Monday, May 28, 2007

Before and after photos

Better late than never, right? OK, so here they are, the before and after shots. I still have a bit of swelling around the cheeks and am still getting used to not having the splint. Plus, my lower lip and chin are still pretty numb. So, I'm still working on the mouth-closing thing.

But, I don't know about you, but to me, it's more than the haircut and the tan. I look different and, I think, better. The front view isn't so dramatic, but check out that profile. It ain't chiseled but, compared with the before shot, it's definitely a chin. Hmm ... I just noticed that I must've flopped the photo I used for my profile. The before front view below is right.

Meanwhile, I think sleep continues to get better. I know I'm dreaming a lot these days. I actually had one within the first hour of going to sleep. Also, I seem to have more energy and a lot more sustained ambition than I used to. Being able to eat real food has certainly helped my outlook. Saturday night, I had baked salmon and last night, I had unblenderized spaghetti. I can't believe how much I missed that. My body is certainly thanking me, too.

Overall, I'd say things are looking pretty good. ...

By the way, if you get a chance, head over to Brandy's blog and tell her how great she's doing. Her surgery was Thursday.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Splint-free! Blender-free!

Since I've aleady given away the punch line, I won't even try to tell you everything that happened. But, at my appointment in Chapel Hill yesterday, as soon as my doctor walked in, I looked him in the eyes and said, "What do I have to do to convince you to take this splint out?"

"How long has it been in there?" he asked, poking around my mouth with his fingers.

Holding back the urge to slap him upside his head, I said, "Schiksch weeksch."

Well, everything was looking great. My lower jaw apparently has settled in to its new position. My jaws are healing well. Even my sleep seems to be better (more on that later). So, out came the wire cutters and off came the &%$#&$&ing splint. It was totally pain-free.

And, out came the toothbrush. Have you ever come home to take a shower a really long camping trip out in the middle of nowhere? Remember how that felt? Ahhhhhhh ... Minty fesh, baby!

It does feel a little weird having my teeth clack together for the first time in more than a month. But, the advantage there is ...

... I ate my last two meals like the big people do, sitting at a table, my food on a plate and not in liquid form. I did it all without a blender. OK, so it wasn't a T-bone or anything like that. Last night was quiche and broccoli cooked soft. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, oatmeal, yogurt and OJ. But, what a difference. I think I'm about 90 percent normal now -- well, what passes for normal for me.

Speaking of which, I think I might have turned a corner this week with sleep. It's still not 100 percent there, but I really had some good days. I think most of my problems are due to my sleep pattern still being screwy. I keep waking up around 2:30 and 4:30 for some reason. But, I'm dreaming several times a night. They're fairly long and complete, as opposed to the static-y, jumbled looping crap that used to leave me feeling drained in the morning.

This weekend, I'm going to post the before/after photos that I promised, oh, about two weeks ago. Since I'm splint-free, I have no more excuses.

One thing I forgot to mention: My speech is still not quite there yet. I have a numb spot on my tongue and the inside of my mouth is different shape. It's much better than it was with the splint, but I'm having trouble with the "s" sound. It still comes out as "sch" sometimes. I'm working on it. Maybe I can do cartoon voice-overs ... .

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wanting to ditch the 'schplint'

So, with one week at work under my belt post-op, I think I can say with certainty that I've still got some recovering to do. The first day was OK, but each successive day was tougher to get through. My sleep patterns still won't settle down. I keep waking up around 4 every morning and I have a tough time getting back to sleep after that. I went back to work in sort of a split shift: I'm in from about 9 till 11 in the morning to help get things started. Then, I head home to have a big lunch and try to get some rest. Then, it's back to work from about 3 till whenever, generally 6:30 or 7. Thursday and Friday, though, I ended up working at least eight hours. So, by Friday, I was whipped.

