Having your jaw broken and wired shut sucks.

I’ve been force-feeding myself liquids through a syringe and spilling all over myself like a toddler…

I can’t communicate with anyone clearly, except by writing everything I have to say on a paper notebook that I carry with me everywhere I go…

And the people at McDonald’s obviously think I’m not only a mute, but that I’m also deaf because they use their fingers to tell me the milkshake is $1.95 instead of speaking to me like an adult.

It gets worse. But I’ll talk more about that later…

First, let me explain how I got here.

3 weeks ago, an oral surgeon broke my jaw on both sides of my face, moved my lower mandible backwards, and wired it shut.

(Actually they don’t use a wire anymore, they use rubber bands to clamp your teeth now, but saying it’s “wired shut” sounds more dramatic and Kanye West-ish.)

The purpose of the surgery was to reposition my jaw so that I have a “bite.” For years I’ve had a class 3 underbite, TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), and my teeth haven’t correctly aligned together.

This surgery is supposed to fix that. All except the TMJ which the surgery may not impact or could actually make it worse.

The surgery took 3 hours and everything, presumably, went well.

I say presumably because I still have what feels like a gaping hole near the base of my neck on the right side of my jaw and I haven’t asked my doctor if this is normal yet.

It doesn’t feel normal, but neither does going into surgery to have your jaw broken on purpose.

This is a "before and after" image of the surgery
This is a “before and after” image of the surgery

 

If you’ve never had your jaw broken and wired shut, I want to take you on a journey through my pain and embarrassment so you don’t miss out the practical entertainment…

 

Drugs, videotape & facebook

Before I went into surgery, they put me under using general anesthesia. I asked my friend Marcia who was with me before the surgery to take video after I went under.

Here’s one of the videos she took:

(Translation: “Umm.. just happy right now. I’m soo happy. Umm…  I’m grateful Marcia’s watching out for me right now. I’m grateful Sonya’s coming to check me out. I’m grateful for Ray who’s gonna come watch me if I need em to. Grateful for Afritina for texting me. And… it’s gonna be a good fuc…”)

Did you hear a random lady ask me “Are you done?” at the end of the video?

What you didn’t know is that right at this moment Marcia is helping me to pee into a plastic bottle.

Who am I kidding? I didn’t know this happened until a week later when she sent me the video!

Apparently, I asked for help with peeing? So I pulled my junk out, placed it into one of those plastic bottles that hospital offers you to pee into, and asked Marcia to take video while I waited for myself to release into the cup.

This is what friends are for. To oblige you with ridiculous requests while you’re heavily sedated.

post op flow

As you can see, my face was a little swollen after the surgery.

I stayed overnight in the hospital. Then they sent me home in the morning with lots of drugs and stuff.

My friends Marcia and Sonya looked after me, picking up more medicine, buying groceries, and making soups, which was awesome!

I woke up in the middle of most nights in pretty serious pain. It basically felt like someone took a pair of pliers to the right side of my jaw and squeezed them together.

So I’d sip some of the prescription hydrocodone that they gave me, and I’d watch tv until I fell asleep. Then I’d wake up, spit blood out, drink a Carnation and go back to chilling on the couch or doing stuff on my laptop.

A couple days later, my face was at its peak state of chubbiness. Naturally, I couldn’t keep the hilarity to myself, so I shared my face with Facebook for others to laugh at.

I look like Professor Klump from "The Nutty Professor"

I look like Professor Klump from “The Nutty Professor”

I SMASHED MY CAR INTO A TRUCK

The following week, I felt like I was ready to go back to work.

Well, when I backed out of my driveway, I hit a truck that was parked behind me.

That should’ve been the first sign that I probably wasn’t ready to be working.

I was only 6 feet out of my driveway and already I was in an accident.

But I drove to work anyway. And it sucked!

I was so uncomfortable the entire day that it was tough for me to focus on my work and not the pain.

People wondered why the hell I was even there as I roamed the halls with a swollen face and a notebook in my hand to answer any questions asked of me.

I decided to leave early and sipped some of the prescription hydrocodone on the way home to deal with the terrible headache and jaw pain I’d been dealing with since the morning.

Don’t worry… I didn’t hit any cars on the way home.

