Thursday, October 16, 2014

D-Day: Jaw Surgery Time

I'm writing this post six days after my surgery but backdating it to October 16th (the day of surgery) to preserve the record.

I woke at 4am on the morning of my surgery feeling fairly calm as I had been all week, but unable as to sleep any more.  As I showered and got ready to leave to leave though, the nerves really started to take hold.  The gravity of what I was about to go through came crashing down around me and the end of two years of treatment and planning was finally here.  All I wanted to do was have a cup of coffee but as I had been fasting since midnight all liquids were a no-no.  I got my things together for the quick 20 minute drive to the Prince of Wales Private Hospital and headed out into whole new day.

The good thing about having a 6am check in time was that it was quiet.  There was no traffic on the roads and the hospital itself didn't have hordes of people so actually felt quite serene.

I made my way up to surgery check-in where I filled out some forms, paid my insurance excess (of course!) and signed various waivers about surgery.  I then met my anaesthesiologist who re-iterated the information he gave me over the phone the previous week and generally just wanted to ensure I was feeling okay and had all of my questions answered.

Finally I met with a nurse to talk about my health and and was given some rather attractive compression socks and a gown to get changed into before I was asked to wait in the patients lounge.

What an attractive gown!

Nervous grin

From here everything moved pretty quick.  I was asked to leave the patient lounge after only a couple of minutes and climb up onto a trolley.  At this time I said goodbye to Frankie and was wheeled through to the operating theatre holding area.  I got to speak with my surgeon Dr. Tsakiris and with the team that would be looking after me during surgery.  My anaesthesiologist then popped in to give me some pre-surgery sedation drugs (felt like I'd had a few glasses of red wine) and advised there was a slight delay on the surgery as they were waiting for someone else to recover first.  Twenty minutes later I got more of the sedative and that's the last thing I remember until I woke up after surgery.  Even though I had apparently been conversing with the team right up until having the general anaesthetic - I have no memory of those moments.

Waking up after the surgery was not great, but not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I had no nausea and as the drugs were still in my system I had no pain - but I did of course feel very uncomfortable.  I remember trying to talk to one of the nurses and wondering why I could not get any sounds out.  In the end I reverted to a pen and notepad to communicate.  Things were a little bit of a blur from here.  I'm sure I spoke with my anaesthesiologist as I seem to remember him saying 'you'll have an attractive smile in no time', but that easily could have been a dream.

After recovering from anaesthetic I was taken to intensive care and this was when I first felt the gastric tube that was inserted during surgery (and still there).  This was really thick and went up my nose and down the back of my throat all the way to my stomach.  I remember trying to swallow and feeling it there and I can honestly say it was one of the weirdest and most concerning feelings I have ever experienced.  I suddenly noticed all the lines and cables around my body when Frankie arrived to see me and I suddenly felt very emotional.  I kept asking myself 'why did I do this?' but the realistic part of me knew this was a natural reaction and it would be worth it in the end.

From here I slept on and off for until morning and lost all concept of time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Various pre-op appointments - only days to go!

Over the last month I've had a number of appointments in preparation for my surgery which is now just a couple of days away - so here's a quick update.

On September 17th (one month prior to surgery) I had a pre-op appointment with my maxillofacial surgeon.  It was quite a lengthy appointment which I was glad of as it gave me a chance to ask lots of questions and generally be put at ease.  We discussed the surgical plan and what he hopes to achieve before he took some moulds/impressions (to make the surgical models and splints), 360 degree x-rays and plenty of photographs.  He also took various measurements of my jaw and profile and explained what I should expect during my stay in hospital - which will involve waking up from surgery with a gastric tube and (I'm cringing while writing this) a catheter.  Eek!

A couple of days later I had a telephone call from my anaesthesiologist who introduced himself and had a chat with me about how they would be taking care of me.  He again re-iterated that I will have a gastric tube and a catheter when I wake up from surgery.  The thought of a gastric tube didn't actually bother me until just now as I have realised what it actually is.  I thought it was a tube which goes down the throat to the stomach to deliver food.  Nope.  It is a tube which is inserted through the abdomen and into the stomach.  For some reason that bothers me a lot more than a tube down the throat.  Of course all I need to do to forget the gastric tube is think of the catheter.  Double eek!

