my accident.

The shirt I was wearing at the time of my accident.

Rubber bands

3 May

For the three week period following the removal of my wires, I have to have rubber bands in my mouth to keep my teeth returning to the right position. Now that I’ve been wearing them for a few days, there are a few things that seem to be worth mentioning:

  • Unlike the rubber bands that I wore on my orthodontic braces in junior high, these go right at the front of my mouth. They’re probably pretty visible to people when I talk to them, although I’m not really one to be too bothered by that. Most of the people I talk to in the course of a day have some idea of what I’ve been through over the last few weeks, anyway.
  • When I first put in new rubber bands, they taste (unsurprisingly) like rubber. In case you’re wondering, I’m familiar with the taste of rubber from licking an eraser in second grade.
  • Fortunately, I am allowed to remove the rubber bands to eat. It takes some restraint on my part not to eat all the time as an excuse to leave the rubber bands out.
  • For the first day or two, after a meal I’d find that I was having trouble figuring out where my teeth should be resting, and the rubber bands were helpful in straightening things out. By now, my jaw is finding its resting position even before I get the rubber bands back in.
  • These rubber bands are very prone to breaking. I had two break in the first section I taught on Thursday and one in the last section. Often, rubber bands will break when I try to put them in for the first time. The oral surgeon only gave me a small envelope of rubber bands, and I’ll be surprised if it lasts until my next appointment (which is Tuesday of next week).
  • Yesterday, I noticed the rubber bands making some squeaking sounds when I opened my mouth wide. I wondered if this was a sign that I’m able to open my mouth further than I previously.
  • Sometimes when I’m walking around, I’ll notice that I’m clenching my teeth. I don’t know if this is because of the pressure applied by the rubber bands or because I’m used to having my jaw wired shut. I also don’t know why this only happens when I’m walking around.

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.

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