‘So… what did they do?’ My mum asks me the day after the surgery and I realise I’ve forgotten that no one knows. Because I didn’t know what they were going to do until an hour before the surgery.
My notes say ‘Removal of obturator and insertion of new prosthesis oral cavity and connection of implants’. Sounds good to me.
By way of explanation, the ‘obturator’ is the temporary plasticy thing they put in to be a sort of roof of my mouth. Basically, that was attached to a big long thing that pushed up into the empty cavity of my face, attempting to seal off the open bits (to varying degrees of success) and give my face a bit of shape. Cool.
The ‘implants’ refers to some implants they put in during the surgery back in November. One attached to my eye socket, and I think two (?) others attached to something – all to eventually use for attaching teeth. And maybe they have something to do with my cheekbone too. Up until this latest surgery, they were just sitting there happily hanging around and not being used. The idea was that in this surgery, they would… I dunno, bring them into action? I’m not entirely sure on the specifics because they’re not being used for teeth yet but who knows.
But basically, they were planning on replacing one temporary measure with another temporary measure.
So I went into surgery, having found out the details an hour before, thinking ‘cool, this feels like progress.’
HA jinxed it, didn’t I.
I had a bit of a weird chat with the anaesthetist beforehand, who seemed somewhat confused about my strong dislike of the idea of putting a breathing tube down my throat or nose while I was still awake. I’m still slightly traumatised from the last conversation I had about that. She then proceeded to ask me if I thought doing [insert some technical word] would work or if they would need to give me [insert other technical word] instead.
I stared at her blankly and wondered if she thought I was someone else. Someone who knew anaesthetics. I mean I know I’ve had a few experiences with it in my time, but in these latest couple of experiences, the anaesthetists seem to be divulging lots of details that I frankly do not want to know about.
This time she seemed to be asking if I thought she could pump air vigorously into my mouth without issue due to the loose plate, or put something in my nose instead that would force air (probably not air, probably some chemical) hard and fast up my nose.
I stared at her blankly and wondered if I could climb out the window and survive.
I was happily unaware that any of these forceful, scary things were being done to me at all. And now she wanted my opinion on which of them would be better suited to my current state.
Anyway, I guess she made her decision on her own after I was unable to instruct her one way or the other and I was taken down to the room.
The anaesthetist put the cannula in my hand, which she seemed to do easily enough. Though she prefaced it with ‘let’s give this a try, shall we?’ which didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. They gave me this big archaic looking gas mask and asked me to hold it on myself. I tried to hold it with my arm, though a blood pressure cuff was inflating and making it rather difficult to bend my arm and hold the mask at the same time.
The other anaesthetist came over at one point and said ‘Are you going to sleep?’
‘No,’ I replied.
‘Sorry, that was a bad joke’
I am still unsure what the joke was.
Eventually they gave me the anaesthetic and oh my goodness the pain. It felt like my hand was on fire and getting torn apart from the inside. The pain was more than I could handle. They kept rubbing my arm around it and holding the mask on my face. I lay there, writhing in agony, back arched, desperate for the anaesthetic to kick in so that the pain would stop. It didn’t come quick enough. It felt like the pain went on for hours. But eventually, I blacked out, with tears streaming down my face as pain ripped up my arm.
I got the usual ‘why are you in pain? you shouldn’t be in pain…’ as I slowly lost the ability to speak for all the screaming. I woke up with a cannula in the other hand though, the first one gone. But two more attempts seem to have been made before they switched hands. The hand of the initial painful cannula had swollen up and I struggled to use it. A day later, my whole hand is still incredibly sore. If it was nothing then why did my body swell up after? The pain stretches over the whole back of my hand, from left to right and top to bottom.
NOTE TO FUTURE JEN: I like to NOT have a suffocating mask to hold over my face, and cannulas should NOT go in my hand if at all possible. I have to remember the list of things to request to manage the pain and the experience. The problem is that the experience is different every time and I struggle to know what information is relevant. I never know something doesn’t work for me until it’s not working for me. I’m not sure how to pre-empt that…
I woke up feeling really happy though, which dissolves the truth I had held up until now, which was that if I go under stressed, I wake up stressed, and vice versa.
I immediately asked the nurse if she knows if it went well.
‘You don’t remember?’
‘Really? You don’t remember?’
I guess I had already been told? I wonder if I had been conscious and conversing and do not remember it or if they had just talked to me as I was sort of half in and half out of consciousness.
Deepti came in a bit later and told me that it had been difficult. A lot more difficult than they had expected. She said they hadn’t really been able to secure the teeth in any useful way.
‘It feels ok’ I think I said.
