Jaw Surgery: The Aftermath

Two years on, Reuelwrites tells it all on the aftermath of the jaw surgery.

Hey all! It’s been a little under two years since I went for the jaw surgery with NUH. Back then I wrote multiple articles on jaw surgery and never would have thought that it would help so many Singaporeans who were in a fix on whether to proceed with the jaw surgery, on the procedures to go about doing so, as well as what to expect during and after the jaw surgery.

You can read the articles by clicking on these links:

  1. Everything You Need To Know About Going For a Jaw Surgery in Singapore
  2. Surviving Jaw Surgery – Week 1
  3. A Jaw-Dropping Experience – Week 2

Two years went by just like that. Even till this day, I have so many enquiries on [going through] the jaw surgery. So here’s my report card on the recovery and aftermath. I have permanent partial numbness on the right side of my lower lip. Yes, permanent numbness is real. Going for the multiple follow-ups for months after the surgery, I was told by my surgeon that the initial numbness was ‘normal’. It came to a point where the numbness continued to be present despite being more than a year after surgery. That was when my surgeon told me that I belong to one of the rare uncommon cases where the patient never recovers from the numbness.

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Taken in 2013: This was my perpetual default face during photo taking because I always worry over presenting an ugly smile

“Does [the permanent numbness] bother me?” No, if I don’t think about it. In spite of that, the numbness does not really deter me from life as per normal.

“Is there any extra procedure during post-surgery?” Yes, I am supposed to wear my retainers all the time for at least two years from surgery to keep my teeth aligned. But being in the sales trade (real estate), I couldn’t afford talking weird so I only wore my retainers every night before I turn in. This step is very important if you don’t want to go back to your orthodontist to put on braces again in a couple of years’ time.

“Permanent numbness?! Reuelwrites, tell me.. Is it still worth it?” Well, to be honest, the numbness is annoying when I am fixated on it. If I can give an example, it’s like a big booger in your nose; it’s there but you won’t ‘feel’ it unless you focus on it (LOL). But this, in exchange for a nice smile, I find the trade-offs still worthwhile on a whole.

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Taken in 2017 after my braces were removed. Same cap, same face, but smaller ‘face’ and nicer smile, I think?!

Having a nice smile helps in my own self-esteem and being in the real estate industry where a nice smile can make a difference, I would say that I would have gone ahead with the surgery even if I knew that the numbness would be permanent right from the start.

So, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, “What if I never recover from the numbness, am I able to accept the permanent condition? Does the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?” If yes, then I would say “Go ahead with the surgery!” If that bothers you, you might want to hit the brakes on proceeding with the jaw surgery.

The above are just my experience going through jaw surgery and yours may differ from mine. However, if you have any other questions, feel free to email me at reueleugenetay@gmail.com and I will answer you to the best of my ability and knowledge.

A Jaw-Dropping Experience – Week 2

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

Day 8

Things got a lot cheerier ever since the dentist removed the rubber bands that bound my teeth together. Dentist says I can actually drink my food instead of using the syringe. Awesome. That will actually reduce my meal times from 5-10 minutes per 260ml of Ensure milk to less than 1 minute. Oh, and swelling has also completely subsided. I can finally recognise myself in the mirror.

dramas

PHOTO: dccomics.com, netflixlife.com, koreaboo.com, talknerdywithus.com

All patients who went through orthognaphic surgeries are given 1 month’s medical certificate to recover and regain their mouth function. For sanguine and extroverts, recovering from the surgery will be an extra arduous one considering the fact that he/she cannot talk and has to stay home for weeks. Fortunately for me, the introvert in me is strong and I can jolly well keep myself entertained while holed up at home catching up on episodes from my US dramas and Korean variety show.

Day 9

OMGOSH the drool. I think I’ve probably used up 2 boxes of tissues since the removal of the rubber bands. Because my lower jaw is still numb, my lips – which are perpetually in a puckering position – cannot feel the saliva that is dripping down the lips.  I’m practically a mobile drooling humanoid. I would arch my head upwards in a bid to stop myself from drooling.

drool

GIF: giphy.com

I tried to drink water without the syringe. The result was water pouring all over. Looks like I will need more practice before attempting the ‘feat’ again. Going through this surgery has made me aware of the simple things that I used to be able to do like drinking, talking and eating. Oh definitely eating. The desire to put solid food instead of milk and soup down my throat is intensifying as the days go by. I need food. Real food.

Day 10

I have mastered the art of sleeping on my back. Well, almost. Sleeping on my right side for 26 years, it was extremely difficult to change to another position overnight. The only other time I could effortlessly sleep on my back was when I was in outfield and after surgery.

Sleeping on my back in an elevated position (double pillows) was initially to bring down the swelling. Right now, it’s just to stop myself from drooling all over the bed and because I’m afraid I might ‘accidentally dislocate’ my jaw or something. Yep, I’m paranoid like that.

Day 13

KinfolkKoi

I have mastered the art of ‘ta-ing’ my drinks. Meal times are now 30 seconds. This skill could be helpful the next time I bottoms-up at a bar, except I don’t drink. More church friends came to visit. They brought the latest edition of Kinfolk (one of my fav magazines which I am very proud to say I’m probably among the first few in Singapore to adopt) and Koi’s Hazel Nut milk tea. Normally, I wouldn’t want people visiting me because of my current condition but sometimes “you need practice in letting people help you”, says Felicity in Arrow season 3 episode 19. Sunday was a good day.

Day 15

Family members came to visit. My mom shared with them about my tantrums and frustrations while recovering after the surgery. She also told them what I can eat drink, and how she would make soup for me everyday. I’m ashamed of my behaviour and at the same time touched by her gesture. Family and friend support is extremely crucial for patients who have gone through a corrective jaw surgery. Be it mental, moral and physical support.

Day 16

Back to the dentist’s for my weekly review. Dentist says everything is going fine and that I can proceed with soft diet! He also instructed me to practise pursing my lips and opening my mouth. First thought that came to my mind; scrambled eggs. Second thought that came to my mind; macaroni and cheese. Ah, my mouth is salivating. Or was it drool? Right now, it seems like I’m ‘born again’, drinking formula milk, using a baby toothbrush and having to relearn how to eat.

Day 17

Mom made scrambled eggs. I put it in my mouth and tried to bite down. Fail, mega fail. I haven’t using my teeth to chew for so long that I have ‘forgotten’ how. Plus, my lower jaw is still numb. Turns out, I’m not ready for it. One plate of scrambled eggs wasted just like that.

eggs

Mom made soft boiled eggs to cheer me up. That’s the best thing I’ve had this week.

The journey to recovery continues. RW

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