Being 3 months post op calls for another Jaw Surgery update. Sorry not sorry.
In the past 2 months, I have had handful of people messaging me to say that my blog has inspired them in many ways. Which honestly feels so great to hear! Thank you all so much for that!
Firstly, I am so so sorry for being such a lazy “blogger” but trust me, things had lined up in front of me in such a way that I just could not focus on writing this post. I’m going to be honest with you all…I had rewritten this post about 6 times during this week, taking help and talking to people and every time with a different mood or opinion. Finally, I wanted to finish this off and I just typed down whatever came to my mind. This post is yet again going to be lengthy but, please bare with me and I hope you guys like it. Please do tell me if any improvement is to be done. I’d be happy to hear from you!
Secondly, On 6th October, I marked 3 months since I embarked on this adventure. Yes! I am on my first “milestone” post-surgery blog post. It’s already been 3 months since I underwent my double jaw surgery?! I surely can’t believe it- it’s flown in. For those of you who are new here, I wrote an enormous blog post 3 months before (READ HERE) talking about my cleft lip and palate underbite birth condition and how I’ve grown up living with one, the double jaw surgery that I went under to correct it following my 2 weeks post-op update. Initially, I decided I would do monthly updates but in the past 2 months, recovery was sort of tough which got me lazy with it so I decided not to. The first month dragged by but it has also flown in- it’s scary! If you are someone like me going through the same and are reading this and you are in the beginning stages of recovery, there will come a time where you don’t even think about it anymore. Being 3 months post-op is the milestone that all jaw surgery patients are excited to get through because it means the bones have fully fused together in its new position and is “kinda” ready to function which means we are 70% healed!(That’s not to say that I’m back to functioning normally though as the bones may be healed, but the nerves will take much longer still).
Let’s talk a bit about those few hours before and after my surgery?
I was not thrilled with the idea of being put under anesthesia and I did not really think about my surgery anymore until a few days prior. Then I started to panic. I was petrified. I did not realize how frightened I was of being “put under” and being asleep allowing someone to take a knife to my face. I mean, it’s a weird feeling to put your whole trust in someone else for your face.
I remember the night before my surgery feeling so excited and nervous at the same time, having waited for the surgery all my life. I was wide awake and crying my eyes out. My nerves were getting the best of me but I knew I had to face my fear and go for it.
(On 6th July) I was woken at 6 in the morning and was asked to finish shower by 7. I was a nervous wreck and the nerves kicked in as I was only a few hours away from my surgery. In a few hours of time, I got to the facility in the pitch dark where they took my personal information and walked me to the back to get me prepped. I was there, sitting on the bed with my legs under warm blankets, dressed in a hospital gown, shaking like a leaf that the next minute, I met the person that would help alter the course of my life. I was surely excited for all of it to happen but, I was more frightened because what I had been dreaming about my whole teenage life, was finally happening. My parents held my hand all the way into the surgery preparation room. I was then put into a wheelchair and then an operating bed. I was quite terrified, all of my emotions hit me at once. The nurse put this massager thing on my calves to help with the continuous blood flow. She then asked me a ton of questions but anyway, she ended up only pricking me once and it honestly wasn’t that bad. I just took a deep breath. It definitely did hurt and it was unpleasant but that was to be expected. I had 2 I.V drips inserted into my hand, and a numbing spray was sprayed into my nose. Unfortunately, I had to be kept awake when the surgeons first entered a tube with a camera on the end of it through one of my nostrils. I was half asleep at the time, but I definitely remember passing out mere seconds after it, it was scary! A nurse was in the room when I was being put asleep, and I remember holding her hands all through it. You go back to baby mode during situations like these, trust me.
The next thing I remember is waking up. I kept waking up and falling back into blackness, but officially woke up at 6 pm. Surgery started at 8:30 am. I got out of surgery where I was taken straight to ICU. The room seemed wavy and spun around me. I was surrounded by young nurses and they informed me that the surgery had been a success. A nurse asked how I was doing. I mumbled, “High five” and held my hand up. My bed was then wheeled into my hospital room, where I had to stay for three days. My family visited me and I was pretty out from the anesthetic. My head and face was still really heavy and I felt sleepy all the time. My surgeon came to visit later that day to tell me that the surgery took about 7-8 hours and it went really well with no complications. I, of course, high-fived him too.
