Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Confessions of a Double Jaw Surgery Patient: My 4 Day Hospital Stay


Welcome friends to my "Double Jaw Surgery & Genioplasty Journey & Recovery Tips" Blog.

 It’s actually about a month after my double jaw surgery and genioplasty. I have finally decided that I feel ready to share my own personal experience with others who are planning to do this surgery.

About a year ago, I had SARPE ( surgically assisted rapid palatal expansion), which to my understanding basically was done to expand my maxilla (upper jaw), since it was incredibly narrow.   

Fast Forward to June 20, 2013- that's when I had my double jaw surgery, where both my upper and lower jaw were moved forward to correct my overbite. I’ve had difficulty chewing food ever since I can remember. Biting into an apple? Forget about it. Enjoying some freshly made tadeeg (basically crunchy rice)? Not a chance! Everything I would eat became such a pain because of my overbite. My jaw would also make these annoying clicking noises every time I would eat or just on random occasions, which was so annoying! I was sick of it.

Apparently, if I wouldn’t do this jaw surgery my overbite would get worse and worse over the years. So I had to do it! Plus, I really wanted to enjoy food with a normal bite.

 So this double jaw surgery was a must for me! I also opted to do genioplasty (chin surgery), a recommendation by my surgeon so that my jaw and chin would be perfectly aligned, ultimately providing a better looking side profile. My genioplasty procedure did not require any implants, but was rather a repositioning of the bone supporting the chin. 

This first post will give you a raw account of the night before my surgery and my 4 day hospital stay following the surgery. Everything that I share with you is by no means an effort to scare you shitless. Excuse my French. I just want to be open and honest with my personal experience to provide with some perspective and preparation. 

At the end of the day though, my goal for this blog is to share recovery tips that I have researched, discussed with holistic health practitioners and ultimately used to help with my own ongoing healing process.

So, it's June 19, 2013, 6 pm, my final meal before I'm stuck on a liquid diet for I don't know the next few months?! I'm still not allowed to chew by the way and its already been a month, but I'll get into that in my next post. I say this as the "Burger Fries and A Coke Don't Bother Me I'm Eating ad runs through my mind... Oh, which also reminds me before your surgery make sure to eat anything and everything you crave and surround yourself with positive family members and friends!

For example, (I don’t know why you would need an example for this, but I’m giving one anyway to show off my amazing fam bam). My magnificent grandmother, Mama Flora, treated me to my favorite fast-food Mexican Restaurant Poquito Mas two days before my surgery. It was a lovely lunch filled with yummy food and amazing company. She’s unfortunately been through quite a few surgeries so she was able to provide me with some positive advice.

Anyways, back to my last meal before surgery. 

My wonderful dad comes in with tin foil boxes of my favorite Persian food. Each of the boxes are inundated with Chicken Kabob, Beef Koobideh, and this amazing Sour Cherry Rice (Albalou Pollo..the Persians know what I'm talking about here). As I excitedly fill my plate and chow down the appetizing cuisine, my stomach begins to turn uncontrollably. All I could think of was…“Great I was planning to stuff myself and now all I've eaten is a small piece of beef koobideh and a morsel of rice.”

 I try to ignore the nauseating feeling that has erupted within me and continue to force myself to enjoy my final meal, but after a few more bites, I give in, gracefully excusing myself from the dinner table. 

I knew exactly why I was feeling this way. I was beyond mortified about the surgery tomorrow, but I desperately tried to get my mind off it. I decided to distract myself with my 3 month old new puppy Shelby. 

After a half hour of fetch, I was pooped! Unfortunately though, I still couldn't wipe out the terror within me. I suddenly found myself shaking uncontrollably and the knots in my stomach were debilitating beyond measure. 

It suddenly hit me that I needed to visit someone. I had visited her the day before, but only for a short time. I needed to see her one last time before the dreaded surgery. 

I asked my dad to drive me to visit my grandmother Mama Parvin. I knew I wasn't in the right state of mind to drive myself. That's right, safety first people!  He agreed and we were off to see her.

