Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 8 (One Week Post Op)

So, it is a week since I underwent my arthroplasty. In some ways it feels like it really, has only been a week. In other ways it feels like an eternity!
The pain is a bit better today, I guess. I still feel like my head is in a vice and every itty bitty part of my head is bruised. I just can't find a comfortable position for my head and it is oh so frustrating.
My facial paralysis and numbness is still there. I cannot lift my eyebrows and my cheeks are pretty numb. Also my left eye is still weak; I especially notice this when I try to wink (cannot be done) or squeeze my eyes closed. You will also notice in the pictures my smile still isn't quite there and one side is more swollen then the other.
On a good note though I do know things are improving. With time the bruising, swelling, and joint pain will go away. I feel my personality is coming back some. I am able to do more and took my sweet Caroline out on a decent walk this evening. Tomorrow I even plan to visit a dear parishioner who is not doing well after my physical therapy. These are all signs i'm doing better.
I am beginning to get irritated with my diet. I still am timid about chewing as it hurts too much. I can mush things with my tongue but that is about it. I'm finding after a week of liquid and mushy food, i'm bored. The soft diet I was on before surgery seems glorious compared to this! Applesauce and tomato soup just are no fun. Today I made bean enchiladas and mushed it up real good. This was so exciting to me, especially because it was able to be "chewed" with my tongue. That was the most flavor I have had yet; i'm so glad there are leftovers
So that is it. My friends are gone now so it is back to me and the furkids. I'm very thankful for all the progress i've made in the last week and look forward to seeing what week two brings!

Day 7

Ahhh, the bruising continues! As you can tell, the left ear area is really looking pretty ugly. My pain today was pretty bad due to the bruised sensation. Every nerve throughout my head; side, forehead, top, back, all hurts at the slightest touch. I was awake all night due to this, even to the point of seeing the sun rise. I refused to look at the clock which is what I think helped me make it through today!
I had physical therapy today; day 2. It went really well, and I was able to open to 32mm at the end of my appointment. Even better, I reset the therabite this evening to 35mm and was able to do it! This is the minimum normal and I am so happy to be there. My side deviations are getting better too. I was able to deviate to the left 10mm and the right 8mm. Normal is 15mm.
The pain was bad throughout the day but it went fairly well. I have two friends from my seminary days who arrived this evening to visit. They are pastors in central PA as well. One lives an hour away and the other about 3. It is so good to see them and even though I hurt they were able to help take my mind off it a bit.
So, that is my update for tonight. A bit short but I am tired and praying I get some sleep this evening. It is hot hot hot over here so that isn't helping. Praise God for air conditioners; I don't know what I would do without mine. As a native Northwesterner heat and I do not get along. I'm praying this crazy heat/humidity wave goes away for a while!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 6

This is how I spend most of my days, wrapped up in ice packs! These handy covers are leftover from my three foot surgeries. All I have to do is velcro them together and they wrap perfectly around my jaw; love it!

Today just call me Bruiser! The bruising is getting nice and colory. The pictures do not do it justice, as they are much brighter in person. While i'm thankful the swelling is going down, I now feel like my head is stuck in a vice. It has not been a pleasant day pain-wise and nothing seems to keep it at bay.

The good news is I can still open about 30mm today with the therabite. I'm so grateful that my opening is so good so early in my recovery. As i'm sure i've mentioned, the goal is 35-40mm with no pain. Looking at where i'm at, I think this will not be too difficult to meet once the surgical recovery is complete.

One of the more embarrassing side effects from this surgery that i'll only share for the benefit of others who may go through this, is drooling. Yes, it's gross but is very much a part of my life at the moment! Because of what I would assume is the weakness in my facial nerves and muscles, the drooling is out of control when sleeping (and sometimes accidently when awake!). Please, if you go through this surgery, before going to sleep grab a towel and cover your pillow. You will not regret it!

Today I got out with my dog for mini walks around the block. I'm able to get out a bit further than previous days which I am happy about (as is Caroline). I do get pretty dizzy though so I have to pace myself. My ears are still pretty plugged, with the left ear being the worst, so the vertigo sets in easily.

