Friday, January 25, 2013

On Broken Jaws and Being Tickled

What a week it has been.

I still haven’t worked a full week since the holidays started, between the office being closed for Bank Holidays (the joys of working for a mortgage company!) and having Dr’s appointments and needing to take half days or full days off.

We had Monday off this week for MLK Day, and I tried to take Tuesday off, because I’d been up all night sick (too many antibiotics and pain pills!). Life with a broken jaw is not easy.
But then trouble was stirred up at department is very good at stirring up trouble.
They can find a lovely day, with not too many problem loans in it, and coffee and cupcakes, and still turn it on its head.  I never have understood those who enjoy crafting drama out of thin air.  Rumormongering is somewhat magical, if you think about it; all of the tension and hurt feelings and suspicions and whisperings that can be borne of two misleading sentences…
So I had to pop into the office for a few hours in the afternoon and help resolve it all.

I also wanted to work from home today, but I was needed in the office.  Promotions are a blessing, but alas, a stressful and demanding one.

So, about the Broken Jaw.  I promised I would write about it, and have received inquiries, so here it is.

After my last surgery in mid-December, to remove the implant from my jaw (that I was allergic to), I didn’t recover well.  The pain got gradually worse and it just didn’t feel right.
Then one night, while I was still recovering, we went to visit my nephews and nieces and they tickle-attacked me, and my jaw got whacked.  It HURT.  But being the tough cookie that I am, and not wanting to upset the kiddies, I didn’t let on how bad it was.  But I had to go outside in the cold and cry for a moment and catch my breath. 
And after that, I started getting a bit of swelling under my chin.
I woke up on the morning of Christmas Eve and had a BLOB there, near the surgical site in my mouth.  Eli was shocked, I was shocked (and in pain), and both of us were terrified.

I’ve had nothing but problems with my jaw. And our immediate fear was THE JAW IS BROKEN!

Because, if you don’t know,I don’t have a typical jaw bone.  It is the fibula of a 7 year old (well, me…when I was 7).
The whole cancer thing..? They cut out half of my jaw bone (everything on the left side) and popped my leg bone in there. But because I was so young, the bone is still TINY! It didn’t grow with me! So for 16 years I have had a jaw bone the width of a pencil.  It was always fragile.

And we always lived in fear of it breaking, which is why I had all these procedures done—to prevent that, take care of my teeth, and get me set up for the rest of my life.  But we didn’t anticipate all of the additional procedures (since we obviously did not know I would be allergic to the metal implants they put in the bone).  But it held up.  Miraculously. Somehow.  All those years.

So there we are, the morning of Christmas Eve, with me crying in bed, not knowing what is wrong, but being in a lot of pain, hardly able to speak, with a baseball sized lump on my jaw.
We nearly went to the ER, but then my surgeon said he would meet us at his office.  He did an X-Ray and looked at it, and thought my salivary gland was blocked.
So then we went to an ENT (his buddy), to have the gland drained.
The ENT examined me and said “I’m pretty sure it is not a blocked gland.”
Me: “How can you tell?”
ENT: “I don’t think you have glands on that side…”

So he ordered a CT Scan. But since that didn’t get done until the new year… INSURANCE FEES!
That CT, with insurance, cost me almost an entire paycheck.

(Scroll down… I wrote an entry here about the CT Scan experience).

And it didn’t show anything.
All it did was freak us out more because it confirmed I don’t have salivary glands.

The day after the CT scan, I woke up and was speaking with a lisp.  I was in excruciating pain and could not chew at all—my bite was off. It was as though my whole jaw had completely shifted. The doctors were mystified.  I wanted another CT scan.  They didn’t see the point, but I kept telling them “something changed dramatically the day after my first CT—maybe the issue will be more pronounced this time.”

And I was right.

I had 2 CT scans within 1 week, and the 2nd scan made it immediately obvious to the doctors that my jaw is broken.  It was fractured, right at the area where the baby bone meets the original jaw bone, and it kept getting worse and finally it basically snapped open, which they could see on the CT scan—this is what totally shifted my bite.  Broken jaw.

So this was obviously incredibly upsetting and I had a meltdown and mourned the break of this sweet, strong little bone that help on for 16 years.  I felt guilty, and rageful, and just SAD. And frustrated.

We are seeing a specialist at the University of Utah on Tuesday to look what needs to be done.  My referring surgeon speculated they’ll put a metal plate on the entire bone… but considering I am allergic to many of the alloy options, I don’t know if that is possible. And that would be a big difficult surgery.
So in the meanwhile, I am living with it.  I can’t chew so I’m on a liquid diet, and still talking funny.  And always in pain.
The doctor originally reassured Eli and I “It can’t be broken, you would be screaming in pain right now.”
I made him eat his words.  I have a wicked high pain tolerance, and I really know how to put on a cool face when I’m burning with agony inside.

And today I can’t help but marvel – “Who breaks their jaw by being TICKLED..?!”
I can’t think of a better way to have a bone broken.  Can you?

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.

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