Once I visited her I felt rejuvenated. She helped provide me with the confidence I needed to go into the surgery and reminded me to stay positive and strong. God Bless her! She is the most positive and upbeat person I know. She always enjoys life to the fullest. Despite the many obstacles and medical emergencies she has faced in her life, she always remains optimistic and jubilant. I needed to be around that energy once more before surgery!   

When I got home, I watched a few minutes of the The Bachelorette. Did I just admit my guilty pleasure to you all?! Well in any case, don't judge!! Who can help themselves from watching a love story unfold? Whether it lasts just for reality TV or a lifetime, I'm hooked.  

Anyways, I digress again! My apologizes. So yeah, I knocked out while watching it.

 I woke up at 3:45 am. Well, not just me, my entire family (mom, dad, and twin sister) woke up as I was advised to be at the UCLA Hospital by 5 am, with my surgery time being at 7:00 am. I took a shower and we were off to the hospital.

We entered into the first downstairs wing to check in and fill out some paperwork. I don’t really recall what the paperwork was for. I just remembered I needed to sign a few documents.

 The lady handing out the paperwork had a stick up her a$$.  Again pardon the French. I just can't think of any other way to depict exactly how I felt about her.  But then again though, who wants to be working at 4 am in the morning? So, I ignored her attitude, signed the paperwork and she directed me to sit in the waiting room. 

While sitting in the waiting room, I put my headphones in and listened to my iPod. Thankfully, my twin sister Juliana had just refreshed my library with a slew of new songs. There were 2 songs I had on replay, Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" and Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams' "Get Lucky." Don't ask me why, but those two songs just pumped me up like no other.  

As I sat and jammed to my music, I noticed a dude who looked around my age, (I'm 23 by the way) sitting a few chairs next to me. He was staring aimlessly at the ground taping his high-top sneakers incessantly. I quickly scanned his face. Was he here for the same procedure as me? Did he have an overbite or underbite? Ah, who was I kidding? What were the chances anyway? By the time I contemplated on putting my detective hat on, a man in white medical garb called my name. I'm not sure if he was a nurse or not, but we can just call him nurse man.

"Berenice" he declared! 

I proudly walked over as he placed a wristband on my right hand. I honestly don't remember exactly what was written on the wristband. I think it was my name, date of birth, age and gender.

After putting the wristband on, the nurse man said "Are you nervous?"

 I told him "Yes sir." 

He responded "Don't worry it will be fine" and directed me to the next floor up, where I was greeted by another male nurse. 

He took my weight and handed me this hideous medical dress he told me I had to wear. He also gave me a cup for a urine sample.

 I was then directed into my hospital room and sat and waited in what felt like hours upon hours, until a nice female nurse came in and demanded that I was only allowed one visitor to accompany me in my room. I currently had my parents and sister in the room. My mom ended up staying, but I was somehow able to sweet talk my way into getting the nurse to allow my dad to stay as well.

About a half hour later, the nurse came back in and started asking me a slew of questions like: When was the last time you drank water? When was the last time you ate something? Are you currently on any type of medications and or supplements? Do you have any allergies?

There was another long pause before the next nurse came in. I stared up at the piece of paper attached to the white board in my hospital room. On the Paper it read Berenice: Orthognathic surgery & genioplasty.

I told my parents they had written the wrong surgery!

“What?! Are you serious?! They both responded alarmed.

I quickly noted Yup, It’s suppose to say “Breast Augmentation, but instead it says “orthognathic surgery and genioplasty.”

They broke into laughter. I could tell they were tense. I wanted to make light of the situation. Lame joke, I know, but I too was pretty shocked at my light-hearted whimsical attitude this dreaded day.  

Next thing I knew, the anesthesiologist Dr. Miller came in and introduced himself. His professional, yet caring demeanor pleasantly surprised me.

He too asked me when the last time I drank water was and told me that I would be undergoing general anesthesia similar to the SARPE surgery I had previously. He also placed these small white stickers behind my ears to help with decreasing nausea after surgery. By the way it seemed like these white stickers helped me because I was not nauseated at all after surgery! Didn’t barf once!

