My mom flew back to New Hampshire on May 3rd, 2011. This photo was taken on May 16th, which is a month and a few days post surgery. My convalescence from work had ended the day before which explains why my hair is no longer quite so out of control. The splint and rubber bands were still in my mouth though, but those were due to come off soon.
While I could speak it was too quiet for easy communication at work since I could only open my mouth so far. That led to quiet days at work, which was fine with me since I had plenty to catch up on since I had been gone for the past month.
Since I had a lot more practice opening my mouth I could keep it open for longer. It grew more difficult the longer I kept it open, since I was fighting the force of the rubber bands. Now I could drink with a straw without having to tuck it back by my molars. Another simple thing that was normal again.
This was taken May 1st, 2011. The status of everything is still steady with the last photo except for some reason my bottom lip is uneven in this one. I would guess it’s due to swelling from sleeping on my side. The hair is also getting a bit crazy.
Around this time is when I felt confident enough to leave the apartment without drooling everywhere. Or trying to answer awkward questions about my looking like I had been run over.
My mom and I first visited the Foster Botanical Gardens in downtown Honolulu. Established in 1853 the site boasts one of the most well known orchid collections in the world.
We also went to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in what is known in Hawaii as the Punchbowl. Dedicated in 1949 it serves as the resting place for 34,000 United States military veterans and their dependents.
This photo was taken on April 28th, 2011, which brings us up to sixteen days post surgery. By now I could speak and be understood, though no where near the speed and ease I could before. I had to take my time with it. Plus I would still swell up if I slept on my side but not as bad as it was before. Over all my recovery was looking good across the board.
The numbness in my face was beginning to decrease in gradual increments, no longer reaching from my chin to my zygomatic bones. Instead it began to almost work its way down toward where the more intensive surgery took place. It felt almost as though the numbness was “draining” in slow motion down my face. Both my lips were still numb however, which was about as awkward as you can imagine.
The drooling was starting to cease as well. That alone would have been enough to keep me happy. The rest was a bonus.
Taken April 21st, 2011 (nine days post-surgery) when I decided to take the bandage off. It was getting disgusting and I don’t know why they expected me to keep it on longer.
The swelling in my lips was still at a ridiculous level, with special emphasis given to the middle of my upper lip. I still also drooled non stop, but at least now it wasn’t running down into the bandage. That’s part of what made it so disgusting.
I also began to recover muscle strength in my jaw. I still couldn’t talk in a manner that anyone could hear me, but I could part my teeth, if only just millimeters. Being unable to open my jaw I think was less about the rubber bands holding it shut, though that was without a doubt part of it, but more on that my jaw muscles were weakened a considerable amount from all the bruising and damage from the surgery.
That being said it was still a lot more than I had been able to do even a few days before. At this point I was relying on my second computer monitor with notepad blown up in huge letters to talk to my mom. It worked out pretty well but speaking is just simpler so being able to speak again, and be heard and understood, was something I was looking forward to.
By the time this photo was taken on April 20th, 2011 my lips had almost healed. The only reminder of the damage to my lips is a small scab on the left side of my bottom lip. Most of the disgusting rotting in my mouth had abated as well, much to my relief. The swelling in my face and lips hadn’t receded much but at least there was still visible improvement.
There was also progress that you can’t see from just the picture. The sutures inside my mouth had begun to dissolve and break apart. When the photo was taken at least two of the multiple sutures had already come undone and fallen out.
Drool was still a constant in my life but Portal 2 had come out the day before so I spent most of my time playing it. Portal 2 was a blessing since it provided a great distraction from the persistent stream of saliva, which I was beyond done with.
This one was taken April 19th, 2011, one week post surgery. There’s a reason most of these pictures show me with a towel. I was not expecting this torrential downpour of drool.
Your lips act as a dam holding back a reservoir of saliva and jaw surgery is akin to the South Fork Dam failure. The South Fork Dam collapsed in 1889 and sent 20 million gallons of water surging into Johnstown, PA killing 2,209 people.