Then on October 10th I had a pre-admission appointment at the Prince of Wales Private Hospital where they took my blood pressure, did an ECG, took some blood (in case I need a transfusion) and gave me information about the big day.  On October 16th I will be checking into the hospital at 6am and can expect my surgery to start around 8am.  As it is a 5-6 hour surgery, it will be the only one my surgeon performs that day.  Then after a night in intensive care, I will be transferred to a ward where I will most likely stay for 2-3 days.

Finally today I had a pre-op check with my orthodontist who also placed several surgical hooks into my mouth.  These are small metal hooks which are crimped around the wire of my braces.  They are used during surgery to help my surgeon move my jaw around once the bone has been cut.  In the photo below you can see one of them between my front teeth.

So that's it!  No more appointments now, just a count-down to the main event.  I must admit that I am feeling very excited, scared, positive and apprehensive all at the same time.  While I'm not too concerned about the surgery or the pain, I am nervous about the end result and hope that after all of this time and effort I will finally be happy with what I see in the mirror.

And on that very deep note I shall finish this post and will write another update soon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I feel very special - thank you Cindi

This is a short post but it still deserves a blog post all of its own.  My friend Cindi is flying out all the way from California to spend the first two weeks with me after my jaw surgery.  She is coming to help take care of me and I feel very lucky to have such a great friend.   Thank you Cindi, you truly are amazing and I cannot wait to see you.  xxx

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I have a date for my double jaw surgery!

I'm very excited to report that I am now booked in for my orthognathic (double jaw) surgery on October 16th.  This surgery will be the most major and invasive part of my treatment plan and involves a number of medical procedures.  It also means that I am nearing the end of my journey, although I will still have to wear braces for up to six months after surgery.  I'm going to throw around some medical terms here, so I will do my best to explain what everything means.

Preparation for surgery
I have a pre-op appointment in mid-September.  At this time my maxillofacial surgeon will take x-rays, moulds and from there make my splints and build the final surgical plan.  It will also give me the chance to ask lots of questions and make sure we agree on the outcomes.

The surgery
Orthognathic surgery is a very general term, the definition of which is 'surgery to correct conditions or abnormalities of the jaw and face'.  More specifically, my orthognathic surgery will involve:
  • LeFort I maxillary osteotomy (upper jaw) and Bilateral sagittal split osteotomy or BSSO (lower jaw) - That's literally quite a mouthful, but in layman's terms they will remove sections of bone from my upper jaw (maxillary) and lower jaw (mandibular).  This will take my upper jaw upwards (to remove my gummy smile) and backwards (to finish correcting my overbite) while at the same time correcting the skewed angle at which my upper jaw has grown.  My lower jaw will be split and extended forwards, creating a stronger, more balanced profile.
  • Genioplasty - also known as chin augmentation.  A surgical implant will be used to alter the shape of my chin.  This in conjunction with the double jaw surgery assists in creating a balanced profile.
  • Turbinectomy - a procedure in which some or all of the turbinate bones attached to mucous membranes in the nasal passage are removed.  This is used to relieve nasal obstruction.
  • Septoplasty - a corrective procedure to straighten the nasal septum.
At the moment it is estimated that my surgery will take around six hours to perform and will involve a three day stay in hospital with the first night being in a high-dependancy unit.  Here is a YouTube video (don't worry just an animation) which gives you an idea of what the osteotomy part of the surgery will look like:

Recovery time
I will need to spend the first couple of weeks at home resting and will have several weeks of swelling and bruising.  I'll also be on a liquid and soft food diet for at least six weeks, so hopefully I will lose a bit of weight at the same time!

So what will this mean for my face?  Well I'm not going to come out of the other end looking like Joan Rivers or a contestant from Extreme Makeover that's for sure.  And despite the suggestions of my friends, I've opted not to have a breast enlargement "because you may as well while you're there"!  What I should end up with is a squarer jaw line, no overbite, a stronger chin, a straighter septum, a balanced profile and of course teeth that all meet and a better functioning jaw.   Hopefully I will just look like a normal guy.

I must admit that while I make jokes and say that I'm fine with everything, I'm actually starting to get very nervous.  I'm not so worried about the pain or the healing as I know I can handle that, but I hope that the end results will make this whole journey worth it.  I hope that I will be able to look into the mirror and finally like what I see.

So that's my big news!  Keep posted for more updates in the lead up to my surgery.  I also plan to blog from my hospital bed so you'll be with me every step of the way!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My dreaded gap has finally closed!