A few minutes later, in came my surgeon, who was trailed by a bunch of what to me appeared to be residents. It was UCLA. They were bound to be there. I instantly recognized one of the residents. When I saw him, I had a flashback to the day of my pre-operation appointment. He was the one that directed the appointment.  I remember him having a overly laid back high off life demeanor, which irritated the crap out of me because I am the total opposite of laid back. I was convinced he was a habitual pot user.

Now looking back though, I have to admit, I am thankful for certain things he warned me about, which I will get to later on! But ya, I surprisingly grew an appreciation for him later on down the road.   

Ok, back to the story! One of the last things I remember before being knocked out completely was a question I posed.

 I asked the anesthesiologist, “I’m not going to die or anything, right?!” Not sure why I blurted out that question. I was pretty overwhelmed with the amount of physicians crowded into my small room.

The anesthesiologist replied, “Aww of Course Not! You will be fine don’t worry!”  Somehow though, I felt reassured by his gentle response.

From that point, one of the nurses in my room pocked a needle in and I became incredibly woozy. The anesthesia was kicking in and boom that was it. I was knocked out and don’t remember a thing after that.

I was told the surgery took 7 hours! Yup 7! Blew my mind. When I woke up my mouth was completely closed shut with a plethora of elastic bands. I tried opening my mouth to breath, but little did I know that it would be impossible to do so. I was shocked. The elastics were so tight.

 I’ve been a mouth breather my entire life. I also have a deviated septum in addition to the fact that my nose was currently completely congested with what I was soon to notice blood! I was in panic mode! I felt like I was suffocating. It was the most terrifying feeling of my life. I needed help immediately.

Oh and here’s the part where I can now reveal why I was thankful to the overly laidback resident who directed my pre-op appointment. He did reveal to me during the appointment that most patients who have this surgery complain that they feel like they cannot breathe right after surgery. Thus, I was determined to prepare myself for this moment.

Let’s rewind a bit. About a week before my surgery, I asked to meet with my surgeon to ask him a few of my questions. During the meeting, I discussed with him my concern about not being able to breathe through my mouth since my mouth would be closed shut with elastic bands.

He told me not to be concerned. He said if at any point I felt like I could not breathe, he could take the elastics off. I was relieved when he said that.

To make sure this would be noted, I told the nurse who called me the day before my surgery to make sure to write a note stating that the surgeon had said that if I felt like I could not breathe with the elastics on, then the nurse could immediately take them off.

Now let’s fast forward to the moment I woke up from surgery and instantly felt like I could not breathe.  When I encountered this terrifying feeling, I figured all I needed to do was tell the nurse (via pen and paper of course since I couldn’t talk) so that they could take the elastics off.

Lying in the hospital bed, I opened my eyes wider and noticed that there was a new nurse in front of me. I would soon find out she was the nurse from hell.

 I of course couldn’t speak, so I was desperately trying to get her attention. I clapped my hands and signaled for her to get me a pen and paper so that I could tell her that I felt like I could not breathe.

The nurse from hell looked straight at my hand signals, but completely ignored me. What the hell was going on? I was getting beyond frustrated. Why is she ignoring me?

The nurse from hell apparently heard what I requested. She finally brought a pen and paper for me. I wrote to her that I felt like I couldn’t breathe and that the surgeon had told me the elastics could be taken off if this had happened.

She retorted that there was no way she would take the elastics out. And a battle of words ensued. 

I’m not going to bore you with the details on this, but I basically asked her if the surgeon could come in so that I could prove to her that he had told me prior to the surgery that the elastics could come off if I had breathing issues..blah blah blah you get the gist. 

The nurse wasn’t having any of it. She refused to ask for the surgeon to come and instead brought one of the residents who helped with the surgery, who also refused to take the elastics off saying that I would relapse if the elastics would come off. Funny how she said this when the surgeon who performed the surgery for me had personally suggested that the elastics could come off if I felt I couldn’t breathe.