I also noticed that my jaws were pretty sore by the end of each day. My job involves a lot of talking, which I really hadn't been used to for the previous few weeks. Plus, I still have the four rubber bands -- Chucks, in case you're keeping track -- and the splint.

Ahh, the splint. I can't begin to say how anxious I am to ditch this thing. I'm going on six weeks now and, at the last visit, the doctor seemed to indicate he's going to want me to keep it on for a while longer, apparently to make sure my jaws remain where they're supposed to.

Well, my jaws have been fine ever since April 10 when the doctor locked me down. I have another appointment this Thursday and I think I'm going to have a little chat with the doctor about getting rid of the splint. It's preventing me from really cleaning my upper teeth. The wires that keep it attached poke my lips. Eating is already difficult and doubly so with the splint.

And it makes speaking really tough. I can't even SAY SPLINT! It comes out more like "schplint!" *Sigh*

OK, I think I needed to vent. I'm feeling a little better now. Carry on. ...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Another step toward normalcy

I head back to work tomorrow. I've been gone since April 9, the day before my surgery. Although I've truly enjoyed the time off (though, I could think of better ways to spend an extended leave), I'm also ready to get back to work. I'm lucky in that I do something I enjoy. I'm a newspaper editor and have been for most of the last two decades. It's something I love doing. Well, usually. No job is absolutely perfect. But, for me, this comes pretty close. I've really started to miss it and, well, I'm getting bored and antsy. I've tried to refrain from poking my fingers into things while I've been gone and, with just a few minor exceptions, I think I succeeded. But, now those fingers are itching to get back to work. Did you just hear a groan? That was probably my staff. ...

I'm going to start back not quite full time and see how things go. I'm also lucky in that my employer has been and continues to be very flexible and supportive in this, something I've greatly appreciated and something that I know isn't enjoyed by everyone.

So, I know I keep promising before/after photos. And, I still want to put them up. Here's what I'm thinking: You have photos throughout that you can compare if you really want to, starting with what I was like before and continuing right after surgery and through weeks one, two and three. The thing is, I still have the splint in and it really alters my appearance, especially my lips and cheeks. Imagine wearing a mouthguard like football players do. It's not that I'm embarrassed about how it looks, but I want to give an accurate picture. So, I'm going to wait until after that comes out -- in a few weeks, I hope -- and then do the before and after presentation. In the meantime, feel free to click on those links if you just can't wait. Oh, and in case you're still in suspense: the Tom Cruise/George Clooney look didn't turn out.

One of the blogosphere folks I converse with regularly, Brandy, is about a week out from her surgery and we were e-mailing about expectations, preparations and the like recently. We touched on something that I think played a major role in my being able to maintain forward progress and a fairly good attitude throughout these past, oh, five weeks now.

I got released from the hospital after just one night (thank god, because hospitals seem to be the worst place to be unless you're on death's door). The next morning, my first morning back home, I admit that I didn't feel all that motivated. But, I resolved that I was going to eat at least three times that day and drink eight glasses of water. Those were my only goals. They weren't all that ambitious and they were definitely achievable. And, I did achieve them. It was progress.

Having that sort of measurable progress is a great help, I think, as you go through what really is a very slow healing process. For me, instead of concentrating on how I looked or felt, I focused on goals like: "today, four meals and eight glasses of water, plus a short walk." It wasn't really a conscious thing, where I sat back and said, "Hey, great job, Vaughn. Just look at the stains on your shirt. You must've eaten -- what? -- four times today!" But, I do think it kept me moving forward in small, positive steps every day.

That's not to say that it was easy. It's still tough some days. But, I have "accomplishments" that I can point to every day. For me, that's gone a long way toward inching my way back to normalcy.