 

THE MEDICINE F**KED WITH MY STATE OF MIND

I stopped using the hydrocodone as soon as I could because I didn’t like how sluggish it was making my mind feel. My body was already developing a tolerance for it. And I hated being stuck on the couch, watching Redbox movies and tv.

It reminded me of the early feelings of depression that I talked about before (in this article).

Doctors warn you in advance “Be careful NOT to develop an addiction to these drugs” because many of the painkillers used to treat post-surgery pain put you at risk of developing an addiction.

The most effective painkillers are opioids. Those are the medications that are derived from the opium poppy and are related to highly addictive drugs like opium and heroin. Prescription opioids are are drugs like morphine, codeine, fentanyl, and others.

All of which I had taken or continued taking post-surgery.

So I started reading more, sitting outside in the sun, and I even emailed a few of you guys to see where I could help out.

Thank you for emails back, it helped me out!

 

“Wu-Tang Did This To You?!?!”

After a while, the pain left all together. So I started going to coffee shops, as I usually do, to get things done on my laptop.

Once I made it to the coffee shop, I’d write down what I wanted to order on a piece of paper and hand it to the person behind the registrar.

That Saturday, I went to my favorite coffee shop and Sarah behind the registrar asked me what happened, so I wrote down a brief explanation of what happened.

She felt bad for me. Then she asked me how long I couldn’t speak for. I made the mistake of trying to communicate it to her with my hands.

I put up four digits and then I tried to cross my fingers in a W to communicate “4 weeks.”

“Four… Whaa? Four… Westside? Wait… Wu-tang did this to you?!

“I don’t know what you’re saying!”

I didn’t get across what I was trying to say. I returned to the notebook and assured her that Wu-tang had no part in this.

Let me take a break to say something important: soo many of you reading this would fail at Charades. You don’t think you would, but you would…

On the bright side of things, at least I didn’t look like Professor Klump anymore…

 

TODDLERS ARE BETTER AT LIFE THAN ME

I was getting tired of not being able to eat on the go.

You realize how little liquid food there is available to you once you’re driving, hungry, and have no options for food.

Sure, McDonald’s shakes work. But how many shakes can you drink before you start feeling like a McDonald’s shake?

So I decided to go to a soup shop.

Bad decision….

Here’s a copy of a text that I sent my buddy, Daniel. It describes perfectly the pain of feeding…

“I give up… went to a soup place because I’m hungry but didn’t wanna buy a McDonald’s shake, so I ordered Lobster Bisque soup because it looked thin enough for me to eat. I can’t get the side of bread that comes with it though because… Well I can’t eat it. So no side for me.

“I get into the car to open my soup (don’t wanna eat inside the soup place because it gets weird having everyone stare at you trying to feed yourself) and the soup is full to the brim and spills everywhere, including on my pants and shirt. No worries, I’m used to this by now with feeding myself.

“I walk in to get a shit ton of napkins. Come back out to put the lobster bisque in my syringe that I use to feed myself. I feed myself some of it, but I don’t get much into my stomach and it’s too hot so I wait. I try to feed myself and push the lobster bisque out of the syringe after waiting for it to cool down a bit but I have the same problem of not getting much into my stomach. There’s chunks of lobster in this soup. Fuck. So I try feeding myself what’s left in the syringe. Of the amount I feed to myself, maybe 50% of it makes it’s way into my stomach. The other 50% never get past my teeth and so I try to spit it out on the sidewalk. It looks like I’m puking to any onlookers, I’m certain.

“So I go back inside and find a piece of paper to write on so I can pass a note to the guy behind the register to apologize that the lobster bisque is too thick for me to get past the wiring in my mouth, does he have a ‘thinner’ option? He points to a soup which is puréed. But its still too thick for my syringe. Thankfully he anticipates my concern because he’s holding the piece of paper I used to write on so I can’t communicate with him anyway at this moment.

“He asks if I would like it watered down a bit to which I respond “Yed” (as it sounds through my teeth). He comes back after adding water and says it’s the best he can get it. As he’s filling the cup with this watered down, puréed soup I gesture for him to stop so that I can have room to add some water at the top myself. He does. I walk to the soda fountain and add water to the top.

I get in my car after grabbing even more napkins and open the soup. I try to suck some of it up in my syringe with no luck, so I open my car door to attempt to fix the problem with the syringe. It won’t open. I try to open it gently and it fuckin explodes (for like the 5th time today). I now decide I’m done and am going to McDonanld’s for a chocolate shake because this fucking sucks. The end.”