I had several tubes inserted into my body- several were in my arms. I had a tube going from my mouth to my stomach to constantly empty out my stomach (as you can see in the photo above) due to which I felt quite nauseous, also because of that morphine. When I woke up, they took the nose tube out and the catheter tube out. It was a very strange feeling when they removed the tubes! The nurse told me to take a deep breath in. It felt like they were tugging my chin off my face. The second was an I.V and others were for blood transfusion to replace lost components of the blood. I had asked for one of my I.V drips to be removed, as it was paining me. Out of everything, I hated receiving the antibiotics and anti-nausea through the I.V’s more than anything. The sensation of fluid going through my veins made me want to collapse. I was extremely swollen, numb and vomited twice, but felt better after they gave me some anti-nausea meds! The suction tube was great at getting rid of all the excess blood/saliva! They also rinsed out my mouth every few hours! The numbing on my tongue and roof of mouth was horrible and took ages to go away! The nurses were incredibly good and made me feel very comfortable, replacing my ice packs often and cleaning my face and nose. I was able to breath out my nose perfectly at that moment but there was a fair bit of blood that occasionally dripped out.
Following that day, I had to stay empty-stomach from 10 pm the previous night, and was still not allowed to drink anything for another 12 hours – even water. I went for a total of 30 hours without water. It’s probably one of the worst experiences of my life, being thirsty for that long. I was a ball of emotions…and dying of thirst. At some point, I got so dehydrated but while it was hard, the weight loss was a nice bonus! I lost about 5 kg’s then and still am. I had a bandage wrapped with ice all around my face (it was swollen so badly), my nose was bleeding like the Niagara Falls although, the bleeding had eventually decreased but nonetheless, it got really hard for me to breathe due to having a badly puffy and numbed face. The pain is OK at the moment, mainly heavy, discomfort feeling! The first five days after surgery were the worst because of the insane pressure from the swelling and that just caused general discomfort because nobody’s face is supposed to be of that size. My right cheek, lower right eye, nose, bottom lip, tip of my tongue, jawline and chin were completely numb. My swelling was nothing compared to what I had thought it would be like initially. The day I got discharged (9th July), I went for x-rays to make sure everything was OK and it was. The inside of my mouth was covered in stitches, my teeth were wired shut starting from that evening, with tight elastics. I was discharged from the hospital at 11 am after getting a visit from my surgeon who thought everything was looking great and informed me I was ready to begin my recovery at home.
So, In my first month of recovery, I felt as if time could not possibly go by any slower but once you are able to chew again, time speeds up and before you know it, you will be 3 months post-op too! I’m here… I’ve made the three month mark. I know six months is where you reach full recovery but I don’t even feel like I had surgery, if it were not for the lack of underbite there would be no evidence that a surgeon cut me open and split the bone on both sides of my jaw before pulling it forward, pushing it backwards and screwing it into place. Only now can I say all that without feeling weak. Before surgery, I spent hours and hours searching through the internet and soaking up every last bit of information I could and was unfortunate enough to come across a video of an actual surgery where you see exactly what they do. At that time, I was unable to watch it however now I can watch it without feeling pain in my jaw. I think that’s when you know you’ve truly reached the point of recovery. But although, my Double Jaw Surgery happened 3 months ago, things are still changing and they don’t suddenly get better 1 month post op. I’m still going to take a couple of months more up to a year to heal completely. Probably in my pictures, you may not notice much swelling however, in person, you can see that parts of my face are still swollen (especially my cheeks) but I am nearly back to normal. And no I’m not milking it, this has been a massive thing for me more mentally than physically and I will continue to document this process until I cross that finish line. Be it for another 1 or 2 years more.