I’m certain 20 million gallons of drool poured out of my mouth as well. Don’t take this as fact but I think our subconscious mind helps us retain the saliva in our mouth. When your lips are numb that doesn’t seem to work anymore. Cue the drool.
Now that wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t a constant, never ending stream of drool. To the point of outrage at the inability to stop it. And it’s as gross as it sounds. Hence the towel.
I took this picture minutes after I woke up. My doctors told me not to sleep on my side during my recovery and this picture is why. If you look at my right side the swelling is unreal.
Sight from that eye was almost gone, obscured by my cheek. I guess the pressure from sleeping on that slide caused the swelling. I had done a my best to follow the doctor’s orders but I have a hard time sleeping on my back.
It wasn’t until a year later that I figured out how to sleep on my back. I still prefer sleeping on my side, but if I ever need to again, I know how. For anyone else, do this: place a pillow under the hip of the side you sleep on, or sleep on a couch with the back of it next to that side. This will feel more natural to you, as though you were on your side.
I hope that helps someone, it would have been a life saver.
This picture is from three days after the surgery. Despite the bloodstains I was told to leave the bandage on my chin in place. The swelling in the lower half of my face had increased a lot, but at this point there were still no visible bruises.
If you look at my bottom lip you can see that all the the damage done to my lips during surgery is beginning to heal. My left side, right in the photo, was a disgusting mess. That scab was torn, on accident of course, multiple times because of the location and how awkward it was to work around it.
That’s not the worst part though. Remember, my mouth is held closed and all of the surgical procedures were done using incisions cut into my mouth. Those incisions were stitched shut and the healing process was working its magic inside my mouth as well. While it didn’t hurt due to my being numb from my eyes down I could still taste things.
I could taste my mouth rotting as dead tissue sloughed off inside. It’s why I’m thankful they gave me narcotics like oxycodone. Not for pain suppression, since I was numb there was little pain to begin with. No, it kept me medicated so I didn’t have to experience my mouth rotting as it healed with a complete and rational mind. Just the thought of that still gives me the shivers when I think about it. My mouth was bound shut, there was no spitting that junk out as it sloughed off.
I took this photo of myself once the anesthesia had begun to wear off. It was less about documenting the procedure and more about wanting to see what my face looked like. There were no mirrors handy at the time so I had to resort to taking a picture. The band wrapped around my cheeks and chin have ice packs inside to help settle the swelling.
My lips look bloody in this photo. They’re not, they were just blood red from the swelling. My face numb from about my eyes down to my neck and the oxygen tube is the most annoying medical device I’ve ever had to use.
My mom recalls the night at the hospital as brutal but she says my nurses were fantastic. The most vivid memory is my vomiting reaction to nausea medication. They tried to give it to me again a few hours later and I all but panicked. I wrote as fast as I could on a piece of paper not to give it to me.
I am getting my most recent profile pictures from my orthodontist. For now I will continue where I left off. My surgery was scheduled for the afternoon on April 12th, 2011. I flew my mom to Hawaii a week before the surgery so we could have some time before the procedure. I checked into the hospital in the morning and we spent the night there as well. I was in surgery for six hours.
I decided I won’t withhold details so if you’re squeamish, be warned.
The night after surgery is among the hardest nights of my life. I had surgery once before: I had my appendix removed the night before 9/11. That was mild stomach pain, this was something else. It wasn’t painful but I could not shake feeling as though I had been kicked in the face by a horse. Even harder was being unable to express my discomforts with the ease I could that same morning.
Rubber bands held my jaw closed so it wouldn’t move and ruin the surgeon’s positioning. The worst part of the night was having a reaction to nausea medication. I vomited. With my mouth held shut.
When looking at the pictures of myself compared to other people who have undergone similar surgeries I feel like I look much worse. My lips were massive following the surgery. Below are pictures taken during my recovery. I only included pictures I felt showed the changes the best.
Mousing over them will show the date. I will talk about stories behind some of those pictures next.