Other than that, I have been catching up on the show Six Feet Under. I'm almost done with season 1 and cannot wait to start season 2. I also have several movies now to watch thanks to my Aunt and Netflix. It is nice to take it easy and enjoy some good shows.

Which is exactly what i'm going to do now! Until tomorrow...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Days 4 and 5

Day Four



Day four started out a little rough as you can tell by the pictures. The swelling in my eyes became a bit crazy and I had a hard time seeing throughout the day. I'm still having some double vision due to the swelling but it is getting better. My left eye tends to get a bit lazy which is part of the problem. Once I have better control over the muscles and nerves I have a feeling my vision will be much more clear!

Day four was one I found had the most progress. As the day went on, my energy began returning. I have found with previous surgeries this tends to be both a good and a bad thing. While it was good I wanted to get up, walk around, and such, the body just isn't always as ready as you think. I insisted on doing a lot of things, such as the dishes, cooking for myself, and getting up for anything I wanted. My dog also decided she had had enough of vacation and wanted to return home, so she insisted that I be the one to take her out for potty breaks.

What ended up happening is my body crashed. By the end of the day I just couldn't move anymore. I'm thankful though for the progress that was made. My swelling went down further and I began having little "pops" in my left ear, signs that my hearing should be returning.

Day Five

Day 5 has been tougher than day 4. My friend had to go home today so it is the first one on my own. I'm so grateful for all her help and for the time to catch up (she is still in seminary). We had a nice time and it was a gift to have someone on hand to help with wound care, dishes, driving, and even laundry (thanks Andrea!).

Physical therapy really took it out of me. It is an hour drive each way to get there so PT is always a long day. Because the incision sites are still so new, my PT did not want to do any tens or ultrasound as it poses a risk for infection. So, we stuck with ice and range of motion. The good news is I was able to open 28mm, a good 10mm more than before surgery! Normal at minimum is 35-40mm, so i'm on my way.

I was already in a great deal of pain before arriving, and by the time I left I was done! My PT's are so happy though with my progress and had a great time calling me "chipmunk face" and other such terms of endearment. They even commented on how swollen my ears are, to the point they are flattening against my head. While this is true, they should have seen me a few days ago!!

After PT we had to run to the store to pick up prescriptions. This extra trip was another step in my road to exhaustion. I ran into a parishioner which was nice, though i'm sure he was wondering what I was doing out. We then went home and on the way picked up flowers my mother had ordered for me. They are so beautiful! I also got a package from my Aunt with a bunch of movies which I cannot wait to watch. Such a nice day full of surprises!

Once I got home, I took my pain meds/antibiotics, did wound care, took the dog out, and got some ice. I then laid down and took a nap for the next few hours. The pain today has been deep muscle and bone pain, the kind you would generally expect with this type of surgery. I think all the talking and exercise is what caused my problems. While it is good and expected of me to do these things, I believe I need to take it a bit more easy the next few days.

So, that is it for now. Progress is being made and everyday is a little better. I will try to update again tomorrow depending on how i'm feeling. Oh, and sorry for the low quality side pictures from today, I just couldn't get my camera to cooperate!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Hour After My Last Post

Wow, the bruising around my eyes is getting much worse. My left eye will only open about halfway now. Looks like i've been in a bar fight!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The First Three Days

So i'm finally going to try and blog a bit about the surgery. I'm still in quite a bit of pain but am laying off on taking more meds until I get something on here!
Below are some pictures from surgery. I'm sorry they are not better but it was the best I could do. I had both sides done but it is kind of hard to tell because of the swelling and the fact I was taking the pictures myself. I really couldn't tell what I was doing!
The surgery was scheduled to start around 1pm but didn't begin until around 2ish (I think). Total the surgery was around 4 hours and 20 minutes, give or take. It was expected to take about 3 hours but we knew going in it could be longer.
Everything went as well as could be for the surgery. My doctor said the disks were in decent shape and they were able to reattach them on both sides. The stitches look amazing so I know everything will look great once I heal. I'm so grateful I have such a skilled surgeon with an excellent team he trusts.

