Gum-grafting UNconclusion.

Never assume that you’ll get your stitches removed on suture-removal day. One never knows.

I thought I was going to have pics of my new Frankenstein gums today after getting my stitches removed, but alas, the stitches are still there. The doctor said that we need to leave them in for one more week.

Luckily, I took a selfie this morning before leaving the house, so you can see the eagerness on my face. Bright daylight! Exciting day!

Before the appointment:

 

Feeling human

 

After the appointment:

 

Feeling ghoulish, and not in a good way

 

I took this one a couple of hours ago in the low-lit kitchen, the room darkened under late-afternoon rain clouds and me in one of my favorite tees (courtesy of Reviewbrah at TheReportOfTheWeek).

It’s a total coincidence that I’m wearing this t-shirt at home today, I’ll have you know. I admit to wearing the same at-home outfit for as many days as cleanliness allows so as to minimize laundry. This also makes getting dressed a no-brainer: I just grab whatever’s hanging on the rack in the bathroom. This is the tee I put on yesterday, so this is the one I grabbed when I got home from my appointment. It’s a coincidence, but yeah, it fits in more ways than one.

At any rate, I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m no longer on methotrexate, and I went off of my hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) specifically for this surgery, because that medication supposedly does its thing by way of messing with the immune system in autoimmune patients (I have an over-active immune system, aka autoimmunity)… but maybe the Plaquenil hangs around in the system for some length of time. I don’t know. Inexplicable shit happens with autoimmunity, which is one reason why we put off this surgery for so long.

The doctor had initially cautioned that autoimmunity could complicate the healing process, so here we are.

No doubt this can and does happen to people with non-berzerko immune systems, too, though, right? Healing-times vary from person to person; some people may take longer to heal for no reason at all.

More soup for me, then! Good thing I love it! I’m going to find some new recipes and discover some insanely delicious soups I never would have found were it not for this surgery. Maybe I’ll report back on my yumtastic findings so you guys can enjoy them, too.

 

 

One week later… (Post-op update 2!)

It’s been one week since my gum-grafting surgery!

Things are moving along in the healing process as the bruises migrate down my neck. When Callaghan got home from work late this afternoon, he said that it looks worse than yesterday, but that’s, like, his opinion, man.

Here’s how the situation looked this morning less than five minutes after I woke up:

 

Post-op Day 7

 

The next surgery-related pics I’ll post will be of my actual gums, as some of you have requested. If the doctor lets me have copies of the “before” and “after” pics taken by his assistant, I’ll post those! I’ll see if I can include a selfie of my Frankenstein gums pre-suture removal, too.

There’s been no change in the pain these last few days, but I’m fine as long as I stay on my ibuprofen schedule. The bottle of oxycodone sits untouched on my dresser; I have no use for stuff that doesn’t work for me.

The one sensation that’s bothersome because nothing can alleviate it but time is the foreign-matter-plastered-over-my-gums one. (Not complaining. Just saying.)

As for the gym? At this point, I know that I’m not going to make it back to Body Pump this Saturday, as I’d hoped, or next week at all, for that matter. I’ll go back maybe the following week, which will be the last week of November, which will also be… Thanksgiving week. We’ll see. I just might wait until December to return to the gym, then, and you know what? I’m totally okay with that.

I’ve been working on home projects that’ve been nagging at me for months. Purging files, for instance. You know the feeling. You have copies of the taxes you filed more than 20 years ago just sitting in file boxes that are taking up space in your closet, and you spend months thinking I HAVE to go through ALL of my files and do a huge purge, and then life hands you a surgery, and your procrastinating ass is stuck at home looking at the files, and you’re out of excuses. It’s an awesome feeling, really. I’m getting so much done!

Food-wise, it’s all been good: every day I have a vanilla protein shake, a chocolate protein shake (both Vega); organic vegetable broth with whole grain Saltines for dunking, so they’re soft; organic vegan miso broth with tofu, green onions, and brown rice stirred in, so the rice is soft; plain, unsweetened coconut milk yogurt; and a smoothie made with frozen banana and berries; coconut water; chia seeds; and spinach.