After crying outrageously, the resident gave in, but only took one elastic off each side. If I remember correctly there was two or three more left on each side. In any case, I did feel like I could breath a bit better. Oh, and this was probably day 2 of my stay. The four days I was there was a complete blur.

On a side note, I don’t want this whole not being able to breathe thing scare any of you who are planning to do the surgery. I think for me, personally, it was a traumatic experience because I’ve been a mouth breather my entire life. Breathing through my nose with a deviated septum was foreign. I was also super congested, but make sure to use saline nose moisturizing spray, which will help clear up congestion in your nose. I say this as I spray this in my nose at the moment. It really helps!

 Also, I should say that even though I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I had to remind myself that there were medical professionals surrounding me 24/7. They of course had an oxygen monitor on me and nurse after nurse kept reiterating to me that I was breathing just fine even though I didn’t feel like I was. 

As I said before, my four day hospital stay felt like one very loooonnng day. Everything started to become a blur. Why a blur? Well, soon after my outburst, I was given oxycontin for immediate pain relief and ativan to control my anxiety. Those two drugs combined knocked me out completely. It was honestly better that way. The moments I was awake felt like absolute hell at times. I even apparently said some nasty things to my poor mother that I don’t even recall saying. Sorry mom!

Speaking of my mother, wow, words cannot even begin to describe how amazing she was and continues to be throughout this bumpy journey. Throughout my hospital stay, I had two nurses one Asian lady who was the sweetest person ever! She told me how she was in a terrible accident and had jaw surgery so she knew exactly what I was going through. She was so calm and gentle with me. Oh, and also there was this Russian male nurse who was also very accommodating, but the best nurse of all was my mother. I would not have survived this surgery without her. She stayed with me throughout my entire hospital stay, never leaving my side.

 Every day she would rub Arnica gel, which helps with swelling and pain ( I will write more about this on my next post) and consistently put chapstick on my awfully chapped lips. Every time I would wake up in the middle of the night, she was right up with me, catering to my every need. When I got back home she nursed me back to health. Making me delicious milk shakes, smoothies and soup!  Yup, she’s the BEST! 

Oh yes and I cannot forget to mention my lovely twin sister Juliana. She was amazingly supportive as well. So unbelievably kind and tender with me. I cannot thank her enough for all that she has done for me. My father too! He has been so patient, loving, and supportive as well.

 My father, mother, and sister even slept on my bedroom floor for weeks after the surgery to literally be by my side in case I needed something. Yup, they are awesome!

I would definitely say that if you can have a family member stay with you throughout your hospital stay that would be ideal! It really helps having someone there 24/7 to get through the slump.

Another person who really motivated and inspired me to push through during my hospital stay was the Chief Resident. As I’ve reiterated, my whole hospital stay became a giant blur once I was on meds, so I only remember bits and pieces! 

But, The Chief Resident was someone who really stuck out. From the moment he stepped into my hospital room, it was like rays of sunshine lit up my dim and drab room.  Ok, yes he was easy on the eyes, but it was the speech he gave after that really struck a chord with me. I’m thinking he came in around day 3. The first two days I was being fed via IV. By day 3, I needed to start drinking with a syringe or slowly drink small sips from a cup. It was actually nearly impossible to drink from a cup, so I would just stick with using a syringe. The syringe is what saved me. 

 Anyways, he came in and somehow knew I was a huge Lakers fan. I’m guessing my mother told him? He told me something to the effect of the following, “Think that the Lakers success for next season is all dependent on you. The more you drink either by a syringe or slowly take sips from a cup and the more active you are by taking walks around the hospital, the better chance the Lakers have in winning a championship next year.”

Yes, I know it was complete lunacy, but to me it was music to my ears. It oddly enough completely motivated me. As soon as he said that, I kept reminding myself to stay hydrated and walked around the hospital several times a day.   