I went for my regular adjustment appointment on Monday and as usual I had my power chains replaced.  Now I love it when I get my power chains replaced, mostly because they are fresh and white and everything looks a lot nicer.  Then, this morning when I woke (only two days later) I noticed that the gap in between my front teeth has completely closed.  The fresh power chains had done their job to pull that remaining 0.25mm gap together!

That's a total of 478 days (or 1 year, 3 months and 22 days) from when I stopped expanding on April 8th 2013 to the gap being finally closed.  Phew!  Of course this is still not the end - I still have my big surgery to go, but it's a milestone nonetheless.

Here's a photo of my now gapless smile.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I've finished paying for my braces!

This was a nice surprise for the middle of the week!  I logged on to my internet banking today to check my credit card and wondered why my orthodontic payment had not been debited this month.  After checking my treatment plan I realised that I actually made my final payment last month.  Of course the payments I have made cover my whole treatment plan so I will continue to be seen - it just means that I no longer have the expense each month.

Time for a happy dance!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Living with braces - dispelling some myths and my top tips

Braces - those magical things that move your teeth and can sometimes be a complete pain in the butt.  But what is it really like to live with braces?

Before I got my braces I heard all sorts of advice from different people.  Some who had braces themselves many years ago when the technology was not as advanced and others who have braces or know someone who has braces now.  After living with braces for more than a year, I have come to realise that there is a lot of mis-information about them.  So in my own experience, here are the biggest myths about living with braces:

"It's really difficult to eat and you will lose weight"
Oh how I wish this one was true.  Eating can certainly be annoying because of the food constantly getting stuck all around your mouth and there are certain foods to avoid, but I would not say it is difficult.  And unfortunately the weight loss part did not happen for me.

"You cannot eat anything crunchy or chewy"
With braces you do need to be aware of what you eat.  However as long as you are not chewing down on lead pipes, imitating jaws from the James Bond movies or eating raw steaks - you will be fine.  Cut any large or crunchy items such as apples and carrots into small bite size pieces, take your time to chew your food carefully and you will soon figure out what you shouldn't eat and what is just a pain in the ass.

"Wait until you get them tightened - that's really painful"
When I heard this I dreaded my first adjustment appointment.  I imagined that the wires would be wrapped around the brackets tighter and tighter causing me immense pain.  In reality, braces are not actually 'tightened'.  At each appointment (usually every 4-6 weeks depending on your treatment plan) the o-rings are removed allowing your brackets to open, the wire is then removed and usually replaced by a thicker/stronger wire.  While this can be a little uncomfortable, I personally never experienced any pain.

"Don't consume curries, coffee or red wine - you will stain your braces"
As if!  But seriously - this is a complete myth because your braces can not and will not stain.  When you consume these types of food its the o-rings and power chains which discolour, but these are replaced at every adjustment appointment.  Some people find that by using grey coloured o-rings instead of white, they stain less easily.  Personally I like the nice clean look of white/clear o-rings when they are replaced.  And if like me you drink a lot of coffee - use a straw!

My top tips for living with braces

So, there are some myths dispelled.  Now for my top tips on living with braces and how to make the journey as comfortable as possible.

  • Follow the advice of your orthodontist and dentist.  This may sound self explanatory but I have constantly read on online forums - 'Well they told me to do this, but I don't think I need to'.  Seriously, they are professionals and know what they are talking about.

  • Have a top-notch dental hygiene regime.  I cannot stress how important this is.  When you have braces it is even more difficult to clean and floss, so regular visits to the dentist for cleans are imperative.  I go for a clean every 2-3 months and use my Waterpik at home every day (see below).

  • Buy a Waterpik.  This is a device which is also known as a water flosser.  It uses high powered air and water and helps clean between your teeth, between your braces and everywhere in between.  I use this religiously twice a day and it has been one of my greatest investments.

  • Get lots of orthodontic wax - and I mean lots.  Braces rub against the inside of your mouth and can cause ulcers and soreness.  Orthodontic wax is a pliable wax which you can use to coat brackets and wires which rub - reducing discomfort greatly.

  • Invest in pixsters.  These are mini flossing tools which you can conveniently carry around with you.  Make sure you take them everywhere - especially when dining out as food will collect around your braces very easily.  I usually make a discreet bathroom visit as soon as I have finished eating.

  • Be positive!  While braces can sometimes make you dislike your appearance, just remember why you have them and think of the end results.  Positive thinking can go a long way in terms of healing and how you deal with the reactions of others.

That's all for this update and for all you horror movie fans out there, enjoy the related YouTube video below!