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Day 6: More Ups, More Downs

Sat May 26, 2012

I’m quickly realizing that healing, like life, is full of halting starts and stops of progress and regression.

Activity:  I thought my activity goal for the day was reasonable – it was to spend most of the day downstairs with my family, rather than upstairs in the guest room where I’ve been sleeping.  I got up, showered, got dressed, and had lunch with everybody downstairs.  I sat on the couch and worked on this blog for a couple of hours.  I watched some television, and then a movie with my kids.  That’s about all.  Most of the day was spent on my behind – just upright on a couch.  I didn’t think that was an unreasonable expenditure of energy.  But, as it turns out, I was wrong.

Around dinner time, things started to go downhill rapidly. My lips and cheeks started swelling to the point of tightness. The range of motion in my face got limited, and I started feeling very fatigued. Then the throbbing started, and then the pressure/pain. All this, and I still had 45 minutes to go before my next dose of pain-killers.

I went upstairs to lie down, and that seemed to make things worse.  I managed to ice my way through the next hour or so until the meds kicked in.  I remember feeling very grumpy and short with Kristi and the kids, and then it was just all about sleep.  I didn’t even try to sleep horizontally tonight – it was full-upright so I could get as much swelling down as possible.

So, looking back on that experience, it’s clear that I need to make two major adjustments in my thinking:

1. Little stuff, like walking downstairs, attempting to talk (instead of IM), getting the mail, getting dressed, taking a shower, and making my own lunch are HUGE expenditures of energy during the healing process.

2. Too much expenditure of energy on non-healing things not only leads to feeling more tired, but also leads to more swelling, more pain, more misery for everyone involved.

Since tomorrow we are having people over for the first time since the surgery, I will make an extra effort to “save up” some energy for that event (which won’t be happening until late afternoon/early evening). I’ll let you know how that goes.  In the meantime, here’s some other stuff last night’s sleep that I wanted to impart:

Sleep: Last night I continued my experiment with sleeping more horizontally.  I attempted the position for 6 hours, and actually had pretty good sleep during this period.  No problems with drainage waking me up.  What did wake me up was a throbbing sensation in my mouth – it seemed to be tissue-related, but it was hard to tell, as it felt similar to the swollen/pressure sensation I had last night after being horizontal for only 2 hours.  As I mentioned above, however, I was in no mood by bedtime to try again.

Got Salt?  After laying in bed thinking about it, I realized that I had not rinsed my mouth out for the last 10 hours or so. I had also realized that up until now I have not taken any measures to reduce the possibility wound infection in the mouth.  My surgeon had not ordered me to do any sort of specific rinsing at all (other than rinsing with water and attempting to brush my teeth). I had read on other blogs about some patients being ordered to rinse with salt water periodically. Since I’ve been swilling salty chicken broth for a few days, I surmised that salt water shouldn’t be too much of a threat to the sutures, so I got up and mixed up a batch of salt water mouth rinse (1 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon of table salt). I went through my whole rinsing/brushing routine, now with the salt water, and finished off with some Listerine rinse (the non-alcoholic type). This really made my mouth feel better, and the throbbing/pressure sensation soon dissipated to the point where I was able to go back to sleep. I’m not sure what role the salt-water played (if any) in the improvement, but its now a regular part of this crazy new oral hygiene routine.

That’s it for now. A lot of stuff learned. Hopefully tomorrow will be a more balanced day.

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