After Mom’s emergency second hip surgery, to revise the hip replacement that was put in two months earlier, my oral surgery was rescheduled to late August. I already had my medical clearances in place, and all of the medications I’d need for before and after the surgery, and the oral surgeon had already given me a rundown of what to expect after surgery: like, bleeding from the nose, swelling of the sinuses, bruising on my face, and a possible lisp because the temporary (3D printed) implant would leave a small space between the device and my gums. Oh, and I wouldn’t be allowed to blow my nose, or accidentally sneeze, for three weeks, because that would make the swelling worse.
My biggest fear leading up to the surgery itself, though, was the anesthesia. The surgeon had told me that they wouldn’t decide until the day of the surgery whether I’d be getting sedation or general anesthesia. He was voting for general anesthesia, because it would make his life easier, but I thought sedation might mean I could avoid having a foreign object shoved down my throat, so I was hoping for sedation. When I finally spoke to the anesthesiologist, a few days before the surgery, she told me that I’d have a tube down my throat either way, to protect my airway, and that general anesthesia would be better for the surgeon and easier on my throat. And I’d be unconscious when she put the tube in and took it out, so that might mitigate my fear of choking. I hoped she was right.
Then she asked me, with no warning, if I had access to an adult undergarment, i.e. depends, because if not they could supply one for me when I got there. What?! She said that I might pee under anesthesia and everyone would prefer it, including me and the staff, if I didn’t leave a puddle.
First of all, no, I don’t have adult undergarments hanging around on a shelf – except for Cricket’s adorable pink reusable diaper from her incontinence episode, which would just about fit over my hand. Second, how did no one think to mention this to me ahead of time? Or maybe they kept it quiet because they thought this would be the deal breaker. As it is, the adult undergarment became my number one preoccupation for the whole weekend leading up to the surgery – who cares about pain! What if I pee on myself?!
When I met the anesthesiologist in person, she was lovely and friendly and way too energetic for someone who was about to put me to sleep. She gave me the adult undergarment to change into in the bathroom, under my loose clothing (aka pajamas), and then I was whisked into the surgical suite, where my legs were wrapped in anti-blood clot sleeves, and monitors were attached to my fingers, and my hair was covered with a surgical bonnet so it wouldn’t get sticky (?!), and then a needle was put into the back of my hand, and then I have no idea.
I woke up in the same room, with the same people removing the things they’d attached just seconds before (though I found out later that five hours had passed). Most of my thoughts when I first woke up, strangely enough, were in Hebrew. Where’s Mom? What happened? When can I go home? I couldn’t actually speak yet, because my mouth was filled with gauze, and my throat was rough, and I had ice packs wrapped around my face, but I found myself translating everything into English anyway, as if they could hear me and answer me. The closest I came to being able to communicate was a grunt or two and a thumbs up or down, though as I was leaving in my wheelchair the surgeon decided to give me a fist bump.
I don’t really remember the trip home, except that Mom brought out her rarely-used walker and our neighbor, the nurse, to help me walk from the car up to the apartment. I spent the rest of the evening in front of the TV, changing out the bloody gauze until my mouth stopped bleeding (mostly), and going to the bathroom every twenty minutes (I couldn’t find an explanation for the excess peeing online, especially since I could barely sip enough water to take my pain meds, but it receded along with the excess bleeding).
I didn’t sleep much that first night, because my nose kept running – the surgeon said it was fluid from my sinuses, and blood, rather than traditional snot, but either way it made it hard to breathe – and I had to refreeze the ice packs for my face constantly, and my mouth hurt, and every time I moved my head it all hurt even more. I was able to take the dogs out the next morning, though, wearing a loose face mask to try and cover my swollen cheeks, but I managed to forget my house keys and had to ring the doorbell for Mom to let us back in anyway.
The pain was so much worse than I’d been expecting, so I had to give in and take some of the oxycodone I’d been prescribed, but mostly I survived on ibuprofen and ice and the coziness of my puppy pile.
To make things worse, it turned out that my Mom, who had been having trouble breathing over the weekend and assumed at first that it was just an allergy thing, went to the doctor on my first day post-surgery and started treatment for a possible case of Pneumonia. The next day she went for a chest x-ray, which ruled out pneumonia, which meant that on my second full day post-surgery I was driving Mom to the emergency room so they could rule out a blood clot. She stayed in the hospital overnight, getting all kinds of tests, and was told that she had fluid in the right lobe of her lungs and some kind of hardening of the lung tissue, which would be investigated further with a Bronchoscopy (under general anesthesia, a week later, just to keep things fun).
The next day, while Mom was still finishing up her tests at the hospital, I drove myself back to the surgeon’s office to have my temporary implant put in. By then my cheeks were starting to deflate and had turned all sorts of interesting colors, but my face mask allowed me to feel largely invisible, until I had to take it off to be examined by various assistants. There was a lot of sitting and waiting, between examinations, and then the surgeon screwed in the temporary implant, using what seemed to me like a tiny Allen wrench. He made sure to tell me not to swallow anything during the procedure, which was helpful, because when he was finished screwing everything in place there was still one tiny screw sitting on my tongue.
When I got home, I wrapped my face in ice again (they gave me a cool little headband that wraps around my head, with pockets for the ice packs, which was much more comfortable than holding ice packs on my face with both hands), and I watched the recording of my online Hebrew class a day late, so jealous of everyone on the screen. Mom came home with updates on her hospital stay and then it was nap time, for everyone, puppies especially.
Each day the pain and swelling has receded a bit more, and I’ve started to figure out how to chew with my new teeth, and how to deal with the temporary lisp (ignore it). The freezer is filled with bought and homemade soft foods, like soups and casseroles, and, of course ice cream, so there’s a lot to look forward to. And when the permanent implant comes, in a few months, it’s supposed to fit better than the temporary one (eliminating the lisping issue), and be made of stronger material (to allow me to eat more than just soft food), so if I can make it through the next few months with some self-esteem left, I should be okay long term.
And pretty soon, I’ll be back in front of the classroom, with no time to worry about how weird I look or sound, because the kids will have so many more important things to focus on, like: He pulled my hair! She stole my favorite pencil! Can I go to the bathroom, even though I just went five minutes ago and I’m definitely not looking for an excuse to wander around the building, please?!
Wish me luck!
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.
Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?