For me, waking up was the worst because I just felt all of this pressure building back up and it was so uncomfortable. The fact that I could not move my jaw was just horrifying and really uncomfortable. I was unable to open my jaws even an inch with the tight elastics in. It sure was uncomfortable but, I kinda got used to it. It was quite a mess, as I felt quite claustrophobic with the elastics on and it was quite hard to hold my face in a neutral position- I have 17 titanium plates with 6 screws holding my jaws together. (refer to the pic below– the titanium plates are above my upper jaw whereas the screws are placed on both sides of my jaw)
Moreover, the wires automatically shut my mouth and lips together, so I always ended up with my mouth slightly open or with a trout pout. I asked my doctor about numbness and he said that it can take up to 6 months up to a year for full sensation to return. Reason being that- During the operation, several nerves in your face and chin have to be moved around and when you move a nerve, it becomes bruised, and when a nerve is bruised, it stops providing sensations, thus giving you that numb feeling. It twitches and twinges, and feels like electric shocks, or someone flicking me in the face. I kept getting (annoying) pins and needles feelings all over the numb areas, especially my chin. No painkillers have been able to stop them so it’s one of those things you have to just suck up and get used to. Numbness and feeling has not changed much. I am still slightly numb in the left side of my cheeks, lower lip, chin and inside along my gums. I am just now starting to not notice the numbness as much and I’m getting used to it. Like I’ve mentioned, it can take a year or longer for the feeling to return. They’re extremely irritating when you’re trying to go asleep in particular, as they distract you from it. I’ve had many sleepless nights because of them and my sleeping pattern is completely backwards now.
To think 3 months ago, I was lying in a hospital bed, barely able to speak, blood pouring from my nose and living the high life with a liquid diet, is crazy. This stage of recovery is also where eating is typically back to soft food. The most difficult part out of all of this, was eating. Eating liquidized food was a pain, straight out. I mean, you have to liquidize all of the food until it’s practically like water and after you liquidize the food, you then have to put it through a sieve to make sure no bits are in it. Throughout the recovery not being able to eat the food I desired really got me down. One month on after surgery, I was still only managing soft foods. As the weeks went on I craved food, longing to go out for a meal, not having to worry what I could or couldn’t eat. Few days ago, I attempted bit of solid food. It took me a while to finish my meal but it was a step in the right direction. Now, I’m eating pretty much whatever I want, avoiding only a few things:
- I can’t stand the texture of crisps (they make me feel like my teeth are about to shatter)
- Sandwiches and burgers are simply too big to fit in my mouth (the gap of my mouth still isn’t big enough)
- Few other food that I crave for at the moment but still cannot have as they cause an achy jaw so that’s holding me back! (Bc of that, I still haven’t had my “aha moment” yet) Lol. Other than that, I have been experiencing fairly painful stabbing and poking sensations in my chin and lower lip when I drink something cold and it feels as if something cold is touching my outer chin and not the inside. It’s weird to feel sensations in one where when it’s a different area being touched! Overall, I haven’t really had any pain, just discomfort. Smiling and laughing was the only painful thing though because I think that involves stretching the incision areas. But I think it helps to laugh. You know what they say, laughter is the best medicine!
Here’s basically all that I have been eating MOST of the time:
Other than that, my body is still very tired to recover from the trauma it had just endured. In my head, I feel perfect but my body just can’t cope much still. To add up, I have follow ups every two months and for that, I have to travel to Taipei for 3 days which also makes it really hectic for me. My first post-op follow up was on 12th of July 2016 (I’ve written about it in my previous post). My second post op follow up was on 6th of October. My next is in December. It’s like I am being thrown around like a ping-pong ball between my orthodontist and my surgeon. I felt like forever since my last appointment and I just needed reassurance that everything was ok. Both my ortho and OS are happy with how things are progressing. Although, my ortho noticed that my upper jaw was being pushed back again by the force of the muscles which kinda scared me and I obviously wouldn’t want to go through all that pain, discomfort once again. But ALL HAIL to today’s fastest-growing technology, there’s a solution to everything. My orthodontist handed me a “face-mask” (Orthodontic headgear) which is a type of orthodontic appliance attached to the hooks of the braces to fix bad bites. In my case, the force of these elastics would help to pull my upper jaw forward again. It takes 3 months for the jaw bones to heal in its new position so luckily I still had one and a half months to fix this problem. I was strictly asked to wear this face-mask for a minimum of 12 hours a day and at night while sleeping as the body is at rest and it constantly takes changes during sleep).
