Monday, November 16, 2015

Advice and Tips for Jaw Surgery Patients

I apologize for not writing this yesterday, but Anthony was in town for the weekend and we kept ourselves pretty busy yesterday!

This is an entry I've been meaning to write for awhile! Jaw surgery is pretty terrible for the lack of information you receive as a patient through "official" channels like your orthodontist and max fax surgeon. In fact, my ortho actually told me before I went through all of this that jaw surgery isn't much worse than wisdom tooth removal. Wow...excuse me while I pick myself up from off the floor, I was laughing so freaking hard at that absurdity.

Anyway...here are my top tips if you're going to get jaw surgery. This goes for SARPE as well as Lefort I, BSSO, etc.

1. Read blogs and or watch vlogs! If you're reading this, you're already doing a good job preparing yourself. There is no way your surgeon or ortho can possibly provide you with the level of detail about recovery that a blog can. Read as many blogs as you can to see the wide range of experiences of jaw surgery.

2. Join a website like ArchWired.com or any of the other jaw and cosmetic surgery forums around. Getting real-time advice can be very helpful, as well, you'll read more experiences. I was fortunate to have a group on ArchWired of others who had jaw surgery in June and July. Relating your experiences with people currently in the same boat as you makes you feel far less alone in this process.

3. Figure out a way to sleep upright well ahead of surgery. Do not leave this until the day you come home from the hospital to sort out. I still very much recommend the bed wedge I used, but a comfy recliner or something similar will be the difference between sleeping well and barely sleeping at all. Personally I used the wedge with a down pillow, then rolled a towel up and put it behind my neck for support. I did this for 30 days after surgery.

4. Get yourself a squeeze bottle or something else that makes it easy to get water past your gigantic, numb lips. Some people like the little Dixie cups because they can bend them, some people like square whiskey tumblers, but I was a fan of the sports squeeze bottle.

5. Netflix, Hulu, Shomi, Amazon Prime Instant Video, your DVD collection, Tivo, etc: they are godsends. I watched ungodly amounts of Netflix after surgery and you know what? It was great. It's distracting enough to keep your mind off jaw surgery, and there is so much to pick from. I ended up giving myself a bit of classic film education. I would switch between watching Netflix on TV to carrying on with a movie/show on my laptop in bed.

6. Everybody will say this to you and I certainly learned my lesson: do not skip meals after surgery! I made myself very sick on days 3 and 4 because I wasn't eating. I was weak, I was nauseated, I had bad breath, I vomited, I was dehydrated. On top of being a swollen, numb mess, I was completely miserable and felt like I wasn't getting better. In my case, I just wasn't hungry and eating was a hassle. You might feel the same, but don't use it as an excuse not to eat. Food helps you recover and digest all the medicine you'll be taking.

7. Don't try to do this completely alone without help. It is almost imperative to have somebody assist you even a little bit, even just the first couple of days. Some hours/days will be harder than others to get through.

8. Your experience with jaw surgery is going to be different from every single blog and story you read.  There are so many variables that no one can tell you for certain what your recovery will be like. I have to roll my eyes when I read things like, "You won't sleep after surgery!" or "You'll be able to eat soft food at week 3." Any time you read a definitive phrase like, "you will" or "you won't," replace it in your mind with, "you might." The sleep advice is particularly true for me. Everybody says your sleep sucks for the first few weeks, but I slept just fine right from the start. In fact, I slept 11 hours the night of surgery!

9. Ask your orthodontist and/or surgeon lots of questions. Don't be too shy; you're paying them (or your government is paying them) a lot of money, and you deserve to have all the answers before you go under the knife. I used to bring a list of questions each time I saw my surgeon and he would always say, "I like when my patients ask me lots of questions!" Sure your health care providers might be busy people, but they want you to be invested in and informed about your treatment.

10. Keep in mind that people might make negative or ignorant comments about your jaw surgery. I've seen several people online get very upset that someone didn't recognize them after surgery, or that somebody told them, "You're crazy for getting jaw surgery! I wouldn't!" Don't be blindsided by this if it happens. You are doing this for you, your health, and your confidence. People tend to get very opinionated about any procedure that affects your physical appearance, forgetting that the surgery is for your health! Get your gallbladder out and everyone is supportive; get your jaw fixed and everyyyyyyone wants to tell you why it's a bad idea. Ignore the noise.

11. Take photos and/or videos of yourself before and after surgery. Sometimes it can feel like nothing has changed, but photos will usually show otherwise.

12. Eat all your favourite foods before surgery. The harder, crunchier, or chewier, the better.

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