Alright, so one more thing! I wasn’t really told how badly the swelling would be in your face and lips! So don’t be alarmed! It’s normal for a procedure like this! I looked like a chubby chipmunk and had humongous lips. I mean my lips were HUGE and so was my entire face. It was nuts. Nevertheless, I have a bunch of recovery tips on how to deal with swelling and what to do to decrease swelling- that will be in my next post for recovery tips!

So just to recap:
1)    Make sure to bring Arnica or Traumeel gel ( I actually prefer Traumeel better just because it feels softer on my face) for swelling and pain. You can buy either one at Whole Foods, Erewhon or any health food store. Apply it regularly during your hospital stay and continue to use it throughout your recovery process. 

2)    Make sure to bring Saline Nasal Spray to help with congestion. The hospital you’re at will most likely supply you with it, but just in case you should be able to buy it at a local drug store. I bought mine at CVS. This saved me! I was soooo congested! I consistently used it to help with clearing up congestion.

3)    Bring a notebook and pen/pencil! You won’t be able to talk at all until the elastics are taken off.  The elastics come off whenever your surgeon feels its not needed anymore. It helps with stabilizing the new position your jaw has moved into. The elastics usually stay on ranging from a couple weeks to 6 weeks. You also will have a splint on your upper palate, which also disables you from speaking audibly. The splint stays on for a few weeks. It’s pretty annoying when you try to eat your soft blended foods because food gets caught in it pretty easily. Once it’s off though, it becomes a lot easier. So ya, anyway, make sure to bring that notebook! The things you will write in the notebook will be a fun and memorable thing to look back on!

4)    Another thing to be aware of is the numbness. I began to notice pretty quickly that I was completely numb on my lower lip and entire chin area. I was also numb on the sides of my upper lip and weirdly enough the left side of my nostril. The numbness gets very frustrating to deal with. I was told it takes 6 months to a year to regain full sensation back. My surgeon even told me there is a possibility of never receiving full sensation back in these areas. I decided early on that there was no way I was going to wait that long! I also refused to cave into the idea of possibly never regaining full sensation. I did a ton of research in terms of finding ways to speed up the process of both regaining sensation back and reducing inflammation and pain. My next post will be all about this! So don’t fret! There are solutions to help speed up the healing process.  You have to be patient with this surgery! But there is hope!

5)    Get yourself a baby toothbrush and some mouthwash. The surgeon told me to start brushing pretty soon after surgery. He came to visit me day 4 and told me to start brushing regularly. Every time I drank a milk shake, or ate some soup, I would brush right after! I was and still am super OCD about it. I don’t want any infections! So ya, just make sure it’s a toothbrush for toddlers! There is no way a regular sized toothbrush will work. It is too big to ever be placed in your mouth at this point. 

6) I highly recommend getting a jaw soft stretch with chin cup. It comes with 4 removable ice packs. Its the perfect way to keep your jaw area iced. During my hospital stay they created something like this for me, but when I came home, I needed something that would stay strapped on to ice my jaw. If you don't want to spend money purchasing this, you can try putting ice packs in a pillow case and place it wherever on your face you feel needs to be iced. 

7) Expect Excessive Drooling especially while the splint is on. Once the splint was off the drooling subsided tremendously. Try and Embrace the drooling! I know I know drooling is not really
"socially acceptable." I ended up wasting a ton of tissue and napkins cleaning up the drool so instead I started to keep a towel handy! 

     8) Try as best as possible to keep this jaw surgery process as joyful as possible. Yes, it can be incredibly frustrating! I’m not going to lie here! I get frustrated often because I was stunned at how long of a process it is to recover. But now, I’m working on training myself to accept the fact that although this feels like a very long and slow road to recovery, in the scheme of things, this process is just a small part of an entire lifetime I have to live. Plus, I am learning a lot while on this journey and will hopefully offer all of you with beneficial tips to survive the journey.

If you have any questions feel free to post your questions in the comments section under this post or you can e-mail me at berafam@gmail.com!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your captivating story! Yes, this journey is a long and aggravating journey, however, I admire your willingness and determination to find alternative ways to try to ease and shorten this process.

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  2. This is an awesome blog! I already can't wait to see what you write in the next one :)

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