I remember this conversation but I’m not sure how many details I remember from it, or how many she gave me. She looked tired. Or maybe I was looking at her through tired eyes. I felt enamoured with everyone though, I really woke up from that surgery feeling happy.
Within maybe two minutes of her leaving, the damn teeth fell out. So I pushed them back in and they fell out. So I pushed them back in and they fell out. So I… You get the picture.
‘Nurse! I need the surgeon back!’
‘She just left’
‘I know, but she needs to come back now.’
‘But she’s gone.’
‘I know but she can’t have gone far. She literally just walked out that door.’
‘It might take hours to get her back.’
I’m saying all this of course, around teeth that I have to keep pushing in, that keep falling out. Every word. It’s sort of comical, I think, except all I can think is ‘wellllll I brought this on myself, didn’t I, because the last lot fell down and I complained but this is NEXT LEVEL. That was annoying but this is just not doable.’
The nurse gives me a sip of water and I realise it’s almost impossible to drink it. Prior to this latest surgery, it was difficult due to the water escaping into my ear and nose, but I could easily get it in my mouth and swallow it, but now it’s almost impossible to do that. Nothing feels sealed in my mouth and instead of drinking water, I seem to be swallowing all this air that just keeps appearing in my mouth.
‘I can’t even drink water’ I wail at the nurse through tumbling teeth.
‘Better give you another drip then’ she says and hooks me up to another little clear packet of liquid.
Before long, my teeth peeps pop in. I try to say hi to them and the teeth tumble out (of course). So I try again and it all repeats. I think I had been feeling a bit sorry for myself but they start laughing. So I start laughing. I was right, it is comical. They apologise – not laughing at me, just kinda funny. Ahhh you’ve got to laugh don’t you.
Obviously it’s not possible to exist like this. They show me some pictures to try and explain what they did. Ok so let me try and explain it. Basically, instead of having the whole thing just once piece from my temporary teeth and roof of my mouth, right up through my cheek and into where my eye used to be, they wanted to turn it into two. One that sits up in there and kind of protects that top bit, and one bit that sits in my mouth and gives me some teeth. Apparently, they had a lot of difficulties getting the previous temporary thing out. Things had moved around in my head in the time since the last surgery and my body had decided it liked this new addition and didn’t want to let it go. It’s also sort of comical to think of the moment where they’re like ‘guys, it’s not actually… moving.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘I mean… she won’t let it go…’
I’m sure it wasn’t at all comical, I’m sure it was a bit worrying. But I’ll grab the benefit of hindsight on this one.
So I’m not sure what the issue was… they obviously got the top bit in, and I’m not sure what they thought the teeth were going to be attached to, that they ended up struggling with… But the teeth people were able to bend the bit of wire that held the plate thing to my remaining teeth, and it stayed in. So that’s something at least. It’s still in, though it feels like it might loosen and fall out again at any moment, which is a bit of a worry to me. It’s pretty rickety. But I’ll cross that (rickety) bridge if I come to it. So deciding I’m stable for now, they trundle off and we decide I’ll pop in to see them again next week, so that’s good to know I’ve got that up my sleeve.
By this stage, I’ve still got the cannula and it’s kinda sore and like… I just want to get rid of it.
‘I can’t really deal with the pain’ I say to the nurse. ‘Can I get this thing out?’
She starts laughing
‘Why are you laughing?’ I ask her.
‘The way you said it’ she says through chuckles. ”can I get this thing out.’ It was funny.’
So I join her and we both laugh and laugh. And laugh.
I don’t even know what’s going on anymore, but everything just seems so… funny. I don’t even know what we’re all laughing about but it does feel good to do it.
I’m clearly in a hurry to get out of there. First working on getting them to take the cannula out. But they won’t do that until I’ve proved I can pass urine.
‘So you can try that in a little while.’ They tell me.
‘I’ll go now!’ I say.
‘Just relax and wait a bit.’
Eventually I convince them to let me go and I pass the test.
Right, two down. ‘When can I go?’ I ask again.
‘You can’t leave until this comes down’ She indicates the blood pressure machine. ‘Your pulse is really high and we’re worried.’
‘Oh you should have said. Give me a moment’
She looks at me and says ‘you can’t just… bring it down.’
‘Just give me a few minutes.’ I tell her.
She potters around to do something and in a few minutes comes back.
‘Oh wow that’s gone way down!’
‘Yep you just gotta tell me what you need and I’m on it!’
It was about 7:30pm when I was woken up I think and just after 9pm when I left the hospital. I honestly thought it was hours and hours but they got me through pretty quickly. My mate Sam was there to pick me up and we Ubered home for a late (soft) dinner which I sort of managed to eat. Drinking and speaking is a whole other challenge that I am mostly failing at, but more on that soon.