Surviving Jaw Surgery – Week 1

Reuelwrites documents his journey to recovery after a 7-hour jaw surgery.

On the fateful day of 20 October 2015, I went for what was to be a life-transforming orthographic (corrective jaw) surgery. First things first, did Reuelwrites get into an accident? Was his jaw dislocated by some Ah Beng or Ah Huey? Nope, none of the above! I went for the corrective double-jaw surgery to correct my bite problem.

I do want to thank my dearest mom who took great care of me during this period, even taking leave just to make sure I’m doing okay. I want to thank my dad too for the encouragement and for caring for me during this period. Going through jaw surgery is no joke and can be rather frustrating.

If you are thinking of going for one, I will be writing another blog entry to talk about jaw surgery. In it you will find the approximate surgery cost, is it claimable under insurance, how to prepare for the surgery, and things you should look out for while recovering from the surgery. Read it before you make your decision.

But why did I go for the jaw surgery?

Basically, my lower jaw is misaligned and protruded. The problem only occurred after I reach my adolescent years, save to say I had normal, aligned jaws when I was young. It also led to the ‘Open Bite’ problem where my upper and lower front teeth cannot touch each other, causing me to not be able to sink my teeth into chicken drumsticks. The problem also caused problems in my speech and enunciation.  And, there’s the facial problem where my smile and side profile is not pleasant (which honestly affected my own self-esteem one way or another). I begin preparing for the surgery since a year and a half ago by removing 7 tooth and putting on braces.

Day 1

I ‘checked in’ to the hotel hospital a day earlier. For a surgery of this severity, I was surprisingly nonchalant about the whole thing leading up to the surgery day.

PHOTO: heraldsun.com.au

But reality finally hit me that this surgery will be more than a slight ‘inconvenience’ as I stared at the two gigantic ‘flood lights’ glaring right back at me in the Operating Theatre. The anesthetist, the nurses, the surgeons and the students were all there, preparing to operate/observe on the jaw of this soon-to-be unconscious patient. But before I can let my fear get the better of me, I was out cold, compliments of the anesthetic gas.

The surgeon push forward my upper jaw with metal plating, reduce the length of my lower jaw, and gave my chin a small lift – because “guys should have a sharper chin” says the doctor.

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Look at that fat face!

I was admitted to the high dependency ward after the surgery. Day 1 passed very quickly because I was in and out of consciousness. Contrary to your worst fears, I didn’t feel any pain at all because my face was practically numb all over and I was still feeling the effects of the anesthetic gas. I did however had a very uncomfortable night’s rest because of the urinal catheter. Having that up your penis (it’s a medical term ya, don’t think dirty) is like, I have the peeing sensation but I can’t pee, but I am actually peeing without me knowing. Because of the long duration of the surgery, the catheter HAD to be inserted to my private area so as to discharge the bodily fluids from my body.

Day 2

Still feeling the effects of the anesthetic gas, I was in a dizzy state. Finally they decided it’s time to remove the catheter. OMGOSH. Worst feeling ever. Nothing can describe that pain. But it was all over in less than 30 seconds. How they treat jaw surgery patients is brutal. I had to see the surgeon on the second day, do my X-ray, learn how to feed myself, all while in a half-conscious, nose-bleeding, anesthetic-induced state. My surgeon told me, “I have to be cruel to you in order to be kind to you.” Lol. The doctor also said the swelling will get worse tomorrow (48 hours after the surgery). Thanks for the heads up ya. *Die liao.

Every jaw surgery patient worldwide drinks Ensure apparently. Each can is packed with 266 calories.

Every jaw surgery patient worldwide drinks Ensure apparently. Each can is packed with 266 calories.

Your new 'fork', 'spoon' and 'knife' all rolled into one

Your new ‘fork’, ‘spoon’ and ‘knife’ all rolled into one

Welcome to your new eating style and diet. My diet for the next 1 month is mainly liquid diet, fed through the side of my mouth with a 25ml syringe. Meal times just got longer and totally unappetising. Family and friends visited but the only words I could utter out was “Mmm.. Mmm.. Mmm!” The anesthetic wore out apparently and I barely caught a wink that night.

Day 3

I was discharged. I couldn’t recognise the person I was looking at in the mirror. That must be the face of a 150 kg guy or something. My face was totally swollen. But that was the least of my worries. Who could have thought that a simple task like drinking water could be so cumbersome? I had to use the syringe to drink water and my ‘food’ which consists mainly of Ensure milk diet and any liquid that doesn’t have any pulp or bits in them.

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My choice of drinks. What else taste good and is nutritious?

The worst was having to ingest the painkillers, antibiotics and panadol in liquid form. It tasted REALLY bitter. I vomited out the medicine twice. Remembering doctor’s words “Now you have to rely on your mental strength to heal fast”, I mind-**** myself and kept telling myself, the worst was over.

Apparently, my doctor did not tell me that I can apply ice and that I should sleep in an elevated position to reduce swelling – I got that off Google. I had such a difficult time falling asleep that I practically slept less than 2 hours that night. Sleeping pills didn’t have any effect either. You know you can’t sleep when you’re up at 2am googling ‘how to sleep after jaw surgery’. Turns out, orthographic surgeries aren’t rare at all. Found many (overseas) websites and blogs from other patients and surgeons on how to survive the jaw surgery. Found some comfort in that there are (were) others who are going through the same ordeal.

4am, the swelling seems to be worsening. I couldn’t take it anymore. Went to the freezer and pull out some ice to ice my swollen face. Went back to bed, managed to get maybe 45 minutes of sleep. Repeat ice-procedure at 5am.

Day 4

Sleep-deprived and feeling totally miserable. I seem to have contracted a cough which wasn’t described in the blogs. Went back to the doctors just to be sure. Doctor informed me that the irritation and pain in the throat was most probably caused by the breathing tube that they inserted through my nose, into my throat to help me breathe while they were performing the surgery.

Sleepless night persisted and the swelling got worse. This time, I managed to get about 3 hours sleep. Yay, 1 more hour.

Day 5

Nothing eventful happened today. Caught church service over live web broadcast. Managed to get 7 hours of uninterrupted rest in spite of the persistent sore throat problem. Mom made soup. I finally get to taste something salty other than Ensure milk and Ribena.

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Day 6

Just when I thought everything can only get better, I had a coughing fit and had small blood clots stuck behind my teeth which I had no way of removing. Feeling miserable and wishing I didn’t do the surgery.

Day 7

Returned to the doctors. The doctor removed my rubber band!!! I’m free-r. Still can’t open and close my mouth freely. But I can now drink rather than use the syringe. Total morale boost. But it was also the start of a new problem: drooling. How can anyone drool so much? I was practically having a drool fest every minute, every second.

GIF: imgur.com

I thought about my favourite food; carrot cake, chilli crabs, curry fish head, luxuries that I can only dream about. But at least I can finally sleep through the night, amid with sore throat.

The journey to recovery continues. RW

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