One last thing I wanted to mention that I forgot about on the last post. I asked the doctor about my waking up during the night. He confirmed what others have said and what I suspected. I'm still swollen. Even my tongue (!) is swollen, he said. It'll take some time for that to subside. As it does, things will continue to improve. His prescription? Patience.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My four friends named Fred

I probably weigh about a pound less this evening than I did this morning. That's because at today's visit the doctor took off all but four of the 50 billion or so rubber bands he had locking my jaws in place for the last three weeks. Now, I just have two on each side. That's quite a difference. And -- drum roll -- I can take them off to eat. Yesssss.

So, I pureed (still have to do that) a can of beef stew thinned out with some chicken broth and promptly shoveled it down. Man, was that good. A great cure for the blues.

The only problem is, the configuration of these rubber bands is like a sort of Chinese puzzle. The bands attach to my teeth via all the hooks on my braces. Each side has a band stretched in shape of a square (attached to four hooks) on top of another one in a very skewed triangle (attached to three, two of which are hooks shared with corners of the square). Both of the configurations anchor at the very back of my mouth. It took me about 20 frustrating minutes to get them back on.

So, I don't think I'm going to take them off for every single meal. Maybe twice a day. I just don't think it'll be practical any more often. But, I was able to clean the back sides of my teeth for the first time in two weeks. I know. Pretty disgusting. But, it feels so much better.

One interesting tidbit you may not know (and probably could do without knowing but will, because I feel strangely compelled to tell you) is that, for some odd reason, the manufacturer of these rubber bands, 3M, has different names for them based on how strong they are. I'm not talking about names like "medium" or "heavy" or "light." Oh, no. That would be waaaaaaaay too confusing. I'm talking about real names. Like "Fred." And "Elliot." And "Chuck." Really. See the photos of the packages below, in case you have any doubts. Not that I've lied to you so far. At least, not that you know of. Anyway ... .

Now, I'll admit that I'm a little odd. Heck, I like being odd. But, I gotta wonder: Did these geeks sit around and say, "Hey, you know, instead of 'heavy' why don't we call this one 'Fred'?" Maybe there were a lot of fumes involved in the manufacture of these things. And, I wonder why Elliot is a stronger band than Chuck, but Fred is stronger than Elliot. Quite the distrubing little visit into the mind of the industrial chemist, eh? ...

So, for the record, right now, I'm using four Freds. I hope that I can try four Elliots in a couple of days. I probably won't be hanging with any Chucks for at least a few weeks. I'm also include a picture of one of the Freds below, along with a pencil so you can see how big -- or small -- it really is. That thing next to it is the handy tool 3M provides to maneuver these things onto your teeth. Actually, they're fairly useful for the job. And -- no lie -- that one actually glows in the dark. Those must have been some pretty strong fumes at the rubber band factory . ...

Anyway, one bit of somewhat distressing news is that I won't be losing the splint at until sometime after six weeks. That sort of sucks. No, actually, it sucks big time. But, I guess I got one chance to do this as right as possible. I guess it all depends on how the jaws behave after today's parole. So, as long as they don't "posture," maybe I can ditch the splint soon, too. A few more steps ... a few more steps ... .

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Four weeks ... and a song

Today marks four weeks, as if you couldn't tell from the heading of this posting. Physically, I'm not sure how much has really changed from week three. I think the swelling is dissipating slowly. I've still got some residual puffiness around my cheeks and at the front of my chin. I'm still numb in a patch on my left cheek near my nose and around most of the front of my chin and lower lip. The area seems to have become smaller and I think that the lower lip and chin are starting to get
some feeling back. It's really hard to tell, though.

Sleep is, well, better. I'm dreaming. I'm able to sleep on my back without snoring or snorting so loudly I wake myself up. I still wake up at least twice a night, often three or four times. I'm not sure why, but I know that others have had the same experience. My guess is that my body just got used to doing that. But, I usually need a nap in the middle of the day and I've had a few days here and there that were reminiscent of the old apnea days. But, one thread (be sure to read the followups) I found on Sleepnet persuaded me that it'll still be several weeks if not a few months before I can make any judgments on how successful this has been at dealing with my sleep apnea, or ending it, as in the title of this blog.

