Last weekend, I celebrated the eighth anniversary of my jaw surgery I had when I was 16 years old.
When I had the surgery on July 25, 2012, it was just a day after I had passed drivers' education class in Sioux City, where I am originally from. Most of my classmates got to start their day by heading over to the DMV to get their driver's licenses.
Meanwhile, even before they woke up, I was on an operating table essentially having my face altered.
The type of surgery I had was called a three-piece mandible where they break the lower and upper parts of your jaw and move them closer together. I also had 6 mm of my chin removed since my lower-jaw had been pushed upward.
This was by no means a quick 1-2-hour surgery. In fact, there were two surgeries; the first one was 7 ½ hours long and the second one was just a couple. Still, that’s 9 ½ hours of surgery for just one person in a 48-hour time frame. Needless to say, I was exhausted.
Once the second surgery was over, I had my jaw wired shut for eight weeks. This would have been no big issue, but at the time, I only weighed 135 pounds, which is pretty skinny for a tall 16-year-old boy. However, it was something that I just had to adjust to.
While my jaw was wired shut, I was forced on a liquid diet. From here on out, the meals were items like yogurt, ice cream, protein shakes and…cheese soup. I didn’t like that either.
This made it so every 2-3 days, I would have to go back to the doctor's office to get my mouth and nose cleaned since I was not technically allowed to do it myself.
One major aspect of my life post-surgery was going back to school. Since the surgery was done so late in the summer, I had to go back to school for a few weeks while being wired shut. During lunch, again, since I could not eat regular food, I had to go to a room near the principal’s office where I could slurp my lunch in privacy.
I did have a couple teachers at my school who were not very understanding of the situation I was in. I remember one trying to get me to read out loud during class. Seriously, that wasn’t cool.
Again, my jaw was wired shut and my lips were numb, so this was not much of an option. In fact, most of my communication with my teachers was through writing on notebooks or marker boards.
When I did get the wires removed that fall, I had lost 25 pounds from being on a liquid diet for so long and was thankful Thanksgiving was around the corner.
I know I have only been talking about the cons of the surgery, but there were some pros.
The first one was that I was pretty much able to lay down for the end of my summer and not have to do anything. I remember watching a lot of reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” and sleeping at random points during the day.
Watching and listening to thunderstorms come in was also an added plus, especially since I could monitor them from my iPod Touch, which I thought was cool at the time.
The best part was getting out of classes like P.E. for the semester and not having to take part in some of the homecoming activities my school had.
So, what did I do to celebrate my eighth anniversary?
I went to Taco John’s with my mom in LeMars and had lunch with her last Saturday. She may not have suffered like I did from the surgery, but I would imagine as a mother, it is never easy to watch one of your kids have to go through that.
As for today, do I still have problems with my jaw?
Well, every morning, I usually have the snap, crackle and pop, which is not coming from a bowl of cereal. In addition to that, every now and then my jaw does twitch. Lastly, my lower lip and chin are still completely numb after all these years.
Overall, the surgery has been worth it. I can eat pizza, corn on the cob and just eat properly now. I may not always talk clearly, but most of the time that is just because my mouth can be hard to move at times.
While a Take 5 is a great way to tell you all this, it still doesn’t go through all of the details. Perhaps I’ll write a book about it one day?