The smoothie is where I get my fruit and veggies! I have a big spinach salad in smoothie form every day. The first three ingredients combined reach the blender’s halfway mark, and then I stuff the top half with as much baby spinach as will fit. It comes out like a super thick milkshake I can eat with a spoon, and it’s tasty! Callaghan enjoys it, too. We’ve cycled through daily smoothie phases before, and now we’re back at it. We fill our big Ninja blender to the top and share it.

I guess this counts as a change: I’m not hungry anymore. I still crave certain foods, but I feel satisfied and well-nourished with all the vitamins, minerals, protein, and complex carbs I’m consuming every day. I’m not lacking anything, and I look forward to the food I eat. After I get my stitches removed next week, I’ll graduate to chunky soups (lentil, split pea, veggie, etc.), so that will be different, yet.

And there you have it for today’s update. My stitches come out next week Tuesday, so I’ll post the gum pics that day.

Happy Friday Eve, my friends!

 

 

Double-mint gums. (Post-op update 1!)

First of all, you guys, the response to my last post about my gum grafting surgery was just totally unexpected and rad. Thank you all so much for your good wishes!

I’m happy to report that so far, my plan to make October a month of awesome and November a month of ghastly pain and discomfort is going very well. This makes me happy. I like when things go according to plan.

As expected, my face has been swollen, misshapen, and multi-hued, starting on the blue end of the spectrum on both sides. The left side of my face was more severely mangled. I’ve had a fat upper lip that’s prevented me from closing my mouth, which has caused my lip to crack and peel with dryness in spite of constant lip balm application. I haven’t gone out in public since the surgery, because I’d rather not have people stare and wonder WTF.

It’s getting better every day, so everything’s healing well! I noticed that the swelling had gone down a little when I woke up yesterday morning, and the hue of the bruising on my face had turned to a beautifully saturated yellow. I do indeed look like I’d been in a fight. If anyone were to see me and comment to that effect, I would say, “You should see the other guy. He’s a cadaver.” Which would be true.

Here’s a pic I took this morning:

 

Post-op Day 5

 

(It’s hard to see here, but the area beneath my jawbone is streaked purple. The other side of my face is also bruised.)

I wanted to tell you about the most interesting aspect of this surgery, though. I came up with this genius idea to do something that’d never occurred to me before: upon insertion of the I.V. anesthesia needle, I would remain as aware as possible so that I could analyze the feeling of going under, discover whether it would be possible to resist it, and determine at what point I wouldn’t be able to do that.

This scheme turned the anesthesia process into a bizarre and utterly surreal event.

Strenuously resisting the anesthesia and paying great attention to it made my descent into unconsciousness a jagged and mildly unnerving experience. It created a sensation of plummeting down from floor to floor within a tall building, bouncing off the staircase landings in between, my fall disrupted at intervals.

Feeling cemented to my back while dropping down distinct levels brought the vaguest sense of panic into my field of perception. It was panic so far removed, it was a mere echo, like a ghost in the ether – it was there, but it couldn’t approach. I simply concentrated on the feeling of falling through the center of my own being, pulled downward bit by bit through a widening black sinkhole that opened from my solar plexus while the surgeon’s murmurings faded into pointlessness, like post-apocalyptic static filtering through a surviving short-wave radio.

And then I woke up.

As cool as it was, I don’t think I’ll repeat this experiment when my next surgery comes around in April.

Back in the present, I’m working through pain and the unpleasant sensation of my gums suffocating beneath the cadaver tissue plastered over them. There’s this feeling that I’ve got a thick band of foreign matter wrapped around my gums, and it’s maddening. I want to reach in and rip it out. I know that my body is busy growing nerves and whatnot to connect everything together, but I wish it would hurry up!

My tongue has become accustomed to the feel of the suture knot behind my front teeth. The other thing I’m trying to disregard is the fact that I can’t brush my upper teeth at all. I’m using the medicinal cleansing solution given to me, but it doesn’t make my teeth feel clean. The nurse on the phone this morning reiterated that I can’t brush until after my stitches come out, because until then, the stitches are all that’s holding my gums together.

The stitches come out next week.

I’m famished.

Watching Zach Choi ASMR (YouTube) has been a keen exercise in self-torture, but I can’t help myself.

