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Checkup #1: Praising God for Great Doctors and Fast Healing!

Tue May 29, 2012

I’m thanking God for the results of my two checkups today: one this morning with Dr. Chang (orthodontist), and the other just after lunch with Dr. Kupferman (surgeon). Both checkups went really well!

Dr. Chang: Dr. Chang just wanted to look into my mouth to see what Dr. Kupferman had left him to work with. He took a look inside and told me the bite looked great, and he could definitely work with what he saw. I’m grateful that I wound up with Dr. Chang as an orthodontist, because I found out (after the fact) that he and Dr. Relle (Dr. Kupferman’s partner) have a long-standing working relationship and a lot of respect for each other. So, it’s great to know that everyone on the team has been working together for a while.

Dr. Kupferman: The best part of the day came from my first follow-up appointment with Dr. Kupferman since the surgery. He took an “after surgery” panoramic x-ray. All brackets and bones are looking great. My bite looks right on, and hasn’t regressed since surgery. Then Dr. Kupferman removed my rubber bands and let me open my mouth for the first time. Wow! My jaw was very stiff! Could barely open it more than about 1 finger-width. Felt great though. He handed me a toothbrush and some rinse and said “have at it.”. It felt great to brush both the outside and inside of my teeth. They haven’t felt clean for over a week.

After brushing, Dr. Kupferman examined the inside of my mouth, and said my sutures and swelling were far ahead of the game in terms of healing. About that time Dr. Relle walked in (who was also present at the surgery) and said I was looking like a 2-week follow-up patient, rather than a one-week. So, Dr. Kupferman went ahead and did the things normally done at a 2-week follow-up: he showed me how to put the rubber bands on myself, and allowed me to start taking them off for eating, stretching my jaw, and cleaning!

This means I am no longer restricted to a liquid diet! Yay! I am, however, still not allowed to chew anything. For now I can eat soft food, including thick yogurt, chunky soups, mashed potatoes, soft pasta, and even ground-up meat (as long as I don’t have to chew it). Compared to the broth, juice, and Ensure I’ve been surviving on, the soft stuff will seem like a feast!

Finally, Dr. Kupferman has advised me to start moving away from 24-hour Vicodin intake. Good idea. Going to start using OTC pain killers during daylight hours starting today.

Sleep: Sleep has continued to improve in general quality. Last night I sleep soundly from about 11:30pm to about 4am, where I was awakened by some odd spasms in my jaw. They didn’t hurt, but I was concerned that they were “clenching” spasms, which is something I want to avoid. I asked Dr. Kupferman about this, and he said they are normal at this point while the muscles/nerves/ligaments get used to their new positions. I can expect more of these types of involuntary events. I managed to get back to sleep around 5am, and sleep until 8:30am, at which point it was time to start preparing for my 11am appointment with Dr. Chang.

Energy: Energy seemed fine, but going to two appointments (11am and 1pm), with one of them in Century City (about 30 miles away through L.A. traffic), I had a pretty big energy expenditure getting through them both. Because I’m still on Vicodin, I had Kristi drive me to both appointments. We wound up grabbing the kids early from school, because we weren’t certain if we’d be back in time to pick them up. So, it was a family outing! We wound up being done at Dr. Kupferman’s at about 2:15pm, but didn’t get home until around 3:45 because of an incident on the 405. By the time we got home, I was bushed and hit the sack for a 4-hour nap before dinner.

Dinner: To try out my new-found diet freedom, Kristi made some spaghetti with sauce and meat. Grace (my daughter) did a great job of getting the meatballs all crumbled up for me, and Kristi got the noodles cut up into quarter-inch sections. It was delicious! It took about an hour to work through about a cup and a half of that mixture, mainly because my jaw only opens about 10mm at this point, and because eating with a splint involves using my tongue to push food through my mouth into the back of my throat for swallowing. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that the roof of my mouth is completely numb. Although I do get to taste the food, I mainly just experience texture before swallowing. But no complaints here!

Talking: With my rubber bands removed before dinner, it was time stretch my jaw and try talking. Without rubber bands, the biggest inhibitor of speech is the splint. The splint is like one of those custom athletic mouth guards that is wired to my lower jaw, and effectively keeps the tip of my tongue from hitting the back of my teeth. The result is a pretty severe lisp. Also, since my tongue can’t quite stretch out fully, it’s bunched up toward the back which adds a nasal quality to my voice. So now I sound like “Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons.

Oral Hygiene: With dinner done, it was time to clean my mouth and replace my rubber bands. I’ve found that chunks of food can easily get trapped underneath the splint, so I use the angle brush that came with my orthodontics kit to remove anything under the splint. Then its a saltwater rinse, followed by brushing and a mouthwash rinse. Then, the tedious process of getting those rubber bands in place. I definitely need to come up with a better process for that, because it took 20 minutes and several painful rubber band “snaps” into my sore gums before I got it right.

Morale: Despite the new difficulties from the new routines, I’m flying high because I’m easily a week ahead of schedule for normal healing. This has given me the ability to eat more, which will in turn allow to feel better faster with less boredom and more energy. I do expect some setbacks (they’re normal), but for now I want to personally thank all my friends and family who have been praying for healing. These prayers are evidently working, and I am feeling very grateful!

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