This radical explosion of syringes happens regularly to me.

At one point, all 4 of my syringes weren’t working. So I didn’t eat for the day until I got home to drink an Ensure 7 hours later that night.

Life rocks.

 

MY WORST FEARS REALIZED… AT CHIPOTLE Mexican grill

Every Friday, my friend Izak and I have dinner.

We’ve been friends for a few years now, but our schedules are so crazy that we decided it’d be best if we got together regularly once a week to hangout. So we decided a Friday dinner would be best.

Naturally, I wasn’t eating any burgers, steaks, or Blaze pizzas like we normally eat. I didn’t think it was ideal for him to sit and watch me drink soup through a syringe either. So we skipped Friday dinners for a couple of weeks.

This past Friday, I wanted to go out, so I asked him if he was down to go somewhere to eat. I had a gift certificate to a juice bar, so it’d be my treat.

He accepted and drove us 30 minutes to the juice bar.

When we made it there, the Cross-fit instructor in the adjoining warehouse told us that the store closed an hour before we got there.

I felt bad we wasted that time, so I mumbled that we should still go somewhere else to eat.

He didn’t want to eat in front of me, but I told him it was cool.

“Okay” he said. “Let’s go to Chipotle.”

As soon as we walked into Chipotle, I knew I made a mistake.

It smelled soooo goood in there!

The aroma of freshly grilled steak and chicken filled the air. The sounds of the burrito press machine whispered softly to my ears. Even the smell of the guacamole and sour cream infiltrated my nostrils and just kinda… danced there for a little.

Everyone looked so happy as they walked out of line with these big burritos in their hands.

“I bet it sucks to be in here huh?” Izak asked me.

I didn’t answer. Instead I watched as the baristas filled black beans and rice into burrito after burrito.

“I’m soo hungry… I’m gonna kill this burrito, man!” Izak said.

I knew it wasn’t a good idea to be standing there, so I walked away from Izak and found a seat facing the window.

Then he came over to where I was sitting with his loosely-rolled, obese chicken burrito wrapped in aluminum foil.

He slowly began unwrapping it and said to me “Being in here and not being able to eat is like capital punishment. I feel for you.”

I wanted to tell him he was the worst part of it all, but I couldn’t talk. So I muttered through my teeth “Do you….? Do you….?”

It was the first time that it pained me not to be eating normal food like everyone else.

I was fine with not being able to eat solids until that moment. I managed my state of mind to be content with what I was capable of.

But it all cracked in that moment.

I just sat there and watched him eat. And it sucked.

When we went back to his car, he said “I’m an asshole, aren’t I?”

“Yea!!” I muttered.

“You wanna know why?” he said.

“Because you made me come into Chipotle when I was going to sit in the car, told me how bad it it must suck to be me while you ate your burrito in front of me, and then you handed me your leftover burrito to hold for you while you’re driving?!?!” I groaned.

“Oh…” Izak responded. “I was just gonna say because I left my trash on the counter.”

 

Ok, We’re Done laughing now

That pretty much gives you an idea of how painful and embarrassing the last 3 weeks have been.

It hasn’t all been bad.

I’m very lucky to have friends like that looked after me in the days after my surgery, making soups and phone calls to my family for me.

And it was cool seeing how many friends contacted me to see how I was doing and still wanted to hangout with me even though I couldn’t speak at all.

My girlfriend even went on a liquid diet with me for a full week.

All cool stuff.

I’ve been pretty quiet the past couple of weeks after my surgery, so I just wanted to let you guys know what’s up.

I’m still here.

And I’m still working on a few things to make this community better, including testing out different ways to connect you with each other so we can all help one another (I just created the Practical Idealist Facebook pageGo ‘like’ it now so I can share info about upcoming projects!)

And I’m working on a really exciting “secret” project regarding meditation to help you get closer to your goals! I promise you’re going to love it!

I’ll resume my regularly scheduled content next Monday. And I may follow-up with another post at the end of my 6 weeks just to let you know how things turned out.

Feel free to continue the banter about my painfully embarrassing journey and reply with your commentary below.

As always, thanks for reading!

 


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Robert James Collier is the founder at Practical Idealist where he shares practical ideas to achieve worthy ideals.