Foods I dream of shoveling into my mouth with shameless abandon:

  • Salad dripping with OLIVE OIL and red wine vinegar
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts and broccoli, also saturated with OLIVE OIL
  • Roasted, SALTED nuts
  • Pasta with GARLIC and OLIVE OIL
  • Pizza with vegan cheese, double mushrooms, double black olives, red onion, and also vegan chorizo (SALTY AND SPICY)
  • A huge bowl of Asian noodles with lots of veggies (SALTY AND SPICY)
  • Chips and salsa and vegan-cheese nachos with pickled jalapeños (CRUNCHY AND SALTY AND SPICY)

Also, APPLE CIDER VINEGAR… and I can’t wait to chew gum again! (Pun not intended.) I miss MINT. I want double the mint, double the everything.

[ahem]

Aside from chewing gum, I don’t want sweets at all, because most of what I’ve been consuming has been sweet/not-savory, and I’m definitely a salty/savory person. I’m planning the sides I’m going to make for Thanksgiving, and I’m hoping that my craving for salt doesn’t lead to me to over-season the dishes. Thanksgiving dinner will be the first “real food” meal I’ll have, and I have to remember that I won’t be the only one eating the food that I make.

Until Thursday, then!

 

October is over, so I finally went ahead with it. (Gum grafting surgery!)

October was splendiferous. I wanted it to be so, and I made it so with a little bit of strategic scheduling: I put off my oral surgery just a little bit longer. After postponing it for more than two years, how could another month matter much?

I had the surgery this morning, and because I’m immeasurably blessed, I spent the rest of the day and evening convalescing at the home of angels. They do not wish to be named, but “angels” will do. They picked me up early this morning to take me in, came to collect me afterward, and brought me home to their house. It was a two-hour surgery, and I was wiped out! I have no memory of my follow-up appointment being made, or of being taken to the car in a wheelchair. One minute I was getting an I.V. inserted, and the next minute I was in the car with an ice-pack.

 

Several hours post-op [7 November 2019]

 

Standard post-op pain notwithstanding, it feels so good to have had this done. Surgery wasn’t possible while I was taking certain meds, so I finally decided to stop taking them just long enough to do it and recover from it. Today was Surgery, Part 1. Part 2 will take place in the spring, and I’ll be sure to clear the temporary med-cessation aspect with my rheumatologist. I’m feeling properly contrite about having gone off my meds without consulting her first.

About the surgery, though!

I’d had no idea that such a thing existed as gum recession caused by extensive childhood orthodontia. My surgeon described the phenomenon with technical language and a diagram drawn and demonstrated in the air. Two years later, I don’t remember the details of the explanation – I just remember the words “flaring out” –  but the nurse who fits me for my retainers summarized it simply as there was so much orthodontic movement happening in my bones when I was young and still growing that now, decades later, my gums have pulled back from my teeth.

I found basically nothing about this when I went to research it online, save for two studies that largely dispute the connection… not that we believe the internet to be a 100% reliable source of medical education.

In any case, my orthodontia was the orthodontia of the 70’s and 80’s; no doubt the technology’s evolved since then. I was an O.G. metal-mouth, the first one in my class. My nine-year orthodontic adventure started in 1976, when I was seven, and it unfolded in two phases between which I had two full sets of braces (first metal bands, then metal brackets), tooth extractions, both a neckgear and a headgear, “separators,” a “positioner,” rubber bands, and retainers. It was a lot. At one point during Phase 2, I had a full set of metal brackets, a full head-gear, and four rubber bands crisscrossing in my mouth from front to back all at once!

All of this was to correct an overbite and crooked teeth, and I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful and glad that it was even a possibility for me. I’m also glad that orthodontia looks different enough now that maybe children today won’t grow up to develop gums receding from teeth that had “flared out,” or whatever it was that supposedly happened as an orthodontic aftereffect.

In this morning’s surgery, the doctor fixed my upper gums by grafting cadaver tissue over them. (He’ll do the lower ones in the spring.) He’s going to remove my stitches in two weeks. I can’t work out at all for at least a week, he said, and it’ll be a month before I can go back to eating the way I normally do.

Right now, of course, the pain is super real. I feel like I’ve been K.O’d, and I can barely open my mouth. This will happen when your jaws are pried open and held open for two hours! I can’t smile or really move my face at all, I’m drinking water and liquid food through my teeth, and I’m wondering how I’m going to get through the month without losing weight.

But again, I have no complaints. I’m truly so fortunate that I’m able to have these surgeries. Life is good.