Still, it is a little frustrating. Some of it could be due to unreasonable expectations I had going into this. I think that, if I had it to do over again, I'd be clear that the doctor isn't going to reach into my mouth and flip some switch that'll magically make me sleep right. It's more like a seed that's been planted that'll take some time to develop. Things are definitely better. How much better remains to be seen.

I'm going to post before/after photos either in this space today or later this week. Stay tuned!

One thing I do hope changes this week is that I get these infernal bands off my teeth. For almost three weeks now, it's been smoothies, soups, milk shakes, oh, a smoothie, some soup, maybe a milkshake, with perhaps a big glass of chocolate milk thrown in for variety. Oh, I've tried different soups and I've fortified them with baby food (woohoo!) and oils. But, between that and mumbling through clinched teeth, I'm pretty much done with being locked down.

My next appointment is Thursday. Surely, my chompers can get sprung from this prison. In the meantime, since they are in prison, I thought I'd write a blues song about it. Feel free to sing along:

The Blender Blues

Went to my doctor (daa da-da)
He looked at my jaw (daa da-da)
Said was ske-wobbedy (daa da-da)
Was breakin' the law (daa da-da)
He took out some bands (daa da-da)
Twanged them round my mouth (daa da-da)
That was three weeks ago (daa da-da)
Please, doc, won't you take them ooooouuuuuut? ...

Puree, baby ... I got them pureed blender blues
If I don't get me some solid bites soon,
Gonna be some no-good, lowdown, dirty bad news.

I woke up this morning (daa da-da)
Had a hankerin' to eat (daa da-da)
I looked in my fridge (daa da-da)
Thought, "How 'bout some meat?" (daa da-da)
My doc says that's fine (daa da-da)
Says he'll let that pass (daa da-da)
I can have all I want (daa da-da)
As long as it fits in my glaaaaaaassss. ...

Puree, baby ... I got them pureed blender blues
If I don't get me some solid bites soon,
Gonna be some no-good, lowdown dirty bad news.

Ain't havin' no steak (daa da-da)
No chicken or chips (daa da-da)
Nothing that crunches (daa da-da)
Just stuff that sips (daa da-da)
I went to McDonald's (daa da-da)
Man, what a mistake (daa da-da)
"Want fries with that, sugar?" (daa da-da)
No, all I can have is a shhaaaaaaaaake. ...

Puree, baby ... I got them pureed blender blues
If I don't get me some solid bites soon,
Gonna be some no-good, lowdown dirty bad news.

Now, right at the end, there'd be a killer guitar solo, but I don't know how to play guitar, so you'll just have to imagine it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

3 weeks

It is amazing to think that my surgery was three weeks ago today. I'm posting a few photos below so you can see my tan -- uh, I mean, my progress. Not a whole lot of difference from two weeks ago, other than that my hair has become even more unruly and my skin is a little darker. All the stuff in my mouth makes my lips look as though I'm pursing them and makes my cheeks pooch out. I've also still got some swelling around my cheeks and chin. Other than that, though, I look fairly normal. The numbness remains in the same places though it seems as though the areas it covers have become smaller.

I slept fairly well last night, lots of dreams and I only woke up a couple of times. The more research I've done, the more I've come to believe that it's going to take a few months for all the swelling to go down and for my body to settle into a more normal sleep pattern. I know I've seen some improvement already, so I'll take that as a good sign.

Overall, I'd say I've made some good progress. I guess I'll spend the next couple of weeks or so until my next appointment seeing whether I can horn in on the Wilmington real estate biz. The market seems to be a bit saturated right now and prices are still high. But the savvy entrepreneur can still find potential. As you can see below, I was able to find a development target with the help of a keen eye and a really big sign that pretty much gets to the point.

So ... I'm thinking ... the best use for this would be either ... an adult bookstore or ... a vacant lot.