When I awoke from surgery, the first thing I remember is a lot of pain. It felt like hot knives being driven through my face. I cannot remember another surgery where I felt this way. Thankfully the nurse was on hand with dilaudid and continued to pump it into my system. They were not supposed to give me high doses at a time due to the fact I was still coming out of anesthesia. However, because the pain was not able to be controlled she eventually called the anesthesiologist who gave consent for a higher dose. Once that hit I was fine. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to keep my sats up without oxygen so I stayed on it throughout the night. In the morning I was able to come off though. This was good because it was beginning to look like another night in the hospital may be on the table!

Day One

The night in the hospital was pretty rough. I wasn't able to sleep hardly at all. My pain would go down for a short period of time, allowing me to pass out, only to be woken up again by a full bladder, pain, or a nurse. I just couldn't get comfortable with the air pumps on my legs, tubes, ice packs leaking, and of course the pain. I was grateful when morning arrived!

Day Two

A side view (I was a bit drugged and couldn't get the other side!)

Day two started out with finally getting the oxygen off and we moved on to oral pain meds. I was worried about the switch because the night was so awful, but thankfully everything worked out fine. I realized once the morning shift came in I hadn't eaten since Wednesday night (about 40 hours). Suddenly I was starving!
The nurses told me I had to order food on my own and they had a room service menu. I am on a pureed diet so I knew my options would be limited. I called the number and, barely able to speak, did my best to get my info across. The lady on the other end said I needed my nurse to still put the orders in. So, I called back to the nurses station and they said they'd look into it. I didn't get a call back which I learned throughout the night usually meant nothing was done. I fell asleep for a little bit then was awoken by getting my blood pressure and such taken.

Thankfully, I was then able to order some food and opted for applesauce and yogurt. I was able to eat the applesauce but could barely get a couple spoonfuls of yogurt. My stomach was just not ready.
The rest of the morning went smooth and by 12:30 I was discharged. I had to go to my doctors office before heading home so my friend and I journeyed there. Unfortunately his office was packed due to my surgery pushing appointments back and his in office surgeries that morning.
About twenty minutes into the wait, I started feeling funny. I went up to the receptionist and asked her if I would be waiting a while. She said probably and I all of a sudden felt extremely weird and asked her if there was anywhere I could lie down. I started shaking and crying uncontrollably, which was both embarassing and felt out of the blue.
She took me to the back and they figured my blood sugar dropped from not eating. I was also in pain, hadn't slept, and had just been discharged, so all of that topped on each other through my body into a whirlwind. I had some juice and about 40 minutes later calmed down. I think it freaked us all out!
My post op appointment went well after that. He did find that even with the plugs they put in your ears I got a lot of blood down my ear canal, especially on the left side. My hearing is very minimal at the moment due to the insane swelling. I can't really hear at all out of the left and just a bit on the right. Also, I have paralysis of the forehead all the way to my eyebrows and a bit on the sides of my eyes. This should be temporary, only about 1% of cases is it not. The reason for this is all 5 major facial nerves run along your jaw line. It is to be expected you'll come out with some kind of temporary paralysis. It just makes me feel like I had botox!
Outside of chipmunk cheeks and those other issues, I am doing fine. The pain is for the most part able to be controlled. The drive home that day was a bit rough, but made better by a really liquidy vanilla milkshake from Chick-fil-A (liquidy by request and eaten with a spoon). It was still a very long three hour drive home, but I made it better than I could have imagined.

Day Three

As you can see by the pictures, my smile is a bit crooked. The swelling is much greater on the left than the right. Also, today I have developed bruising under my eyes. Surprisingly you can't really see this in the picture but it is very noticeable in person. Actually, everything looks calmer in pictures! :)

Today I woke up and every muscle and bone hurt in my body. It feels like i've been through a triathalon. If I didn't know better, I would have thought I spent the last week doing a thousand sit ups a day! Thankfully, meds help with this but it is very, very hard to get comfortable.