Now, let’s recap on the face?
*DO NOTICE THE CHANGES IN MY JAW AND SMILE..
Pre-Op (Don’t mind the bad quality)
Post-Op (3 Months and counting)
And with this, all I can say is that, I haven’t exactly been jumping for joy at my appearance since my surgery. It has been such a hard thing to adjust to and I’m still trying to get my head around it. When people ask if I’m happy with the outcome, I can’t really reply with a simple yes or no because I am still trying to figure out the answer. I am 3 months post-op and the swelling hasn’t completely disappeared and when it does, I’m not going to look the way I always envisioned I would. I’ve spent the last 11 years waiting for the surgery and honestly didn’t think I would actually go through with it. My face is in great shape now but I am not going to be fully happy with the aesthetics of it all until I am done with my Rhinoplasty for the nose and lip surgery (which is due next year around July-Aug). That being said, many wanted to know about what my nose and lip surgery is going to be like. It’s quite obvious that yes, these two surgeries will 100% refine the structure of my nose and shape of my lips. So basically, I want a thinner nose since my nose is a bit “flat” and big. I would like to have a point to it meaning, I want to give my nose more definition and for that, I will need to have some bone grafting done which takes out some tissues/cartilage either from the ear or some rib cartilage. Along with that, I also want my nasal dorsum (bridge of the nose) to be augmented, my tip to be defined, my deviated septum to be lifted up and my alar base to be little narrowed. As for my lips, not much needed because jaw surgery itself made my lips even but still, I would want improvements in my upper lip and want my philtrum (the space between the septum and upper lip) to be longer. This is what I want as a result but I think my surgeon would know what it best for me so I will also get a couple of opinions from him and see what he thinks of it.
Last but not the least and like I’ve said before, the surgery and this transformation are a big deal for me. It takes 6 months up to a year to recover from this surgery so I’ll be extra-fussy until then. It’s currently my life, and something I’ve to deal with 24/7. But certainly, at the end of the day, this surgery is definitely life-changing. While this surgery isn’t for everyone, and is not something to be taken lightly, I am glad I did it. It was really hard, really time consuming, and expensive. But it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for over 11 years and I finally did it. And looking back at the whole process wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected it to be. It was an exciting time for me, as well as a tough and challenging time. It has changed my quality of life for the better. All in all, I don’t regret a thing. I’m at a loss for words trying to put all of my emotions and thoughts into this post. It’s an experience that I’m still not over – physically and mentally and I find myself getting highly emotional and almost overwhelmed looking back on it all. My confidence has obviously soared since the surgery but unfortunately the likes of BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) and anxiety aren’t cured with a scalpel and I still have a long way to go but, I am so proud of myself for going through what I did and it’s surreal to think of what I went through before, during and after. Looking “normal” was something I had to get used to for quite sometime, to my surprise – I wasn’t used to people NOT staring at me because I looked different but I just want people to know that this surgery, regardless of how life-changing it is, isn’t the “be-all and end-all” to happiness and self-confidence. It certainly contributes to it but it takes time to achieve such a positive state of mind. I always felt like “that girl with a crooked face” but now that isn’t an issue anymore. I’m more confident and outgoing than what I was pre-surgery. I can be more relaxed and enjoy life without having to think of how I look ‘in the eyes of others’.
My surgical team and orthodontist have been absolutely amazing and I hold a lot of respect for these people, they’re so intelligent and their level of care and compassion for me has been more than I ever expected during this surgery stage, I really can’t thank them enough for the impact they’ve had on myself and my life!
To those of you using my blog as research, I wish so much luck in your journey, whatever you decide, decide with confidence, be excited and stay strong. If you would like to know more about my experiences or get in touch to ask questions relating this surgery, feel free to do so. You may hit me up here.
I have also prepared a separate “Questions & Answers” page for any of you who want to know more or simply intend on getting the same surgery for yourself. View here.
Do look out for my next update which will be around the 6 month mark (JAN 2017), hopefully by then I’ll get to know the exact date for my nose and lip surgery. I just can’t wait to put this all behind me. Whee! 😀
Lots of Love 🙂 xx