I have found today I am much hungrier than the last two days. I think my body is calling out for some happy calories and protein to build me back up again. Already i've lost 5 pounds, probably due to all the fluid i've lost. My diet is consisting of applesauce, baby food, and pure liquid soups. Oh yeah, and I had a popsicle tonight, which was the perfect end to the evening!

I've been using my therabite since last night. My doctor had me set it at 20mm and, while it hurts, i'm doing very well on it. I was scared to have such a high setting already, but i'm able to work it perfectly. Before surgery, my average opening was around 15mm, though on good days I could get to 23 ish. Normal minimum opening is 35-40, which is our goal. So far this is a great start.

My ears are also getting better in terms of the blood (I know, gross topic) and the stitches are very clean thanks to my friend helping with that. I still can't see them so it is hard to clean myself.

The big problem is i'm having trouble seeing a bit due to the swelling around my eyes. My left eye feels a bit droopy but this evening i've had some little tremors in it. I think this is a good sign that some of the nerve function is coming back. I just don't feel like I can shut tightly and the left eye waters a lot. I look forward to the swelling going down. I hate the feeling of my ear being swollen shut and not being able to work the eyes well.

So, that is about all I can handle posting for now. I'm doing well, just sore, tired, dizzy, and loopy. I have a ways to go before I will be back to full functioning but it is a good start. Thank you again for all the prayers. I hope by my journaling someone else will benefit. I know how desperately I wanted a blog that detailed this kind of information before my surgery. If there are any questions out there, please don't hesitate to ask!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Surgery is Over!

Hello everyone,

I got home from Baltimore around 8pm tonight. Everything went well; I have a few complications but the surgery itself couldn't have gone better. It was supposed to be about 3 hours but lasted 4 1/2. That extra time must have been important; i'm just grateful they were able to save the discs and I should have a great descrease in pain.

I'm really out of sorts right now; tired, dizzy, and hurting a bit. I will do my best to post a real blog with pictures tomorrow, so be on the lookout.

Thank you so very much for your thoughts and prayers. They have helped tremendously and I look forward to sharing a detailed account of my journey with you.



Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Time!

Well, i'm about to head out to Baltimore to prepare for surgery. My friend and I are going down a day early so that we can relax and settle in. Surgery will be Thursday at 1pm. I am to be at the hospital at 11am to get ready. I wish it was earlier as i'm sure i'll be STARVING, but my doctor wanted the afternoon in case the surgery went long.

I feel quite ready. I know it is time to get this fixed so i'm not too nervous at all. The bummer is I ended up with what looks like Sciatica this weekend. I actually spent Sunday night to Monday morning in the ER because the pain was so bad. They thought it was kidney stones but thankfully it wasn't. The pain started in my right side and back but now is going down my leg. So, this adds on a fun dynamic to the week! Thankfully though i'll be in bed quite a bit the next two weeks which I hear should help the problem.

I will keep you posted as I recover. I plan to post pictures to help those who may be facing this in the future. I know how desperately I wanted to find detailed testimonials to this surgery so will do my best to provide a resource for others.

Thank you for following my journey and praying for me. It is much appreciated! I should be home by Friday afternoon to early evening so keep a look out. If I can, i'll post from the hospital if there is internet and my brain is in tact enough...ha ha!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yay Preop!

Today marks the week away mark for surgery. This morning I went to my primary care physician for a physical and blood work. Thankfully, all seems well, not that I was concerned. It was good to hear my doctor affirm this was a good decision. He is quite conservative and is definitely not an advocate of surgery. For this, however, he said, "it is time". That was all I needed to feel at ease.

I've been jumping back and forth the last few weeks about my decision. I think a lot of it has to do with the controversy surrounding TMJ surgery. There are a great number of people out there who believe oral surgeons are not specialists for TMJ and the only treatment one should have is conservative, particularly with neuromuscular dentists.

While I believe NM dentists work for some, they do not solve the problems caused by structural damage. I asked a world renowned oral surgeon from the UK about this, and he affirmed what I believe. The only way to solve the problems I have, especially since they are related to trauma, is surgery.

I'm starting to feel better and better about my decision. I know my surgeon is very skilled and would only recommend this if it there was a good chance of dealing with the problem. I still have some anxiety related to the possible side effects, such as facial paralysis (normally temporary), and the possibilities of more surgery. But at the same time, when asked by my doctor this morning if the risks were worth it, I replied "absolutely". I cannot live like this anymore.

So, as long as my bloodwork comes back within normal range, i'll be moving ahead with surgery next Thursday at 1pm. The friend who is helping and I will head to Baltimore Wednesday. This will save us from having to deal with crazy traffic plus a lack of sleep. I have to be at the hospital by 11am so it is better to not drive that long distance the same day.

Right now i'm working on more nesting and filling my netflix queue with good movies and television series. I almost got rid of my Direct TV back in January and i'm so glad I didn't! I know i'll be watching it a lot over the coming weeks and months.

If you have any suggestions, i'm trying to think about what my "last meal" will be the night before surgery. I will be on a liquid diet for 1-2 weeks, then a "no chew" diet for anywhere from weeks to months. After that it is soft food and then normal food. I could be without normal food from anywhere from 4-6 months, maybe longer (hopefully not!). What would you eat if you knew it was your last real meal?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ten Days and Counting

Wow, thank you so much for all the sweet comments and prayers. Sue, I am so sorry to hear about your husband. Your family is certainly in my prayers.

I am ten days away from surgery and the reality of it is beginning to hit. I have been busy nesting away, trying to get the house under control. Hopefully it will be neat and tidy before surgery so i'm able to relax and not worry about keeping it up.

My pain fluctuates from day to day. I have had a few good days recently which has been a blessing. It really is a rollercoaster ride and I just try to take it as it comes.

Work has been a bit tough to keep up with. I'm thankful that while I feel a bit behind, things are still getting accomplished. My goal over the next week is to get everything ready for my recovery. This includes writing a number of sermons and making sure all my homebound parishioners are visited. I think it can get done!

I'll be taking two weeks off and I pray this is enough. I know the recovery will be much longer, but I really cannot afford more than that. I pray i'm able to keep up over the summer. My concern heightens for my June schedule as i'll be at camp with my youth for a week at the end of the month and there is synod assembly only 2 1/2 weeks after surgery. Again, this will include pacing myself and taking breaks when needed.

So, that is it for now. Nothing too excited, just a lot of preparing and waiting. Thank you so much for stopping in. It means so much to know people are praying.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How Many More Days??

Ooooh, the pain is bad bad bad tonight! After worship services and then taking one of my youth out to Slinky Action Zone and dinner, I can barely take it. Even with pain meds, i've got the good 'ole throbbing and intense aches going on. I cannot WAIT for this to be over!

Earlier this week, my PT got me worried and a bit neurotic again. He said he thinks i'm putting a lot of stock into the surgery. I asked him if he didn't think this was going to work. He replied that he doesn't really know, but he does think that going in and messing with things doesn't usually help. I think he was just having an off day, because really, surgery does help many, many people. Like all the knees he sees in his practice; without joint replacement and such, those people wouldn't be able to walk like they do. I did get concerned though, because as we all know, there are so many forums out there that are radically against TMJ surgery. You read those horror stories and worry it will become you.

I believe i'm making the right decision for the most part, but there is still that side of me that worries. I don't want to damage myself anymore than I am. I also know however, that to live like this the rest of my life would not bring about a quality life. I will be turning 30 in July and to think i'll be in pain like this forever is a terrible, awful thought. I cannot spend my life on muscle relaxants, pain killers, nerve pain meds, etc. I need the chance to live joyfully. To be in this much pain after playing laser tag and going out to eat is ridiculous. I barely made it out the door let along through the four hours I spent with my youth. That is no way to live.

On a side note, my sister is no longer able to come out to help with surgery. However, a wonderful former classmate of mine from seminary is able to help. She has faced many health concerns herself, so will be a great person to be with throughout recovery. I'm so thankful for the many awesome people in my life who give so selflessly.